Football Team

3 reasons why Rivera was ready to name Haskins the starter

Football Team

Washington head coach Ron Rivera officially named Dwayne Haskins the team's starting quarterback on Wednesday, ending what was supposedly an "open competition" between him, Kyle Allen and Alex Smith.

The move was one that was expected for several months, but also something that needed to be earned first by the second-year passer. Haskins saw almost all of the first-team reps during training camp and has progressed nicely, according to his head coach.

Rivera, who joked earlier in the week that he hadn't planned to tell the media who his starting QB would be until Sept. 13 -- the date of Washington's first regular season game -- explained during his 15-plus-minute media session on Wednesday why that was the right time to formally announce the decision.

Here are three reasons why the head coach moved forward with Haskins as Washington's QB1.

1. Haskins answered Rivera's initial challenge

When Rivera took over as head coach in January, he challenged the rising second-year passer to take ownership of the position.

Ever since, that's exactly what the 23-year-old did.

Haskins used the pandemic-riddled offseason to fully reinvent his body. The passer dropped close to 20 pounds -- now weighing lighter than he did during his final year at Ohio State -- and has said multiple times he feels as if he's in the best shape he's ever been in.

The second-year quarterback also spent much of his offseason training with established veterans, such as Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and a whole plethora of Pro Bowl wideouts. His Washington coaches took notice of that, and have praised Haskins for taking the initiative to work out with established stars.

 

"Dwayne’s lived up to everything he and I talked about back in the middle of January. He really has," Rivera said. "I’ve been very pleased with his effort and his attitude and the way he approached everything."

2. Haskins has had a steady improvement throughout training camp

Without in-person offseason activities due to the pandemic, training camp was the first time Haskins and his teammates returned to the team facility since last December. 

So, at the beginning of camp, there was a little rust.

But over the past couple of weeks, Haskins has really started to find a groove. He's taken almost all of the first-team reps and has established a solid trust in tight end Logan Thomas, in addition to his already strong connections with fellow second-year vets Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims.

On Wednesday, Rivera complimented Haskins for his ability to pick things up and play fast.

"He began to speed up," Rivera said. "Things happen fast, and when you try to get guys to practice fast, play fast so that everybody’s getting a fast, fast look, well you’ve started to see him early on catch onto things. While things were happening fast, he was just a tick behind and all of a sudden he was even with everything. Now all of a sudden he’s ahead of everything."

The way Haskins has carried himself off the field during camp is something that has stood out to the head coach, too.

"I think handling himself," Rivera said, when asked where Haskins has improved during camp. "There’s a certain aspect of being the face of the franchise in terms of being the starting quarterback that you have to deal with, kind of like being the head coach. There are some things that you just don’t deal with normally. But, because of who you are, you have to deal with those things.

"That’s how it is for Dwayne," Rivera continued. "There are certain things he has to do... I thought he’s done a great job." 

3. The timing

Rivera admitted on Wednesday that in a normal offseason, with full OTAs, minicamp, and a preseason, there might have been more of a true competition for the QB1 gig.

"This has been a little bit different training camp than I had anticipated," Rivera said. "We got into a situation where we weren’t playing and preseason games and it was going to be hard to do a really true competition in terms of the way I would’ve liked to see it unfold where you start one guy one week, you start another guy the next week. Without having that ability or that opportunity, I kind of made the decision to go ahead and go."

 

With Washington transitioning from training camp-esque practices to game-week-style sessions, as Philadelphia is set to come to town in less than 10 days, Rivera was running out of time to name a starter.

However, even if this year had been the least bit normal, there's no saying that Haskins wouldn't have won the job anyway. Make no mistake about it. This job was earned, not given to Haskins.

There's also one other thing that Rivera touched on, which might be the most important thing.

Rivera is entering his first year at the helm in Washington. Now, Haskins is getting his first true shot to be an NFL starter. The head coach was in a very similar situation nine years ago when he was a first-time head coach with a rookie QB named Cam Newton.

The two went on to have a successful nine years together, winning four NFC South titles and peaking with a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2015.

On Wednesday, Rivera mentioned Newton by name and said he hopes to go on a similar run with Haskins.

"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. 

"That’s really how I feel about Dwayne," Rivera continued. "He’s lived up to his part of our conversation in January. 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 rode it with Cam."