Is Dwayne Haskins a franchise quarterback?
This is the question I took a narrative look at last week when discussing how long the leash will be for Haskins with the new offensive coaching staff and the presence of backup Kyle Allen on the roster. Many were more bullish than I was on Haskins coming out of college; many were more bullish than I was on his rookie season. He got better, and the flashes are exciting, but I’m not sure anyone can say with certainty that Haskins is a franchise quarterback.
As such, the Redskins are a team in limbo: they don’t know if they have a franchise quarterback, and they don’t know that they don’t, either. For as long as Haskins is an uncertain commodity, the Redskins won’t know what their next stage of team development is. They won’t know if they should get aggressive adding wide receiver talent or save capital for a QB trade-up; invest in veteran offensive linemen to win now or develop young guys to build for continuity later.
A successful season for the Redskins, as such, may look like an 8-8 push for the division title. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility if you really put faith in that defensive front. The Redskins’ front seven is perhaps the deepest in the league, and certainly can make a case for a top-five set of starters, as well. The Redskins’ path to a decent amount of wins goes through some defensive dominance and a ball-control offense, which their deep stable of running backs and powerful offensive line is well suited to.
With that said, the Redskins’ defensive capabilities are capped by their corner room, which currently features Kendall Fuller, Fabian Moreau, and Jimmy Moreland. Only Fuller projects as a quality starter, and that’s a bit of stretch for his current game. 8-8 is about the ceiling of the Redskins’ capabilities when you look at their schedule.
Week 1: Eagles
Week 2: @ Cardinals
Week 3: @ Browns
Week 4: Ravens
Week 5: Rams
Week 6: @ Giants
Week 7: Cowboys
Week 9: Giants
Week 10: @ Lions
Week 11: Bengals
Week 12: @ Cowboys
Week 13: @ Steelers
Week 14: @ 49ers
Week 15: Seahawks
Week 16: Panthers
Week 17: @ Eagles
The Redskins’ schedule isn’t a forgiving one, as they catch the entire AFC North, which figures to be a good division, and the NFC West, which is definitely going to be a good division. A good defense and quality running offense projects to five or six wins on their schedule, which fits their Vegas odds of 5 ½ total wins.
But a successful season for the Redskins could also look like five wins, four wins, or three wins if it’s Haskins who powers the team to those wins. If the defense doesn’t do much more than beat bad offenses and leak against good passing attacks, and if the Redskins can’t find a consistent hand out of the older Adrian Peterson, oft-injured Derrius Guice, even-more-oft-injured Bryce Love, and rookie Antonio Gibson, then big score deficits will sit on Haskins’ shoulders late in games.
But that may be good for Haskins. The kid gloves need to come off eventually, and while Haskins is an inexperienced starter with a long development curve in front of him, the Redskins cannot enter another offseason uncertain if Haskins is their long-term solution. As such, they would do well to get Haskins into an offense wherein he’s trusted and expected to pass, and at times, has no other recourse but to pass. They need data on his current skill level, just as he needs reps to continue to grow.
So if the Redskins start the season 1-9 but end 5-11, and Haskins takes the strides in those final few weeks that indicate he’s made the leap, then that’s a successful season in my book. You answered your biggest question and figured out the formula for growth as a team. But the other edge of that sword is also viable: the Redskins could very well start 1-9 and end 2-14, with Haskins proving to be a consistent culprit in their losses. Now, with an early pick in the 2021 NFL Draft (in which the Redskins currently are tied for most likely to get the first overall selection) and enough data on Haskins to know he isn’t the guy, they could move on quickly in favor of the 2021 class’ elite passers.
Nobody expects the Redskins to be good this year, though there are some roster pieces to support that claim—and trust is deserved in head coach Ron Rivera’s ability to field a competitive team for 17 weeks, regardless of the paper strength of the roster. As such, a certain number of wins and losses isn’t really needful for Washington. What they need is a definitive answer, one way or another, to the question posed above.