It seems unfair in the moment to say we aren’t surprised, but Washington moving on from Dwayne Haskins became inevitable this offseason, when the team signed Ron Rivera’s former quarterback, Kyle Allen, in free agency, publicly flirted with the idea of drafting Tua Tagovailoa and offered only the most milquetoast praises for the former first-round pick throughout the process.
This was not Rivera’s fault. He was hired to come in and sanitize a culture that, for far too long, acted like owner Daniel Snyder’s Madden simulation when he felt like flipping on the Xbox. The rest of the time, real coaches and players were left to clean up the mess and deal with the life consequences of his helter-skelter decision making. Nearly every story about the 2019 draft contains the caveat that selecting Haskins was an insistence of both Snyder and Bruce Allen. That the personnel department and coaching staff preferred other options. That they didn’t believe Haskins was the long-term answer. Those coaches have since been fired and were theoretically replaced by someone else who might tell Snyder that his idea was the right one all along.
Alas, after starting seven times as a rookie, Haskins didn’t make it to the fifth game of the regular season in 2020. He is last or close to last in nearly all advanced quarterback metrics, including DVOA (-32.1), Total Quarterback Rating (30.6) and points above expected completion percentage (-6.6%). In some other place, in a better environment, these would merely be looked at as growing pains along the developmental roller coaster ride. But when a quarterback is not wanted in the first place, the metrics pave the road for early dismissal.
Haskins joins a quarterback graveyard littered with the most unfortunate kind of mistakes—ones that are not really the player’s own fault. We’re so quick to dismiss people as busts, when in reality the focus should always be on who pulled the trigger and what kind of environment they set up to encourage their player’s growth. Haskins serves as ultimate proof that owners who are not immersed in the football process should not be able to weigh in with what amounts to a business decision. Remember Jimmy Haslam and the homeless man? Remember how much of a grenade that pick ended up being, with Johnny Manziel tossed into a semi-functional environment with good coaches and a team that had won seven games the year before? Remember Al Davis and JaMarcus Russell?
With no direct ties to Haskins, a division melting down around him and a bench full of quarterbacks either he is familiar with (Allen) or who have a track record of winning games (Alex Smith), Rivera did what he is paid to do. Washington will be more competitive from here on out. With its punishing defensive line turning heads (Rivera’s defense is fourth in the NFL in DVOA heading into this weekend) the team could veer toward relevance with replacement level quarterback play under center.
When Snyder insisted on drafting Haskins, part of the deal was, presumably, making sure the culture within the building could foster his journey to replacement level and beyond. But when it comes to owners who flip the whole team on and off at will, they can do the same to the once-promising developmental track of any player.