With quarterback Kyle Allen out for an extended period of time with an ankle injury, Washington head coach Ron Rivera announced postgame Sunday that he is rolling with Alex Smith as his starter and Dwayne Haskins as the backup.
Speaking with the media on Monday one day later, Rivera said he isn't ruling out the chance of Haskins getting another shot as the team's starting quarterback at some point this season.
What the head coach did emphasize, though, is that he wants his second-year quarterback to pay close attention to how Smith prepares for a game as the starter.
"Alex right now is you have a guy that’s a very veteran quarterback who has helped and nurtured some very young quarterbacks, " Rivera said. "He kind of showed these guys how to study and prepare for a game, how to handle it.
"I think this is going to be very good for I think Dwayne’s going to get an opportunity to see truly how to prepare for a game as a starter," the head coach continued. "Again, I think—and hopefully Dwayne will take it that way—this is an opportunity to learn and grow."
When Washington selected Haskins 15th overall in 2019, they knew they'd be getting a talented passer, but one who lacked experience. Haskins started just one season at Ohio State prior to entering the draft, having just over a dozen college starts under his belt.
Since taking over as head coach in January, Rivera has praised Haskins for his skill set multiple times. But, the 23-year-old has not developed in other areas the way Rivera would have liked, which was a big reason Rivera chose to bench him four games into the season.
One of those areas is preparation. On Monday, Rivera offered an honest assessment when he said Haskins' talent hasn't made up for his lacking in that department.
“I think it’s a little—it’s something that some guys grow and develop and understand how important [preparation] is," Rivera said. "A lot of times, guys will rely on their great talent. That talent will get you by for a while, but there’s a point in everybody’s career where everything catches up to talent. The only thing that separates it are the guys that work the hardest.”
Smith, who entered the season as Washington's third-string quarterback, has often been one of the first guys in the building each day and one of the last to leave. That's on top of overcoming a life-threatening injury, one that left many to believe Smith would never play an NFL snap again.
It sounds cliché, but that type of commitment and dedication is truly what it takes to be successful at the sport's most important position.
Now the backup to Smith, Rivera hopes Haskins picks up a thing or two by watching the 36-year-old prep for an opponent as the team's starter.
“Again, it’s really about how to prepare, how to take what you’re getting—the information that you’re getting—how to disseminate it and then how to transfer it onto the field. How to do those things," Rivera said.
"Again, my example of coming in early, meeting with the coaches, meeting with the other quarterbacks, having discussions, talking about what you’re seeing and not seeing. Just studying and preparing," he continued. "I think that’s important. I think that’s vital for a young quarterback to have those kinds of examples."
Most importantly, though, Rivera wants Haskins to be ready if called upon. As the backup, he's now just one play away from being thrown back into the mix. As Washington saw on Sunday, that's a real possibility.
"He may get his opportunity again shortly," Rivera said. "He’s just got to be ready and prepare as if he’s one play away.”