When people discussed the Redskins’ 2020 starting quarterback situation during the last couple of months, Dwayne Haskins was certainly mentioned. But so, too, were others, such as Tua Tagovailoa, Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston and more.
Moving forward, though, the list will begin and end with Haskins. Speaking to a Charlotte radio station this week, Ron Rivera said Washington will be “going into camp believing that” the former first rounder is the team's starter.
Rivera has waited a long time to make that kind of statement about the 22-year-old. The fact that he actually did means fans of the franchise now find themselves in a fun spot: At long last, they can start envisioning the signal caller’s potential. That sounds like a simple thing to do, but it hasn’t really been doable since Haskins arrived last year.
In his rookie season, Haskins entered the league under a head coach that wasn’t inclined to develop him. That wasn’t his or Jay Gruden’s fault — Gruden was trying to stay employed — but their mismatched timelines made for an uncomfortable vibe from the get-go. Gruden, of course, was eventually fired.
After some ugly relief appearances and uninspiring initial starts, Haskins finally seemed to feel comfortable running Washington’s offense and looked not just capable but dangerous in December. Yet that uptick in performance was only fleeting: ankle injuries held him back from finishing the campaign strong.
Then, in Rivera's introductory press conference in January, the organization’s new leader complimented Haskins — but then immediately referenced how other veterans would have a chance to compete with him. That wasn’t a bad move by Rivera at all — in fact, it was refreshing to know he had the power to take the Burgundy and Gold job without being forced into rolling with Haskins — but it also fueled plenty more speculation about the former Buckeye star.
Similar comments like that followed, with Rivera and other members of the Redskins expressing that they wanted to see more from Haskins when it came to his commitment. That led into the combine, where the Tua rumors escalated, and carried into free agency, where any available passer was at least connected to the team by those on the outside.
In all, outside of a few winter afternoons where Haskins found his rhythm, his first 11 or so months as a Redskin have been unstable and filled with chatter about possible replacements, despite the fact that he just got to D.C. last April.
Now, this isn’t to say he’s completely free of guilt in all of this. That’d be reckless. He absolutely could’ve done more in his first year in the NFL, from developing consistent off-field habits to handling failure better. If he did those things, then Rivera perhaps would’ve felt more willing to anoint Haskins as the answer and thus prevent much of the noise that’s engulfed any Haskins-related conversation.
The noise, however, is finally quieting down. In turn, people who watch the Redskins and who follow the Redskins and who cover the Redskins can, even for just a brief period, ask themselves: What if Haskins seizes this and fully breaks out?
Like, what if Dwayne delivers?
He’s still so young. He’s obviously immensely talented — his arm is rare, his mobility is promising and he thrived in 2019 when the gameplans were more catered to his skill set (Rivera noticed as much himself). And now, he’s got control.
Sure, Rivera’s radio comments weren’t a full-on declaration, but between what he said on air and his acquisition of Kyle Allen, he didn’t have to make a declaration. Haskins is the Redskins quarterback. For once, that’s all there is to it.
Yes, only a handful of guys every few decades become legitimate, franchise-carrying players under center, meaning Haskins has a longgggg way to go. That way to go becomes even longer when you consider how bad the Redskins were last year, and how bad they’ve been for two decades. Saving a team is hard enough; saving this team is especially daunting.
But at least it’s apparent who’ll get the next shot at pulling that feat off. Whether Haskins is eventually able to will largely be up to him. The people who want him to, though, can allow themselves to truly begin imagining it. And it’s OK to imagine it really working before seeing if it ultimately does.
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