The never-ending quarterback carousel of the Washington Football Team is back.
On Sunday, third-year pro Kyle Allen suffered a gruesome ankle injury in Washington's 23-20 loss to the New York Giants, a prognosis that almost certainly will end his season. Veteran Alex Smith came on in relief for Allen and was promising at times, but two fourth-quarter interceptions killed any chance at a Burgundy and Gold comeback.
With Washington now at 2-6 and Allen out of the picture, many fans are calling for the Burgundy and Gold to turn back to Dwayne Haskins as the starting quarterback.
That won't be happening yet, as head coach Ron Rivera said postgame that Smith will be the starter next week in Detroit, with Haskins serving as the backup.
While NBC Sports Washington's Pete Hailey explains why sticking with Smith is the right call, here are three reasons why Rivera is making the wrong decision.
1. Dwayne Haskins may not be the long-term answer, but playing him will at least give you more clear of an idea one way or another.
When Rivera made the decision to demote Haskins from starter to third-string after Week 4, the head coach cited the 23-year-old's lack of experience as a major reason why. Over the past month, Rivera has reiterated a similar message whenever he's been asked about the second-year QB.
"He’s a young, young quarterback," Rivera said this past Wednesday. "I’ve said this before, he played what—12 games in college or 13 games in college? Then he’s in the NFL and he played some games last year, this year we gave him a lot of opportunities and you still see the rawness. To me, it’s really about him developing and growing. He’s going to have opportunities."
Whether you're a Haskins supporter or not, it's hard to justify that 11 NFL starts is enough to make a complete assessment on him. But, if Washington does turn to the second-year QB for the remainder of the season, they'll have a lot clearer of an idea what they can expect from him moving forward.
Allen is an exclusive rights free agent after the season, while Washington has an out of Smith's contract at the end of the year. Based on what Smith is due to make over the next two seasons, it's hard to see Washington picking up the option.
That leaves Haskins as the only quarterback currently on the roster who's under contract for next year. Having a starting-caliber quarterback on a rookie deal is one of the most valuable assets for any NFL team.
There's a good possibility Washington's Week 1 quarterback next year is not on the roster right now. The 2021 QB free-agent class isn't nearly as attractive as it was this past March, and Washington's two wins might already be enough to put them out of contention for touted prospects Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.
It's no secret that Washington isn't close to having a long-term answer at quarterback. But by playing Haskins over the next eight weeks, it'll be a lot easier to judge what his potential is moving forward.
Rivera has said multiple times that he "hasn't given up" on Haskins. The head coach has also said that Haskins has "an NFL arm" but just needs more experience. Developing as a quarterback in the classroom can only go so far; Haskins needs to play in order to truly make strides in his game.
2. There's no better time to do so.
Over the past two weeks following Washington's Week 7 victory over Dallas before the bye week, the talk in Ashburn has been about how the next four games will determine the outcome of the remainder of the season.
Sunday's home clash against New York -- a Giants team that entered the matchup with just one win on the season -- was more than a winnable game. The loss significantly puts a damper on Washington's playoff hopes, but the upcoming stretch against Detroit, Cincinnati and Dallas still bode as winnable matchups.
After that? Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle are on the docket. All three provide different challenges, too.
Pittsburgh's defense is arguably the best unit Washington will face the remainder of the season. If Washington waited until then to throw Haskins back into the wolves against the Steelers, they'd be setting him up for failure.
Both San Francisco and Seattle have dealt with injuries this season, but the 49ers still present a difficult challenge to Washington's offense. The Seahawks remain one of the best teams in the NFC. The only way to beat Seattle is in a shootout, something Washington simply hasn't been a part of in recent history.
If there was a time to switch back to Haskins, it's now. Waiting a few weeks to make the switch isn't beneficial to either side, at all.
3. Forget about an NFC East title. It's not happening, and development should be the most important thing moving forward this season.
Entering the 2020 season, the year was expected to be one centered around development. Yet, the putridness of the division a month in forced Rivera to want to chase the "short-term glory" of winning the NFC East. Turning to Allen at that point was not unreasonable, as he had experience playing and having success in offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system.
Now, with Allen out of the picture, it's time to say goodbye to chasing an NFC East title. At 2-6, this team would currently have the fifth pick in the 2021 draft if the season ended today. That's not a playoff team by any means.
With playoff hopes seemingly far-fetched, it'd be wise for Rivera and his staff to shift their focus back to development and finding out which players they can build around. That means turning back to a 23-year-old Haskins over a 36-year-old Smith, and giving the second-year quarterback a true chance to prove to Rivera over the final eight games of the season whether he's worth building around moving forward.
Even if Smith were to excel, where does that leave Washington? The Burgundy and Gold are at least another year or two away from truly contending. Smith's timeline simply doesn't add up with Washington's rebuild.
Smith's comeback to football is remarkable. No one is doubting that. Heck, give him the Comeback Player of the Year award already. But playing him for the remainder of the season does not help this franchise build for the future.
Rivera may have already made his decision on Haskins. By relegating him to third-string, there's a strong possibility of such. But now, due to Allen's injury and Washington's record, the head coach has a free pass give the 2019 first-rounder a chance to prove himself once again without facing any backlash.