NFC East could force Rivera to act at QB sooner than expected


Dwayne Haskins struggled in a major way on Sunday, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble in what was the worst performance of his NFL career. 

After the game Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said he was sticking by Haskins at quarterback, but on Monday, Rivera allowed that he will have to consider other options if Haskins' play doesn't improve. 

"There’s a frustration to it," Rivera said Monday on the Washington Football Talk podcast.

"Right now, I’m at the position where we have to see the growth. If we never play him, he never grows, but there is a point where you say, ‘OK, maybe taking a step back and watching is the best thing for you now.’ We will see." 

That's a major allowance from Rivera.

All offseason the head coach spoke of competition at the quarterback position, particularly between Haskins and third-year passer Kyle Allen. Washington traded a fifth-round pick for Allen this offseason, and he has starting experience under Rivera last year in Carolina. 

Once the NFL canceled preseason games, however, the competition basically ended. Rivera named Haskins the starter and, through three games, he's been somewhere between underwhelming and awful. 

Well, life in the NFL is strange, because despite the poor play at quarterback, Washington is still right in the thick of the NFC East race.

And that could complicate things for Rivera.

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Washington's bye comes in Week 8, the season's midpoint and perhaps a natural spot to make a quarterback change. Given the current state of the NFC East, however, Rivera might have to act sooner. 

"To be honest with you, as you look at what’s happening in our division, I don’t want that to be too late," Rivera said of possibly making a QB switch.

"We're in first place at 1-2, tied with Dallas. We have one team that’s 0-2-1 and another team that’s 0-3."

Through three weeks the NFC East is a shambles, and Washington might have the best defense in the division. The Giants look terrible on both sides of the ball and Washington already beat the Eagles in Week 1.

If Dallas keeps limping, and Washington's defense can continue to impress, then improved quarterback play could sneak Washington into a playoff contender.

Rivera knows this scenario because he's done it before. 

"We have to look where we are right now and say, ‘Gosh, we might be in position,’" the coach said. "That's something you have to think about as well. It will play into [the quarterback decision], trust me. I went through this in 2014."

That year, Rivera's Panthers won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record. Once in the playoffs, Carolina knocked off an 11-5 Cardinals team in the Wild Card round before losing to Seattle in the Divisional round. Seattle would go on to the Super Bowl.

The point here is that winning a bad division is a real possibility, and because of that, Rivera has to weigh the development of Haskins against the possible opportunity of playing January football.

"I have to look at that and be honest," Rivera said of Haskins. "I like a lot of the things I have seen, but there are some things that truly concern me, growth being the biggest one."

Unfortunately for Haskins, the start of the 2020 season has been more regression than growth. He ended the 2019 season with his best six quarters of NFL football, but so far this year, it hasn't been close to impressive. 

As for the NFC East, Washington has two tough games coming up in home games against the Ravens in Week 4 and the Rams in Week 5. 

After that come three straight NFC East games -- at New York, home against Dallas and then on the road in New York. 

If Rivera wants to make a run at the division title, those games will be crucial. And if Haskins doesn't play better by then, the coach has made clear a change could be on the horizon.