The longest week of Dwayne Haskins’ NFL career came to an end on Sunday. And somehow, the ending was worse than the start.
For those who need a refresher: After making his first start in 10 weeks, Haskins was caught partying last Sunday following Washington’s loss to Seattle, a clear violation of the NFL’s coronavirus protocols. Haskins was fined $40,000 and stripped of his captaincy, all while many questioned why head coach Ron Rivera ultimately decided to keep him on the roster.
Six days later, Haskins was thrust into Washington’s QB1 spot once again with Alex Smith unable to play due to injury. In what Haskins admitted was probably his last chance to prove himself in Washington, the 23-year-old turned in one of -- if not the worst -- performances of his career, turning the ball over three times before being benched for Taylor Heinicke in Washington’s 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
"It was definitely the hardest week of my life,” Haskins said postgame.
Two of the biggest question marks that have surrounded Haskins through the first two seasons of his NFL career were his inexperience on the field and immaturity off of it. And over the past week, Haskins proved once again that he has not made enough strides in either facet for Washington to be able to trust him as its quarterback moving forward. Not with an NFC East title and a playoff spot again on the line next week in Philadelphia.
Let’s begin with the on-the-field issues. Questions about Haskins’ inexperience stem from his tenure at Ohio State, where he was the Buckeyes starter for only one season. As a rookie, the quarterback played in just nine games, with some of his appearances coming in very unfavorable spots.
When Rivera benched Haskins following Week 4 of the 2020 season, the head coach hoped Haskins taking a step back and watching from the sidelines would help his growth at the position. So, when the quarterback did ultimately get his next chance to play, he simply wouldn’t make the same elementary mistakes that he did before.
In the trio of games that Haskins has played in over the last three weeks, he’s still making those same mistakes. His decision-making is questionable, his mechanics are poor, his misses are high and his turnover rate makes him borderline unplayable.
On Sunday, Haskins finished the first half with just 35 passing yards to go along with his three turnovers. Washington trailed by 17 at the break, and fans were calling for Heinicke to replace him. After Haskins failed to convert a fourth-and-2 in the third quarter, one where he had at least two receivers wide open, Rivera finally opted to bench him.
Heinicke, who had not played in an NFL game since 2018 and just arrived in Washington earlier this month, looked like a major upgrade once he was inserted. Heinicke finished the game 12-of-19 for 137 yards with no turnovers and led Washington on its lone touchdown drive of the evening. One quarter of Heinicke was enough: it’s clear at this point, he’s the better option than the former first-round pick.
Haskins’ performance can't be defended, but even more so when considering what happened earlier in the week.
To be clear: in normal times, Haskins partying after a loss may not be something you want your starting quarterback to do, but that’s ultimately his choice. But during an ongoing pandemic, that decision not only put himself at risk but risked his teammates and coaches and their family's health, too.
But besides the obvious, Haskins’ antics were the latest proof that he hasn’t turned into that mature person he vowed to become this past summer.
"Now that I've turned 23, still being young, still growing, I just wanted to — whatever there were, questions about immaturity or lack of whatever it was — I was going to change that," Haskins said June 10.
Since then: Haskins was benched after reportedly bragging about his stats following a loss in Baltimore. Then, he missed the next game due to a mysterious stomach bug. He was fined by the team a couple of weeks later for violating COVID-19 protocols ahead of the team’s Week 8 game against the Giants. The QB then saw his name pop up often in trade talks only not to be moved, and then chose to party following his first chance back in action, taking away the focus from the task at hand of winning a division title.
Haskins had the chance to change the narrative on Sunday with a solid performance. After failing to perform once again, he knows his future in Washington is bleak.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind,” Haskins said Sunday. “I can’t really pick the words how I feel right now.
“You sign up for this job. It is what it is,” Haskins continued. “Sometimes being human isn’t enough. Own up to your responsibilities and your mistakes and be a better person moving forward.”
Over his two years in Washington, Haskins has never sounded more defeated than he has this week. On Sunday, it almost sounded as if the quarterback himself knew that he’s done here.
“Put your best foot forward and pray for opportunities when you have them,” Haskins said. “Seize them and make the most of it. You never know when you’ll get another one.”
Based on both his on-the-field and off-the-field decisions this season, who knows if that next opportunity will ever come? Because if Rivera is serious about changing the culture in Washington, he can’t turn back to Haskins -- now or ever.