Football Team

Committing to Haskins reminds Rivera of first turning to Newton

Football Team

In 2011, when he began his tenure with the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera turned to Cam Newton as his starter. The No. 1 overall pick was the primary signal caller from outset of that season, and the two men helped co-author some of the most successful chapters in the organization's history.

On Wednesday, Rivera took a similar first step with Dwayne Haskins, one that he no doubt hopes leads to more triumphs with his new franchise. And in doing so, he couldn't help but compare his current first-round passer to his past one.

"I made a commitment 10 years ago to another young quarterback and just told him, 'I'm choosing you because I believe in you,'" Rivera said on Wednesday.

One of the opening questions Rivera faced back in January during his introductory presser with the Washington Football Team had to do with his opinion of Haskins. It would've been easy for the coach to right there praise the former 15th overall selection, but instead, he challenged him and even mentioned "a couple good veterans" who'd have the chance to battle as well. 

The message was a direct one: Haskins would need to earn Rivera's trust and his spot atop the depth chart. And in the offseason and training camp that have followed those initial remarks, Haskins has done just that.

"He’s lived up to his part of our conversation," Rivera said Wednesday. "Because of that, I’m living up to mine. He deserves the opportunity. He’s going to get my support. Hopefully we can ride it as long as I road it with Cam."

 

Beyond this decision, Rivera sees some intersections between the now-Patriot and the Burgundy and Gold's building block.

Yes, they're not the exact same player — Haskins is big, but Newton is big — yet they're right-handers capable of delivering one hell of a football.

Mentally, meanwhile, their approaches also overlap quite a bit, according to Rivera.

"It’s the desire to win," he said. "That to me is one of the overriding things that they both share. In similarities, their work ethic. They both have worked hard in their offseason getting themselves ready, and the way they prepare. That to me is a delight, that you have a guy that’s willing to commit to the preparation of it and it’s not just about showing up."

Now, while this part of his journey mirrors what Newton experienced with Rivera, Haskins has to develop a lot more in every aspect to mirror all that those two went on to accomplish with the Panthers. 

He has to keep mastering the offense, continue to own his role as a leader of the entire team and not just his unit, step up enough to carry what looks like a thin supporting cast as of now and never get complacent as long as he holds the title of starter.

Reminding Rivera of his previous star this September is encouraging. If that comparison still holds four months from now, however, it'll mean a lot more.