Football Team

Stephen A. Smith backs Ron Rivera's decision to bench Haskins

Football Team

When ESPN First Take's Stephen A. Smith learned Dwayne Haskins was getting downgraded to QB3 on Wednesday, he was nothing but supportive of Washington head coach Ron Rivera.

"I think it's fair. They're 1-3, he's only completing 61% of his passes, got four touchdowns, three interceptions. Ron Rivera is the new coach and he has an eye for talent," Smith said on the show. "He coached Cam Newton for many years. There were a lot of times when people looked at Cam Newton and they thought that they should be doing better, but still in all never wavered Ron Rivera one bit because he knew what a stud he had."

Now, while unwavering support from Rivera for Haskins seemed like it would last a bit longer, maybe this was the right time for a move in a wide-open NFC East. As NBC Sports Washington insider JP Finlay points out, Haskins and Newton aren't identical quarterbacks. 

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From Newton being the No. 1 pick (Haskins was selected 15th), to a bigger physical presence (two inches, 20 pounds bigger), to way more productive rookie season (4,051 yards through the air, 21 passing touchdowns, 14 rushing TDs en route to an Offensive Rookie of the Year season), to even their nicknames. 

"Simply put, Cam Newton's nickname is "Superman." Haskins nickname is "Simba" after the Disney movie The Lion King," Finlay wrote. 

 
RELATED: Benching Dwayne Haskins sends different message than Washington's recent moves

Due to Rivera's record with Newton, Smith thinks this decision has more to do with Haskins' struggles than anything else. 

"To me, this is the ultimate indictment of Dwayne Haskins, particularly when you look at Daniel Jones in New York City," Smith said. "We all looked at Daniel Jones and said how the hell is the New York Giants drafting him ahead of Dwayne Haskins." 

Though an "ultimate indictment" sounds quite final for Haskins' chance to earn his starting job back, it's important to distinguish the difference between himself and Jones. That's exactly what a trainer who has worked with Haskins in the past set out to prove with a blind QB test. More than 90% of Twitter respondents said they would rather have Haskins than both Jones and Jets QB Sam Darnold, though without seeing the names next to their stats.  

Still, Haskins may have more proven competition backing him up in Kyle Allen and Alex Smith than Jones or Darnold. Whether Haskins is not up to the extra competition or is just generally unable to live up to the lofty expectations created after throwing 50 touchdowns in a season at Ohio State is unknown at this point.

But the reason for Haskins' lack of improvement could derive from coming into a team with a coach who never wanted to draft him in the first place

"His development has been impaired significantly by playing for Jay Gruden and his staff in his first year in the National Football League, but nevertheless Ron Rivera can't be worried about that," Smith said. He's got to go with what he's seeing right now.

And I think him making this move this early is him saying this kid is just not ready yet. It's not a good day for Dwayne Haskins."