Ron Rivera saw some encouraging play when Dwayne Haskins entered Washington's 23-15 win over San Francisco, but more importantly, the head coach wants to challenge his other players to step up when a backup comes in.
"When a player steps in for a player, the guy that steps in should not have to feel like he has to carry the weight of everybody. What should happen is the players around him have to continue to step up and play their game. Thats what’s important," the coach said.
Rivera's comments come via the Washington Football Talk Podcast where the coach explained that Haskins played well early on in relief of starter Alex Smith but was undone by a few careless plays from his teammates.
"He went out and did his job, threw some really good balls early on," Rivera said. "What's disappointing is we had a big drop that would have converted it and turned it into a first down and we could have kept the drive alive."
It seems quite possible Haskins plays again this year, and it makes sense if Rivera wants to try and keep the second-year quarterback's confidence high.
The 15th-overall pick in 2019, Haskins opened the 2020 season as Washington's starter before being demoted to third-string in early October. He got moved to the backup role when Kyle Allen broke his ankle, and on Sunday in Arizona, got back on the field for the first time since his benching after Smith suffered a calf strain.
For the game, Haskins completed seven of 12 passes for 51 yards, and on the season Haskins is completing about 61-percent of his passes for around 200 yards-per-game with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
While reports suggest Smith could be back this week for the Seattle game, that's no sure thing. And with a 36-year-old QB dealing with calf problems in the same leg that required 17 surgeries to fix a broken leg, it's prudent to have the backup ready to play.
"We put Dwayne in a couple of tough spots later on. We weren’t as efficient early in the downs. We put a lot of pressure on him to make plays," Rivera said. "We as a football team have to understand the circumstances."
Washington's offense didn't look particularly effective with either Smith or Haskins at quarterback, and the team was bailed out by two defensive touchdowns. Still, after the win over the 49ers, Haskins sounded like a humbled and grateful young man.
"I'm just grateful and thankful. I'm proud of how our team fought. I'm proud of our defense played. I'm proud of how my offense rallied around me and how my coaches rallied around me. It wasn’t by any means perfect. There were definitely some throws I wish could have been completed but it's all good, we get an opportunity to play next week and whether I’m playing or not, I’m just thankful for this opportunity," Haskins said Sunday evening.
Washington has three games remaining in the regular season and a one-game lead in the NFC East. They're in the driver's seat to win the division and host a playoff game, an unthinkable result six weeks ago when Rivera's team sat at 2-7.
The signs point to Smith being back on the field at starting quarterback, but what would be crazier then Haskins return to help Washington in a playoff race?
In the NFL it's almost smart to expect the craziest possible result, especially considering the wild year so far in Washington.