Here we go again
Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post
As a Washington Football fan, we have seen this one too many times. The Washington Football Team has benched another quarterback. Dwayne Haskins was drafted with the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and was the backup to Case Keenum until Week 9 of the 2019 NFL season when he made his first career NFL start. He showed some flashes and is still only 23 years old, but Haskins will serve as the third-string quarterback entering the Football Team's Week 5 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. After being named an offensive captain in 2020 and starting in only a total of 13 games as an NFL quarterback Haskins's future is in major doubt. How did we get here? The Washington franchise has a long history of questions at the quarterback position.
It seems like every year since I was a kid, Washington has had a question mark at quarterback. Since the year I was born in 2000, there have been 21 players who have started at least one game as the quarterback in Washington. In total, there have been 30 different quarterbacks who have started a game for Washington since 1993. Mark Sanchez even started a game for the Redskins in 2018 for crying out loud. The quarterback who has started the most games for Washington since 1993 is Kirk Cousins who only started 57 games. To put that in perspective, Dak Prescott has started more games in just 5 seasons for the Cowboys then any quarterback in Washington has since 1993. Dak Prescott has also made as many Pro Bowls (2) as the past 30 quarterbacks for the Redskins/ Washington Football Team have since 1993 (RGIII in 2012 and Kirk Cousins in 2016). After years and years of failure and different style of quarterbacks, we all expected a major change in 2012 when Washington traded up four spots in the draft for the 2nd overall pick. Washington wanted a quarterback so badly that they traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick to the then St. Louis Rams for the 2nd overall selection. The massive haul landed them the coveted Heisman Trophy Winner, Robert Griffin III out of the University of Baylor, and after that magical 2012 Rookie of the Year season, those three first-round picks and a second-round pick seemed to look like a steal.
Robert Griffin III. This first thought that pops into my head when I hear that name is heartbreak. I do not think most people realize how awesome of a rookie year he had. It gave us hope. RGIII and Alfred Morris were going to be a one-two punch that would lead us to multiple playoff appearances. This was not wishful thinking either, it was a consensus view across the league. RGIII just came off a rookie season where he set numerous records. The Redskins started the season 3-6 and entered a Week 10 bye week with not much going for them. With a much-needed spark, they named RGIII co-captain of the team. A 22-year-old rookie being named the captain of the offense is unheard of, especially in 2012. RGIII led the Redskins to a 7 game win-streak and Washington finished the season 10-6 while winning the NFC East title. RGIII had suffered a knee injury in Week 16, but it was a nonconcern entering the Wild Card Round against the Seattle Seahawks. Or so we thought. Washington started the playoff game on fire, with a 14-0 lead against Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch after the first quarter. Seattle then took off and finished scoring 24 unanswered points. Final score Seattle 24 Washington 14. This was a heartbreaking loss, but the story was not the final score, it was a hobbled RGIII that had been limping around all game, and collapsed with a little over 5 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. RGIII was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and to the Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns with 5 interceptions. He rushed for 815 yards and 7 touchdowns and his 102.4 passer rating and 4 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio were both rookie records. Going into 2013 RGIII was still the guy, but he was never the same after ACL reconstructive surgery. RGIII was released in 2016 after not being active for a single game during the 2015 season, and it was clear that is was now Kirk Cousin's team.
As a Washington fan, we all thought the same thing when Kirk Cousins was drafted by the Redskins in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Why would we draft another quarterback three rounds after drafting our new face of the franchise RGIII? Can Kirk Cousins even fill in for the new hybrid offense if RGIII goes down? Looking back on the selection, it was an amazing move by Washington. Kirk Cousins was selected with the 102nd overall pick out of Michigan State and this selection was 28 picks after the Seattle Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the 3rd round. After Mike Shannahan departed from Washington, he repeatedly stated how he wished Washington had drafted Wilson in the 3rd round, instead of drafting guard Josh LeRibeus four picks ahead of Wilson, but if Russ had slid to the 4th round, Shannahan and Washington would have pulled the trigger. What could have been. Cousins put together a little over three great seasons in Washington, never having a passer rating under 93.9 as a full-time starter. Cousins gave us many memorable moments like the "You like that" game, but we chose to not resign him after the 2018 season. As I stated in my Quarterback rankings article, Washington fans like myself did not truly appreciate how good of a player he was until it was too late. Onto the next quarterback.
It was the second time in his career that a productive Alex Smith was being run out of town after putting up career numbers. Smith was having the best season of his career in 2012 with a 104 passer rating and 13 touchdowns through 8 games when he suffered a concussion. The 49ers were 6-2 and Smith was third in the league with his passer rating. Colin Kaepernick entered the game in the second quarter of Week 9 and did not look back. A healthy Smith a few weeks later was now the best second-string quarterback in the league. Kaepernick led the 49ers to a playoff berth and an appearance in the Super Bowl. Alex Smith, who had been playing the best football of his career now, needed a new home. Alex Smith was then shipped off to the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith played five seasons for the Chiefs and had the best season of his career in 2017. He threw for a career-high in touchdowns (26), career-high in yards (4,042), career-high in passer rating (104.7), and a career-low in interceptions (5). He also rushed for 355 yards. After his career year, the Chiefs traded him to Washington because they wanted to start the second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Solid choice by them. Smith entered the 2018 season as the new face in Washington after signing a 4-year $94 million-dollar extension. He played fairly well through the team's first 9 games and in week 10 the Redskins entered the matchup with the Houston Texans with a 6-3 record and first place in the NFC East. Smith had not even become fully comfortable in the offense yet. In the middle of the game, Smith dropped back to pass before being sacked by JJ Watt and Kareem Jackson. Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury, 33 years to the day that Joe Theismann suffered a similar injury. Joe Theismann never played a snap of football again. Smith seemed to be on the road to recovery after surgery to fix the broken leg but after another visit to the doctor, something was not right. It was discovered that Smith had a major infection, and he was now in a fight for his life. After eighteen surgeries, Alex Smith could walk again. Now he is the second-string quarterback entering Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams. What a world. The man who was labeled the long term solution to Smith, was Dwayne Haskins, who started the 2019 season as the backup to Case Keenum.
It might be hard to believe right now, but Dwayne Haskins put up one of the greatest seasons we have ever seen from a college quarterback. He threw for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns with a 70% completion percentage. Haskins finished third in the 2018 Heisman voting behind Kyler Murray, and Tua Tagovailoa. Haskins chose to forgo his last two years of college and he entered the 2019 NFL Draft after only 14 career college starts. Haskins entered the 2019 season in Washington as the third quarterback selected in the draft behind Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones. He started in Week 9 after Case Keenum was diagnosed with a concussion, and he threw for 144 yards in a 24-9 loss against the Buffalo Bills. Haskins had some good games, and some bad games, but finished the season very strong. Over his last four games, Haskins proved that he could be a starter in the NFL. At 23 years old, Haskins looked like 2020 could be the year where he took a major step forward. After being drafted in 2019 by a coach who never wanted him in Jay Gruden, then adjusting to a new system under interim head coach Bill Callahan, Haskins did alright, and Washington fans had the right to be excited. Enter 2020. Ron Rivera was hired to fix the broken culture in Washington. The Redskins changed their name to the Washington Football team, the owner Dan Snyder and the organization faced backlash after sexual assault allegations, and the team was projected to be one of the worst teams in football. In this midst of this Dwayne Haskins had worked on his game all offseason, and cut his body fat by 7%. He had formed a connection with star wide receiver Terry McLaurin, and he was looking forward to silencing the doubters against him entering season two. He was still upset that the Giants drafted Daniel Jones over him, and Haskins entered Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season in his third offensive system in a little over a year. Haskins led Washington to a Week 1 victory over the Philidelphia Eagles, throwing for 178 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers. He did not lose Washington the game, and he entered Week 2 looking to improve against the Arizona Cardinals. Haskins threw for 223 yards and a touchdown without turning the ball over once again. Washington was 1-1 sitting atop of the NFC East before entering Cleveland to face the Browns. Haskins had his worst start of the season, throwing for three interceptions, and two touchdowns, with 224 passing yards. News started circulating that Washington was exploring a change at the quarterback position. The team was 1-2 and Haskins had performed well, but many people knew Rivera was a big fan of Kyle Allen, the starter for the Carolina Panthers last season under Rivera after Cam Newton was injured. Haskins entered Week 4 with a chip on his shoulder against one of the best defenses in the league, the Baltimore Ravens. The Football Team was demolished, but Haskins and McLaurin were the lone bright spots. Haskins threw for 314 yards with a rushing touchdown, and no turnovers. McLaurin put up his best performance of his career with Haskins at quarterback, hauling in 10 receptions for 118 yards. Haskins had a passer rating of 90.4, which was his third 80 or more passer rating in four games. This is more than Daniel Jones who has zero, and Carson Wentz who has one. Through Week 4, among quarterbacks, Haskins ranks 18th with 939 passing yards, 23rd with 4 passing touchdowns, and 17th with 3 interceptions. Even though Washington will not win this year, Haskins was benched for Kyle Allen entering Week 5.
It is easy to wonder why Ron Rivera chose to do this now, but it is a lot more complicated then we must know. Haskins has not been great this season, but the 23-year-old has not even played a full season at quarterback. He has only started a total of 25 games at the college and NFL level combined. Many quarterbacks struggle over their first 16 games so why not give Haskins a full season? Dwayne Haskins is one of the youngest quarterbacks in the league, and he is even younger than Joe Burrow. Washington is not a playoff contender, and even if they do make it in a historically bad NFC East, the Football Team has no chance at a Super Bowl Championship. Even if Rivera is not a fan of Haskins, he should play the whole season, so Washington gets a high draft pick to draft Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, Trey Lance of North Dakota State, or Justin Fields of Ohio State. These three quarterbacks are projected to go as Top 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, so is it worth Kyle Allen maybe winning a couple more football games and Washington sliding in the draft? I think not. This is a puzzling move at best, but Washington has to instill faith in Rivera and let him control the ship into the future. I hope Haskins gets another shot, but this will probably not come in Washington. Since it was announced that Haskins was benched on Tuesday, October 6th, Haskins is listed as the third quarterback on the depth chart, and Haskins has not even taken snaps at practice. My heart goes out to Haskins, and it is a shame Ron Rivera pulled the trigger this early. Give the kid a shot at a full season, and if he falters, get your guy in the 2021 NFL Draft. Good luck Kyle Allen and Hail to the Washington Football Team.