Less than 24 hours after his team’s 34-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Washington coach Ron Rivera rattled off a list of players who played “their heart out on the field.” He praised how position groups, like the offensive linemen and the wide receivers, battled and fought. The coach’s tone was serious.
That’s why when it came to Dwayne Haskins’ uneven play — the second-year quarterback had two touchdown passes, but he also turned the ball over four times — the team deserved better, the coach said.
“We have to make sure everybody is playing well enough for us to win at that point,” Rivera said.
In Sunday’s postgame press conference, Rivera defended his 23-year-old quarterback. But after reviewing game film, Rivera was more critical Monday. Haskins turned in arguably his worst outing as a pro. Rivera blamed Haskins’ three interceptions on the quarterback staring down his receivers -— directly contradicting Haskins, who said a day earlier the giveaways were the result of him trying to do “too much.”
On Sunday, Rivera was adamant he was going to let Haskins play through his mistakes. The coach said he didn’t consider yanking him and revealed that he assured the quarterback that he’d start in the weeks to come.
A day later, he acknowledged that there is a “cutoff point” if Haskins doesn’t improve. Rivera declined to elaborate on what it would take for him to make the switch, but the comment adds pressure for the former No. 15 pick overall to show he can be a franchise quarterback.
Asked about the possibility of benching Haskins, Rivera said, “You have to say at some point there is … and I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”
Usually when Rivera criticizes Haskins, he’ll couch his criticism with some sort of praise. Last week, for example, when the coach said that Haskins’ mechanics “are not even close” to what his staff is looking for, he added that Haskins has the tools to put it all together. On Monday, Rivera still mixed in praise, though notably less than a week before.
Haskins’ interceptions were costly. The turnovers gave the Browns great field position and Cleveland scored 24 points — three touchdowns and a field goal — off them. The giveaways also came at inopportune times, like when Haskins gave it away in the fourth with his team only down by four points.
When Rivera looked at the film, he noticed that Haskins went through progressions too quickly. Instead of taking his time to allow the intended target to break free, Rivera said Haskins got to the read too soon and then made the throw. “He’s got to slow his mechanics down,” he said.
After Sunday’s loss, Haskins said he “didn’t feel like I was staring anybody down,” but Rivera saw it differently after watching film. Haskins went through his progressions as intended, the coach said, The problem was that Haskins needed to be more patient to allow routes to develop.
Rivera noted that those types of problems occur for young quarterbacks.
Haskins made just his 10th NFL start on Sunday and had just a year of starting experience in college. When Rivera looks at Haskins’ mistakes, he said most of them can be traced back to inexperience.
Rivera said that inexperience can be seen even on a touchdown throw. While Haskins completed one of his two TD tosses to wide receiver Dontrelle Inman, Rivera said Haskins started his reads from the opposite side of the field. Haskins ended up throwing to the right spot, but Rivera said he could have made a quicker throw if he started his progressions from the correct side.
But Rivera also acknowledged the obvious: Haskins’ inexperience is only an excuse that will last for so long.
“We can’t see a regression,” Rivera said. “The one thing he has to understand is there’s a certain point where you’re no longer a rookie. Again, to me he’s still learning and growing. But there’s a point where, hey you know what, you should be more positive with your throwing plays.”
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