Four weeks was more than enough time for Ron Rivera.
Just a quarter of the way into the 2020 NFL season, the head coach made the decision on Wednesday to bench quarterback Dwayne Haskins in favor of Kyle Allen.
By benching Haskins, a first-round pick just 18 months ago, it’s clear that Rivera and his staff don’t believe he’s the answer to Washington’s two-decade-plus-long woes at the QB position. When Allen takes the field Sunday, he’ll be the 22nd passer to start a game for Washington in the 21 years that Dan Snyder has owned the team.
This leaves Allen, a 24-year-old who went undrafted and has just 15 starts to his name, the latest hope for Washington to solve years of instability at the most important position in American sports.
The switch from Haskins to Allen will result in one of three scenarios.
The first -- one that is probably a bit too optimistic -- is that he plays well for the remainder of the season, similarly to how he did in his first four starts last season when he led Carolina to an undefeated record. Then, Rivera and his staff could feel comfortable moving forward and building this team around Allen.
The second is that Allen plays how he did at the end of the 2019 season. Simply put, Allen was not good. Over that span, Carolina went 1-7 and Allen threw for just 10 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions. Rivera was fired by the Panthers during that span after nine years of running the ship. It was a disaster.
The third and final way this experiment can unfold is the most likely one. Allen, who’s familiar with offensive Scott Turner’s system, provides an instant upgrade to Haskins, but only to a certain degree. Washington wins maybe a few more games with Allen than it would have with Haskins, but ultimately falls short trying to win the NFC East. Or, in a best-case scenario here, Washington does win its lousy division, only to get bounced in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
“I’m taking a shot at the short-term for the short-term glory,” Rivera told reporters Wednesday. “If we come out of this having won three of the four, we’re right in the middle of it. I just think now is the chance to take that shot and see.”
Let’s go back to the first scenario. Say Allen plays well. He’s only 24 and still has plenty of years of football ahead of him. Washington has one of the youngest rosters in the league, too, and Allen would fit right in. If Allen turns out to be what many Washington fans wanted Haskins to be entering the season, then good riddance.
A scenario like that isn’t impossible. In fact, something similar happened in Washington a few years ago. Washington famously drafted Robert Griffin III second overall in 2012, only to draft Kirk Cousins three rounds after that.
Three years later, then-head coach Jay Gruden made a bold move at the time to name Cousins the starter over Griffin. The switch ended up working out, as Cousins would lead Washington to a division title that season. Now, he’s one of the richest passers in the league.
However, the likelihood of Allen becoming the next Cousins is slim. Let’s focus on the more realistic outcome here.
If Allen leads Washington to a 7-9, 8-8 record and potentially a division championship, that should certainly go down as a successful Year 1 under Rivera. But could a successful Year 1, given the circumstances, prevent even more successful years down the line? It’s entirely possible.
All offseason, Rivera stressed that Washington’s rebuild was going to be a process. It was never about winning in 2020. The head coach is on record saying the primary objective of his first season with the team was finding players he could build around - with Haskins at the top of that list.
If Haskins proved to be the answer at quarterback, great. Washington had someone to build around for the future. If he didn’t, Washington would likely be in the conversation to draft either Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
Now, after just four weeks, Rivera seems determined to roll with Allen the way he was expected to do so with Haskins.
While Allen might present short-term upside, it’s highly unlikely he’s the solution at the position long-term. There’s a reason, after all, that Allen went undrafted and was traded for just a fifth-round pick this offseason. Quarterbacks come at a premium in the NFL, and Allen’s value there is telling.
In all, Rivera’s decision to make the switch at quarterback will most likely leave them in no man’s land: Allen will have played well enough to keep Washington out of range to draft a high prospect, but not good enough to firmly solidify himself as the long-term QB of this franchise.
In order to win in the NFL, especially in today’s modern game, good quarterback play is essential. Teams are scoring points at a record pace. The cliché ‘defense wins championships’ is quickly becoming outdated.
There’s a bottom line to success in the NFL: you either have a franchise quarterback or you don’t. And Rivera’s move to Allen will likely end with Washington having more questions than answers about the position come season’s end.