Religious followers of the Washington Football Team might be hard-pressed to find a silver lining in Monday’s news that Dwayne Haskins, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, has been released, leaving the team with a razor-thin list of usable quarterback options heading into a win-and-in regular-season finale.
This marks the end of a short and disastrous marriage that was, in many ways, doomed from the outset. Haskins was not coveted by his first coaching staff. His selection, according to ESPN, made a member of the Jay Gruden regime want to “throw up on the floor” of the team’s war room. This was an obvious power play from owner Daniel Snyder and his then tight-knit circle of Yes Men, who were (nearly) alone in seeing Haskins as the kind of prospect Snyder did. That group was also responsible for the inevitable demise of the once-promising Robert Griffin III era and seems to make a habit of these things.
But the fact that Ron Rivera was able to pull the lever after a tumultuous week when Haskins was spotted out at night in a compromising situation without wearing a mask, stripped of his captaincy and then benched after throwing a pair of interceptions in a critical Week 16 matchup against the Panthers, was about as encouraging as news can get for those who have followed the franchise and all of its destructive operating procedures for years.
Rivera is a coach who has wielded his autonomy wisely and responsibly so far in Washington. He was fair and firm with Haskins from the beginning, noting that he would need to beat Kyle Allen out for the job in training camp, while also being honest about his openness to drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 pick (they ultimately chose Chase Young instead). There was no hand holding, a customarily (forced) courtesy extended to players who were rubber-stamped by Snyder in the first place. There was a tempo set early in the regime that this kind of flawed meritocracy wouldn’t be tolerated.
Beyond the empty promise of a trip to the playoffs, what more could you want out of a new head coach than to clean up the very toxic sludge he was hired to clean?
Rivera’s first season in Washington has not been perfect, but when you think of everything you could have asked from a first-year head coach, developing the unit commensurate with his expertise into a top-three defense, having the team in a position to reach the postseason and stripping the roster of anyone who isn’t rowing in the same direction without the needless dictatorial overtones is a pretty darn good head start. All of this while the franchise was sloppily executing a highly public name change and its owner has been faced with some troubling accusations. The Washington Football Team itself—not counting ownership—will inevitably be better because of what happened Monday and in the days to come.
A long-term quarterback situation can be rectified in time, but knowing that you have someone who can handle the ups and downs of that process is almost as important. Haskins was not the future in Washington and was never going to be. His future will be dependent on addressing his own issues and finding a system that best accentuates his (still promising) skill set. Rivera is the future in Washington and, for the first time in a long time, that future looks a little brighter.