Bill Callahan, in his initial comments Monday as Washington Redskins interim coach, said rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins “will be in the lineup at some point in time, whether it’s this year or next year.”
The same day, on ESPN’s “Get Up,” reporter Dianna Russini said sources say Haskins struggles to call plays and identify defenses. “One coach said to me, ‘Not only is he not ready right now,’” she said, “‘but it could be a year, maybe even two more years before he can actually be a starter.’”
The Jay Gruden era has come and gone, but this truth remains: If Haskins doesn’t play this season, let alone in 2020, something is terribly wrong with him, his coaches, or both.
I know Haskins started only 14 games in his college career. I know Ohio State’s system was like counting to 10, whereas the NFL is akin to calculus. I know he’s essentially two seasons removed from prep football at Bullis School.
But, still, it’s hard to believe Haskins is so far behind the curve that Callahan can’t possibly put him on the field. Even Nathan Peterman, awful as he was with the Buffalo Bills, appeared in eight games and made four starts. And despite throwing three touchdowns against 12 interceptions, he showed enough to somehow join the Oakland Raiders.
Haskins‘ career got off to a Petermanian start (no touchdowns, three interceptions and two sacks) when he debuted against the New York Giants in a Week 4 relief appearance. The outing confirmed Gruden’s contention that Haskins wasn’t ready. It was plain for everyone to see.
However, with Washington 0-5 and going nowhere except the top of the 2020 draft, the organization needs to reconsider its definition of “ready” regarding Haskins. Specifically, what exactly isn’t he ready for?
He’s not ready to offer Washington its best chance of winning any given game. He’s not ready to display expertise in dissecting opposing defenses. He’s not ready to play at a level that consistently lifts his teammates’ performances.
Let’s say there’s unanimous agreement on those standards. Great. That’s still not reason enough to keep him on the bench until next year or (perish the thought) 2021.
The only cause worthy of consideration is his ability to avoid being pulverized on every other dropback.
Quarterbacks who hold the ball too long and routinely look in the wrong direction are hazardous to their health. Rusty veteran Colt McCoy took six sacks on 27 attempts last week, primarily working the quick, short passing game. Against a newbie like Haskins, New England might’ve threatened the NFL record for sacks (12).
But that’s where coaching comes in assuming it’s any good and the prospect has any talent.
Babies shouldn’t start out eating steak and rookie QBs shouldn’t start out digesting voluminous playbooks. Infants needn’t begin by speaking whole sentences; new QBs needn’t begin by uttering calls like “zebra trojan, far west right slot, X-short, 200 jet smoke, X-choice.”
Yes, that’s an actual call from another notoriously verbose Gruden, Raiders coach/Jay’s older brother Jon.
Here’s what Haskins SHOULD be ready for, and what Callahan and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell should supply: an offense tailored to highlight Haskins‘ strengths and mask his weaknesses; a package of plays that he can perfect in practice and execute with confidence in games; streamlined verbiage to help him in the huddle and simple cues to help him at the line.
(That being said, observers who criticized Gruden for playing Haskins against the Giants are ridiculous. Haskins was the backup, and backups are always a snap away from entering the game. He’s either ready to be No. 2 or he’s listed as inactive. Being active and not ready makes no sense.)
Thankfully, Callahan intends to provide Haskins with the practice repetitions that Gruden didn’t offer. While the interim coach is at it, he should make the aforementioned tweaks, too. When his attempts to be more ground-oriented fail — or when Washington falls desperately behind and has to abandon the run — whoever’s under center will need to air it out.
Starting Haskins this week against Miami seemingly would’ve been a good launch point, but, OK, let’s give the new regime a little time to work with the change in philosophy. Let’s say Haskins doesn’t start in Week 7 against San Francisco, or the next two weeks, either, against Minnesota and Buffalo. Fine.
Washington’s bye comes in Week 10. It’s followed by a home game against the New York Jets on Nov. 17. The team easily could be 0-9 or 1-8 by that point.
If Haskins isn’t inserted into the starting lineup — for good — by Week 11, Washington might as well draft another first-round QB next year.
• Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.