It’s been a busy week
The Nationals won games 6 & 7 to become the first team to ever become World Series champions without winning a home game. DC poured out to Constitution Avenue for the victory parade yesterday. Sean Doolittle has made it clear that he doesn’t intend to accept an invitation to visit the White House.
The NFL trade deadline passed on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Just before or just after that time, Trent Williams returned to Ashburn. On Wednesday he took a physical — one that he did not pass, apparently, because his helmet was ‘uncomfortable’. He later spoke to reporters for 18 minutes, delivering a number of salvos that began with the declaration that the growth on his head was, indeed, cancer, that it had first been noticed as a growth 5 1⁄2 or 6 years earlier, and that it “almost killed” him.
The Redskins — probably a Bruce Allen decision — decided to fire a salvo of their own by asking the NFL and NFLPA to perform a joint investigation into the facts of the Trent Williams medical situation, as is their right under the CBA. Whether this is an attempt to avoid paying Williams, or to toll his contract, or simply to prove that the team was on the side of the angels, I don’t know. Whatever the end game is — assuming that anyone has thought beyond a power play or simple vindictiveness — the current actions simply illustrate how untenable the relationship between the front office and the star left tackle actually is.
Lost amid all the hubbub is the story that would have been splashed across the top of the sports pages had it happened 6 or 8 weeks ago — Dwayne Haskins Jr. is starting for the first time in his NFL career!
This is the Sunday lede in DC sports — at least it should be.
The rookie quarterback has had the first team snaps. The head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach have spent the week preparing him.
Haskins should be ready.
What interim head coach Bill Callahan had to say
I think [Offensive Coordinator] [Kevin] O’Connell and Coach [Tim] Rattay have done a great job getting him prepared, getting him ready, they’ve put in concepts that he knows, that he can function and execute. So, I think we streamlined things that he can execute well and go out and perform. I think anybody across this league would really formulate the system around your players and what your player does well.
I think it’s important that he knows that he’s the starter, that he goes up there with a mindset that he is a leader of this offense and he’s got everybody on his shoulders. I know he’s going to accept that responsibility and do as well as he can.
I thought his preparation was excellent. When you’re preparing in a starting role – as he was beginning to work this week just in the eventuality that he was the starter – I think you see the magnitude of that responsibility take place. When you’re taking every rep throughout the week I really believe everything intensifies. Then, of course, the execution under pressure is really important to evaluate and I thought he did really well in that regard, so we’ll see how he does. We’re encouraged, we’re excited about his opportunity and looking forward to competing against the Bills, against a really highly-touted...defense.
What Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell had to say
Obviously, the plays are important as he digests the game plan but at the same time going out with the crowd noise--play clock-- we kind of varied it based upon the different points in the game plan to give him maybe a little more time, less time at the line to put pressure not only on him but I’ve talked to some of our other leaders the offense. The guys upfront [G] Brandon [Scherff] and [T] Morgan [Moses], some of the guys [WR] Terry [McLaurin] and [WR] Paul [Richardson Jr.] , and [TE Jeremy Sprinkle] ‘Sprink’-- [RB Adrian Peterson]’AP’-- just to continue to all be responsible for pushing the tempo in and out of the huddle, how fast we line up, how fast we can get personnel groupings in and out to allow Dwayne to focus on calling the play and then doing his job. So, it been a process all week, he’s really, really embraced all the challenges we’ve tried to throw at him, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, to make Sunday that much easier.
I think from my perspective just looking at him, he’s been really locked in all week. I’ve seen him a lot, he’s been around my office a lot, he’s been around with [QB] Coach [Tim] Rattay a lot, the meeting time with the other quarterbacks.
I’ve talked about with you guys before about even myself just trying to be consistent and the same guy every day. So if you change too much, I think I’d be a little concerned about that just because I’d like to see that consistent preparation whether you’re the one, the two or the three, it doesn’t matter in my mind. Because you like to see those guys really be ready to go whether, they’re one or two snaps away. I think from that standpoint, there hasn’t been a huge change but as far as his understanding of the fact that we’re going out here for this Wednesday, or Thursday, Friday practice and my role to help this team win this week is a little bit different than it’s been. So the focus has to be there, the execution has to be there, to allow the other 10 guys not only in the huddle but our whole entire offense, figure out honestly what we want to do this weekend from a scheme standpoint but then the things he can be confident in as well.
We’re still trying to figure out the things he’s comfortable with because he’s hungry to do it all. He wants to have the whole offense at his disposal, but it’s our jobs to get with him and make that he can be honest with me and that’s really what will take place from here on out, where we want to be at come Sunday as far as things we’re asking him to do. I think first, and second down, those things are pretty standard and you have the way you want to operate. Now, on third down and the red zone situationally, that’s where in this league its hard to not make that about the quarterback at that point, and the comfort level from those plays have to be paramount for him to have the best possible chance. So, those are the situations I’m really trying to take a fine-tooth comb to and figure out exactly what we want to do.
So, does this mean that Haskins is the unquestioned starter, and that there’s no going back?
I have always figured that, when the Redskins coaches finally threw Haskins out on the field as a starter, there’d be no ‘going back’. In other words, the commitment would be to start him for the rest of the season, no matter what, since his development and confidence would be more important than winning games given what has happened to the 2019 season.
That’s not necessarily how this has shaken out. Consider these quotes from Callahan’s first press conference this week.
Case is our quarterback and that’s where we’re rolling right now.
Case earned the starting quarterback position. He was voted captain by his teammates, certainly deserving, certainly our starting quarterback. So we’re not confusing the issue here, Case is our starter and if he’s healthy and ready to play this Sunday, he will be going forward.
Bill ended the presser with this:
Like I said going back a few weeks, Case is the starter, Dwayne is the backup. Of course, if Case did not play and Dwayne was the starter, then Colt would definitely be the backup.
Interim head coach Bill Callahan tried to be as clear as he possibly could: Case Keenum is the starting quarterback. If he’d been cleared from the concussion protocol this week, he’d have been named the starter for the Buffalo game. Callahan states that Keenum is the starter “going forward”.
The only reason that Dwayne Haskins gets the start is because he’s No. 2 on the depth chart and the starter isn’t able to play. The only reason Colt McCoy will be active is that Keenum can’t be.
When a reporter asked, at the end of the week, whether the decision to start Dwayne Haskins against the Bills represented a commitment to stay with the rookie for the rest of the season, Bill Callahan avoided the opportunity to endorse the former Buckeye, repeating his position three times in 24 words:
We’re just looking at one game. We’re just going to look at one game, one day. We’ll take it one game at a time.
Lots and lots of wiggle room
Dwayne Haskins will start the game today, but only, according to Bill Callahan, because starter Case Keenum is in the concussion protocol.
Next week the Redskins have a bye, meaning that Keenum has extra time to recover, and Haskins has extra time to prepare.
Callahan has left himself plenty of wiggle room regarding the Jets game in Week 11. He has the better part of two weeks before he has to name a starter, and my guess is that he will wait until the press conference on the Friday prior to the game to make an announcement.
Dwayne Haskins has the opportunity to make Bill Callahan’s decision an easy one.
Today is a big day for Dwayne Haskins; it’s his first start as a professional NFL quarterback. But there’s no guarantee that he’ll get another start anytime soon. Jay Gruden, Bill Callahan and Kevin O’Connell have all had the opportunity to say unequivocally that Haskins is ready for the NFL, yet each of them has offered only qualified support, saying that the rookie ‘has all the tools’ and ‘tons of potential’, predicting that he will ‘someday’ be a talented NFL signal caller. But none of them has ever said with any conviction that Haskins is ready to play now.
In fact, each coach in turn has seemed ready to temper expectations, at least for the short term.
None of that should matter to Dwayne Haskins today.
Every true competitor asks for only one thing: a chance to show what he or she can do.
Dwayne Haskins has that chance today.
He played like a champion at Ohio State, and earned his place near the top of the NFL draft.
From April onward, he has studied the playbooks, learned the vernacular and the schemes, developed his footwork and mechanics, gotten to know his teammates, and has striven to get his mind, emotions and body prepared for the challenges of being an NFL quarterback.
His present and future are now in his hands. No one expects him to be perfect, but people expect him to be able to go on the field with confidence, and execute like a pro for 4 quarters. If he can do that, it should be enough. If he can’t, then lots of questions will be asked... about the player, and about the organization that used a first round draft pick to acquire him.
If you’re not boycotting the games entirely, then this important step in the Dwayne Haskins story should give you a reason to get in front of the TV for 3 hours this afternoon and “see what we’ve got” in Haskins. It could be a memorable day.