Joe Theismann sees improvement in Dwayne Haskins, vows team to be patient with him


Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins earned his first victory as an NFL starter this past Sunday, but with just five weeks remaining in the season, the rookie's performance has led to more questions than answers.

Haskins has only started three games for the Redskins and filled in twice as a backup for an injured Case Keenum. His numbers on the season are not impressive -- 54.6 completion percentage, 654 yards, 2 pass TD, 6 INT -- and has many wondering if the Burgundy and Gold can move into the offseason with confidence that Haskins will end up being the signal-caller the team expected him to be when they invested a first-round pick in him just seven months ago.

Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was critical of Haskins for a selfie he took with fans at the end of Sunday's win, causing him to miss the team's final snap in victory formation. But when discussing the rookie's actual play on the field, the Super Bowl-winning QB joined The Sports Junkies to explain why he's not ready to give up on the rookie by any means.

"People don't understand is the position requires the most process to go through," Theismann said. "I always refer back to Peyton Manning throwing 29 interceptions in his rookie season. That to me is sort of where you want to base young quarterbacks on."

Of course, after a rough rookie season, Manning went on to be a two-time Super Bowl winner, five-time NFL MVP, the NFL's all-time leader in passing touchdowns, and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. 


Theismann never hinted that Haskins would be the next Manning, as that would be an unfair and unrealistic expectation for the 22-year-old QB right now. But the point Theismann made was it's still way too early to judge Haskins. After all, he's only played in five NFL games, with just three starts.

"If you're committed to a young player, you have to be committed to the person over a period of time," Theismann said. "Dwayne played against the Giants briefly, Minnesota briefly, and he's started [three] football games. When you step back, the young man has played [16] football games, [three] as a professional and 13 in college."

As far as Haskins' development, Theismann does believe an extra year in college would have helped the young QB. But Haskins saw an opportunity to be a first-round pick, one Theismann (and frankly everyone else) should expect him to take advantage of.

Earlier in the season, the worry around Haskins was that he was not mentally ready to be the starting QB. Rumors surfaced that he didn't have a full grasp of the Redskins' playbook and struggled with the terminology of the offense. 

Since he's become the starter, Theismann has seen a vast improvement in Haskins' understanding of the system and his comfortability in the offense.

"I've seen him improve," Theismann said. "The first thing we saw in the Giants game was he couldn't communicate the plays, so he had to use timeouts. He seems much more comfortable with the verbiage in the offense."

While Haskins has taken strides in that aspect, his accuracy has been a concern. In college, the Ohio State product completed over 70 percent of his throws. In his limited play this season, he's completed just under 55 percent of his throws, a significant dropoff from his time as a Buckeye.

"It doesn't matter if you can see somebody open and know where you want to go," Theisman said. "You have to execute the throw."

Theismann attributes Haskins' misses to the speed of the game and how much faster the game is at the NFL level.

"I think the speed of the game has got him to get the ball out of his hands so quickly that it's a little bit rushed," he said. "The transition from college quarterback to professional quarterback is really about one word, and that's anticipation. In college, it's point and shoot. I see the receiver open, I throw the football. if you see the receiver open in professional football, he's covered. When you saw him throw a couple of corner routes he missed, he throws the ball a little too flat. I'd like to see a little more arc on it. If you release it sooner, you'll be able to do that."


Against Detroit, the rookie missed wide receiver Terry McLaurin on at least two potential touchdowns against Detroit, including one that was wide open. He's struggled with the simple out route, too. While Haskins has shown flashes of his arm strength, the rookie needs work on several short and intermediate routes.

"We have to start seeing conversions of opportunities where guys are open," Theismann said. "That's the one thing that we have not seen in the brief period of time we've seen him on the football field. That has to do a lot with footwork. That has to do a lot with anticipation, and it has to do with confidence. Those will all come, I believe."

These are things that can all be fixed, and the more comfortable Haskins gets each week, the improvement should start to be noticeable. 

While Haskins may not be a star now, that doesn't mean he won't have a long, successful career in the NFL. Haskins knows he has plenty of work to do, and it's up to him to determine his career trajectory.

"We live in a society today where we look for instant gratification. You're either a star or you're not a star," Theismann said. There's no in-between, and I think you have to understand that. He needs to develop a touch. If he doesn't, he may not play very long. He'll be a career backup. But I believe that he will. I think he'll be able to develop the parts of his game that he needs to be able to go out and be successful."