With Kyle Allen likely out for the season with an ankle injury and Washington sitting at just 2-6 through the midway point, many fans have hoped the Burgundy and Gold would turn back to Dwayne Haskins as the team's starting quarterback.
However, head coach Ron Rivera said postgame Sunday that for now, veteran Alex Smith will be the team's starter moving forward with Haskins as the backup.
The decision to stick with Smith over Haskins might seem a controversial one. But former Washington tight end Chris Cooley says based on Rivera's rationale for benching the second-year QB in the first place, the head coach can't turn back to him now.
"If you’re really serious about building culture and you believe that Dwayne isn’t your guy, you can’t put him in until you're at Week 15," Cooley said on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast. "And even at that, it’s almost this 'well, we are going play him so we see if we can trade him' mindset going in."
When Rivera made the decision to bench Haskins in favor of Allen ahead of Week 5, he cited the lack of progress the 2019 first-rounder had made in his development through the first quarter of the season.
"We gave him every opportunity. We gave him all the reps with the ones. We gave him a chance to start four games and truly evaluate," Rivera said Oct. 7. "But, with the division where it is right now, I’d be stupid to not give it a shot and see what happens in the next four games. But I wanted to put it in the hands of someone that knows the situation a little better, backed up by a guy that’s been there.”
By removing Haskins at that point, Rivera sent a message to the rest of his team that he was in 'win-now' mode.
For Cooley, if Rivera were to reverse course and put Haskins back into the QB1 spot now, just over a month later, it would send the wrong message to the rest of the roster.
"They have to do the right thing for the team and not for the organization if that makes sense," Cooley said. "In this situation where they have gotten to, they have to do the right thing for the players or they will lose it."
The former tight end went on even further, saying Haskins doesn't deserve the starting job back unless something drastically changed inside the locker room.
"If they believe that there was something missing during the week and there was anything they were upset about inside the walls, you can’t reward Dwayne in this situation just to gain compensation," Cooley said.
Since benching Haskins, Rivera has reiterated multiple times that he hasn't given up on the 23-year-old just yet.
However, the head coach's actions say otherwise. With such a young roster and the playoffs likely out of reach, the franchise gains little in the long-term by playing a 36-year-old Smith over Haskins.
So, why has Rivera stuck with the veteran? He still believes in his team's slim postseason chances.
"We’re in the same situation. Nothing has really changed in the NFC East other than we’ve lost the tiebreaker now to the Giants," Rivera said Monday. "As we go forward, we have to see what happens with the rest of the division. It’s still a close race.”
Despite being 2-6, Rivera's comment show he still values winning in 2020 over long-term development. The putrid NFC East is something he cited as the main reason for benching Haskins in the first place.
For Cooley, turning back to Haskins would contradict everything Rivera has preached over the past month since he made the original QB change.
"Unless you really believed in him as potentially being the guy and you loved him, his character, his work ethic, everything about it -- which it doesn’t seem they do -- than Alex Smith should be the starting quarterback," Cooley said.