Dale Earnhardt Jr. is best known for being a legendary Hall of Fame NASCAR driver. But in Washington, he's also known as one of the Football Team's biggest supporters.
And Earnhardt Jr., like many Washington fans, also has an opinion on head coach Ron Rivera's bold decision to bench second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins a few weeks back.
In an exclusive interview with JP Finlay of the Washington Football Talk podcast, Earnhardt Jr. said he "would have liked to see [Haskins] get a little more time" as the team's QB1.
"Obviously, Ron and them, they're in the room," Earnhardt said. "They're in the meetings, they're on the sideline watching every play, every throw, every decision this guy makes. But from my point of view at 40,000 feet, I would have liked to have seen him get a little more time."
Haskins, who started just seven games for Washington as a rookie in 2019, was relieved of his duties in favor of Kyle Allen following the team's Week 4 loss to Baltimore. Ironically, that loss to the Ravens was Haskins' best statistical game as a pro.
Since then, the 23-year-old has been a healthy scratch, as Alex Smith has served as Allen's backup.
Rivera has reiterated multiple times that benching Haskins was not him giving up on the second-year QB. Rather, it was due to Haskins needing more time to develop.
"He’s a young, young quarterback," Rivera said Wednesday. "I’ve said this before, he played what—12 games in college or 13 games in college? Then he’s in the NFL and he played some games last year, this year we gave him a lot of opportunities and you still see the rawness. To me, it’s really about him developing and growing. He’s going to have opportunities."
This weekend on NBC, Saturday Night in Primetime, college football's best collide as #1 Clemson takes on #4 Notre Dame followed by an all-new Saturday Night Live. On Sunday, NASCAR crowns a champion in Phoenix at 3 p.m. Then it's Drew Brees & the Saints versus Tom Brady and the Bucs on Sunday Night Football, coverage begins with Football Night In America at 7 p.m.
Earnhardt agrees with Rivera that it's not time to give up on Haskins. But, the legendary driver would have liked to see Haskins' development unfold on the field, rather than behind-the-scenes.
"I don't think we really understood what his identity was, what kind of player he was going to become or going to be," Earnhardt said. "Or what was his ceiling? How much more growth could there be? I still want to see that. I still want to see him on the field."
By having Haskins sit on the bench, the Hall of Fame driver doesn't feel his favorite team is any closer to finding out if the 2019 first-round pick is the team's future at the position or not.
"I don't think I've checked all the boxes to say he's not the future of this team," Earnhardt said. "There are a couple of boxes still unchecked, and I think we can figure those out before the end of this year and make that decision."
Earnhardt isn't alone with that belief. Allen is a free agent after the season, while Smith turns 37 next September and is coming off a near life-threatening leg injury. Haskins is the only passer on the books for Washington next season on a team-friendly contract.
While the driver wasn't happy that Haskins was benched, he's not closing the door on the QB having a role in Washington down the line.
"To me, the door is still open for him to a big part of this team's future," Earnhardt said.