The NFL has never seemed as dialed in on Dwayne Haskins as a franchise quarterback as NFL Draft discourse was. In the days approaching the 2019 NFL Draft, Haskins’ line for draft slot was set at 10.5, and on Draft Day itself, Haskins closed at -175 to be the second quarterback off the board, with Drew Lock at +320 and Daniel Jones at +440.
Of course, the dance was between the Giants and the Redskins. At the sixth overall pick, New York was in the driver’s seat, and the Giants’ interest in Daniel Jones became progressively more apparent. The quote was that they didn’t want to “wait until 17” for Jones, which was likely in reaction to the Redskins’ interest in Jones.
But the debate within the Washington front office on the quarterback class was also well documented.
The unnamed man in the tweet with a voice in the room was undoubtedly head coach Jay Gruden, who Les Carpenter later reported never wanted to be tied to Haskins, preferring the more experienced Jones. Gruden is now, of course, out of the building—which means those who remain in Washington are those who preferred Haskins all along. Haskins was raised in Maryland and played high school ball at the same school that team owner Daniel Snyder’s son now attends.
So Jones landed with the team that loved him, Haskins landed with the team that loved him, and both teams have flipped head coaches since. Neither should be considered locks as franchise stars after their respective rookie campaigns, but once again, there is more vocal doubt on Haskins’ future.
New head coach Ron Rivera has been nothing but positive on the Haskins topic since taking the job in DC, but actions speak louder than words, and the trade of a fifth-round selection for QB Kyle Allen—who started almost an entire season for Rivera in Carolina last year—speaks volumes. Haskins now enters camp technically in a battle for the starting job, though he is currently considered the starter and is unlikely to lose it unless he fails to acclimate to the new offense across the truncated offseason.
But even if Haskins opens the season as the starter, it’s likely that there’s a quick hook on his job, should he play poorly. Haskins is only a year younger than Allen and has only 20 starts across his college and pro careers, relative to Allen’s 45. Last season, with new Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner as his quarterbacks coach in Carolina, Allen outproduced Haskins in completion percentage and yards per attempt—though neither quarterback was even above average.
So Haskins has outlived the head coach who didn’t want him; but that coach was replaced with another one, who also wasn’t involved in drafting him, and who brought in a quarterback of his own. Now he approaches an offseason with limited hours of practice, an offensive line that experienced a minor talent exodus in the departures of Trent Williams (who didn’t play in 2019) and Ereck Flowers, and issues swallowing the Washington playbook last season under calmer circumstances preparing as the backup.
It may feel like a victory if Haskins starts in Week 1, and there’s a chance that it is. In the event that the Redskins acknowledge their roster status as a lower-tier team in the NFL, they may put Haskins out there for the sole purpose of getting him reps and encouraging his growth and maturation with on-field learning. For many quarterbacks, working through the warts with live bullets is a necessary part of the growing process. Haskins sitting last year didn’t seem to give him a competitive edge or leg up in development; why not give the extremely inexperienced sophomore some playing time to see what he does?
But what if the Redskins expect to put Haskins on the field and see immediate improvement off of his Year 1 numbers? What if they hope to start him and field a competitive offense against the NFC East? Then Haskins is going to be in a bad spot.
Given everything conspiring against him—an average supporting cast, a bad offensive line, a new offensive coaching staff, a high-visibility backup with an inside track to the head coach’s heart—Haskins will likely not produce much better in Year 2, even if his on-field play improves. Haskins’ film was a far cry from good, but it was better than his poor Year 1 numbers indicate. Such will likely be the case again in Year 2, and even if he improves, there will be clamors for a few games of Kyle Allen at the helm from local media and team sources. The only thing that protects Haskins here is no expectations.
Quarterback development is an alchemy, not a science. It deals with the transformation of an incomplete and volatile passer to a consistent and reliable franchise cornerstone. It uses some quantifiable elements like good receivers and patient coaching, and some unknown magics like resiliency, a short memory, and dumb luck.
Independent of any pre-draft opinion of Haskins, the early signs from this delicate experiment are harrowing. He’s yet to be the undisputed guy, he’s yet to have the signature game; he’s yet to look the part on film or grade to the part in the stat sheet. With another year of a starting QB merry-go-round, a losing record, and poor offense altogether, Haskins may quickly end up at the bottom of a hole out of which few rookie quarterbacks before him have climbed.