Dwayne Haskins' tumultuous two years in the nation's capital ended in December when the former first-round quarterback was released by the Washington Football Team.
On the field, Haskins struggled. His decision-making was spotty at best, and his rocket arm often led to inaccurate passes. Off the field, his choices were no better, and his decision to violate COVID-19 protocols ultimately led to his release.
Despite Haskins' struggles, his former teammate Alex Smith believes the young signal-caller can be a successful NFL quarterback.
"Certainly, there was a lot working against him the last two years that didn't allow him to reach his potential. He's a guy who's crazy gifted. Crazy talented. And, he's a good kid," Smith said.
Smith's comments come during an interview with the Yahoo Sports NFL podcast with Charles Robinson and Terez Paylor.
Throughout his two seasons with Washington, Haskins looked at Smith as a mentor. Smith helped the former Ohio State star both on and off the field, including the 2019 campaign when Smith was recovering from a life-threatening leg injury.
Haskins arrived in Washington with lofty expectations as a first-round pick, something Smith is plenty familiar with. The veteran was drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers in 2005, and the "bust" label followed him around for the first six years with San Francisco before he eventually led them to the playoffs.
Smith understands the distractions that Haskins had to deal with, and says moving forward he must be able to eliminate them if he wants to be successful in the NFL.
"The first thing I hope with Dwayne -- and I've told him this -- is you don't have a chance until you've eliminated a lot of the distractions going on in your life," Smith said. "It's hard as a young player, as a young draft pick, certainly as a quarterback thrust with a lot of weight and expectations."
Distractions have certainly plagued Haskins over his first two seasons as a professional. That's no secret.
But Haskins, who just signed a one-year contract with the Steelers on Thursday, must do a better job eliminating those outside noises in Pittsburgh if he hopes his next stop will be more successful.
"You've got a lot of voices telling you different things. In the end, this all comes down to playing well on the football field," Smith said.
"You have to be able to eliminate all that other stuff, because none of that matters if you can't go out there and play at a high level," he continued. "You'll never be able to develop into the player, into your potential if you don't eliminate all that stuff as well. So my hope for Dwayne is to do that."
Haskins has his work cut out for him, but Smith hopes the 23-year-old can turn things around and ultimately have the long NFL career he ultimately wants.
"My hope is that we all have different roads, different paths. It takes different things for us to learn from, for us to grow," Smith said. "Hopefully this can be one of those experiences that helps him get going towards where he wants to go."