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What if Haskins isn’t the guy we need?

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NFL: Washington Redskins-Rookie Minicamp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I read this in the comments yesterday, and I’m guessing that it represents more than just one man’s opinion:

I, for one, have more hope today than I did

We’ve started over fresh at the QB position and maybe between Keenum for the present, and Haskins for the future, we’ll actually accomplish something more than just the elusive “winning season”.

The drafting of Dwayne Haskins represents hope to a franchise and fan base that watched the 2018 season go horribly wrong in Weeks 9 to 17, looking like some twisted Grimm’s Fairy Tale by the end.

I would have laughed, then, at the end of the season, at the idea that, in the week before OTAs begin, a poll of Hogs Haven readers would be suggesting that the team is likely to win 8 or 9 games in the ‘19 season.

It would have been hard for me to believe, back in the first week of January, with the wound still fresh and raw, that, come May, the Hogs Haven quarterback discussion would revolve around whether the team should be starting Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins. Remember — Kyler Murray was supposed to play baseball, and Haskins was looking like the top passer in the draft.

A very good draft has led to renewed hope for the Redskins faithful. As excited as fans are about all ten draft picks, though, the one in particular that has re-ignited hope among fans is the guy selected at 15th overall — the new Redskins ‘quarterback of the future’, former Ohio State Buckeye, Dwayne Haskins.

Suddenly, the sure misery that came with the Alex Smith injury in combination with his $71m contract guarantee, seemed to come with a very bright light at the end of a very short and dark tunnel.

But, of course, when it comes to dark tunnels at quarterback, the Redskins journey has actually been a long twisting one that dates back to at least the drafting of Heath Schuler and Gus Frerotte in 1994.

Last month, the Washington Post looked back 25 years to that 1994 draft.

“To this day I don’t think anyone can figure out why Heath Shuler wasn’t successful,” Cameron says. “He had all the measurables for a guy to be successful. It just didn’t happen.”

Twenty-five years ago Wednesday, the Redskins drafted the quarterback who was going to be their future. They took Shuler with the third pick of the 1994 draft, and it seemed like the perfect choice. Shuler had been a star at the University of Tennessee, turning pro after his junior season. He projected as a superstar, with the size and athleticism that coaches love and the ability to rocket throws past defenders with uncanny accuracy.

Norv Turner, the Redskins’ coach at the time, saw in Shuler a player he once turned into a Hall of Famer when he was offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. He saw Troy Aikman.

At a minimum, Washington saw Shuler’s arrival as an improvement over what had transpired in the previous 12 months.

One of the NFL’s model franchises had crashed, and Shuler was going to bring the winning back.

Instead, his selection was the beginning of a cascade of botched or ill-fated quarterback decisions that has put the Redskins back in the same place a quarter of a century later: desperate to draft a quarterback who can stop the franchise from careening into irrelevance and bring back winning again.

From ‘99 to ‘19 and Johnson to Johnson: The Redskins desperately need a ‘win’ at the quarterback position

Johnson

Josh Johnson was last seen in the AAF. Before that, he was with Washington, the fifth NFL team he had been on in his career. Johnson made three starts and went 1-2.

Sanchez

Mark Sanchez came to Washington and had an instant impact. He handed the ball off to Adrian Peterson, who took it 90 yards for a touchdown. He wound up losing his lone start, throwing three picks overall with no TD tosses.

McCoy

Colt McCoy has been with Washington for four seasons. He has made six starts, most recently going 0-2 in 2018 before suffering an injury that ended his season. The former Texas start threw for 372 yards last year.

Smith

Alex Smith was doing his typical strong job as a starting quarterback before a devastating leg injury ended his season in 2018 and may have ended his career. The former No. 1 overall pick was 6-4 in 10 starts. The team never recovered from losing him.

Cousins

A good draft pick, but a player that seemed to never feel comfortable with the Redskins organization, Cousins compiled excellent statistics while going 26-31-1 as a starter for the Redskins.

Griffin

There was a lot of excitement when Washington moved all sorts of draft picks to position itself to draft RG III out of Baylor. After going 9-6 as a rookie starter, the bottom fell out to due to injuries and an assortment of on-field struggles. The team first exercised, then walked away from, Griffin’s 5th year option, getting very little in return for the 4 draft picks it took to bring him into the organization.

Grossman

Rex Grossman became somewhat of a punch line during his career. He finished with three seasons in Washington, going 6-10 as a starter with 23 TD passes and 24 interceptions. Sort of fitting mediocrity.

Beck

John Beck had not started a game since 2007 when he got the call to start for Washington in the middle of 2011. He failed to win in three starts and threw two TD passes and four interceptions.

McNabb

Donovan McNabb went 5-8 in 13 starts. He threw for 14 TDs and 15 interceptions, no longer having the star quality he displayed for so long in Philly.

Collins

Todd Collins was perfect in three starts for Washington. He was with the team for 2006, ’07 and ’09. Not only did he win all his starts, but Collins threw five TDs and zero interceptions.

Campbell

Jason Campbell was Washington’s first-round pick in 2005. High hopes dimmed fairly quickly. He made 52 starts and was 20-32 before moving on to Oakland.

Brunell

Mark Brunell came to Washington after a long run in Jacksonville. He made 33 starts with mediocre results, going 15-18. He did throw for 6,000 yards in Washington with 38 TD passes.

Hasselbeck

Washington was the second team Tim Hasselbeck played for out of four in his NFL career. He went 1-4 as a starter, throwing for 1,012 yards. There were five touchdown passes against seven picks.

Wuerffel

The 1996 Heisman Trophy winner out of Florida, Danny Wuerffel finished an average NFL career with Washington in 2002. He went 2-2 as a starter with three TD passes overall and six interceptions.

Ramsey

Patrick Ramsey was a first-round pick out of Tulane in 2002. He made all 24 of his career starts in his four years with Washington. Overall, he was 10-14 with 34 TD passes and 29 picks.

Matthews

Shane Matthews can be added to the collection of journeymen who started for Washington at one point since they last won a Super Bowl. The former Florida star was 3-4 in 2002 as a starter.

Banks

Washington was the third of four teams Tony Banks played for in a journeyman career. He made 14 starts in 2001 and went 8-6 with 10 TD passes, 10 picks and 2,386 passing yards.

George

Jeff George moved all over, whether he was in college or the pros. The one-time phenom, No. 1 overall pick, turned journeyman was 1-6 over two seasons at the end of his career. He threw nine picks against seven TDs in Washington.

Johnson

Brad Johnson is one of three Redskins quarterbacks who would win a Super Bowl with a team other than Washington. He was successful, going 17-10 in Washington before heading to Tampa Bay, where he would earn a Super Bowl ring. He threw for more than 4,000 yards while going 10-6 in 1999.

Let’s return to the Heath Schuler story

Long before Alex Smith’s leg broke and the ensuing surgeries to remove infection from the wound left Washington looking for its next quarterback, Shuler arrived heralded as a savior before he left with a 4-9 record and six more interceptions than touchdown passes.

And the question Cameron asked himself so long after: How could the gift of the draft’s third pick go so wrong?

In 1994, everyone around the Redskins was convinced Shuler was going to thrive as the team’s next quarterback.

[T]he Washington contingent believed Turner and Cameron would be able to teach Shuler the things he didn’t know. The Redskins were rebuilding that year anyway, and Shuler wasn’t expected to be a superstar in his first season.

If there was one thing that surprised the Washington coaches the most about Shuler, it was the way the offense didn’t come naturally. Shuler tried to catch up but struggled after being named the starter early in the regular season, and Washington kept losing. When Shuler was intercepted five times by Arizona, Cameron sensed the rest of the team was losing faith in the rookie.

He played just eight games for the Redskins over the next two years, a shoulder injury and more turnovers sealing his doom as Frerotte took over.

I’m leaving a lot of detail out of the Heath Schuler story, but the critical element is this: Heath Schuler was drafted #3 overall by the Redskins twenty-five years ago. His selection was made to stop the bleeding in a franchise that had lost its way and was struggling to find it again.

But Schuler — the player and the man — simply couldn’t do it. He couldn’t be the guy that the Redskins needed.

He wasn’t up to the task of saving the franchise.

Dwayne Haskins arrives with big expectations

This year, the Redskins drafted a 20-year old player who threw 50 touchdown passes for Ohio State last year. He seems to fit the NFL mold as well as Heath Schuler did twenty five years ago; he has “the size and athleticism that coaches love and the ability to rocket throws past defenders.”

A team that, in December, had two broken quarterbacks and which had fallen to the point where Josh Johnson was seen as a potential season-saver, is now faced with the seeming luxury of choosing between two reasonable options: starting the journeyman NFL veteran with some playoff wins under his belt, or the rookie from Ohio State who had 590 passing attempts — but 54 TDs and 9 INTs — in his short college career.

The enthusiasm for Dwayne Haskins as the quarterback of the future seems to be building. As fans, we are being reminded of all the things that this 20-year-old did right on his way to last year’s 50 touchdowns. We’re being reminded that first-round draft picks are expected to start and win.

Media reporters and analysts point to the 2017 draft, when 5 quarterbacks were selected in the first round, and remind us that every one of those players started games for their respective teams last season.

The expectations for Dwayne Haskins continue to rise.

Fans want him to be the guy that we need.

And, more and more, we seem to be expecting him to be the guy that we need.

But what if he’s not?

What if Haskins’ career turns out to be some oddly twisted bookend to Heath Schuler’s and a continuation of 25 years spent lost in the figurative quarterback desert?

Let’s look back to the 2013 draft

There were 11 quarterbacks drafted in 2013. Let’s just consider the top four, who have recognizable names and were each considered to have the potential to succeed in the NFL.

16 E.J. Manuel

39 Geno Smith

73 Mike Glennon

98 Matt Barkley

If you drop a small stone in the ocean, it will create tiny ripples that are barely noticeable. That is the 2013 quarterback draft. Mike Glennon is probably a serviceable backup quarterback, having started 22 games in his career, 13 in his rookie season. He was the 3rd round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The others are fringe players who have struggled to stay relevant.

Prior to Kyler Murray declaring for the NFL draft, we were hearing rumbles that the 2019 quarterback class, like the ‘13 class, might not have a franchise signal caller in the group.

Who are the most successful quarterbacks that have been drafted between 15th & 32nd overall in recent years?

  • 2018 Lamar Jackson (32)
  • 2016 Paxton Lynch (26)
  • 2014 Johnny Manziel (22)
  • 2014 Teddy Bridgewater (32)
  • 2012 Brandon Weeden (22)
  • 2010 Tim Tebow (25)
  • 2009 Josh Freeman (17)
  • 2008 Joe Flacco (18)
  • 2007 Brady Quinn (22)

The second half of the first round hasn’t proven to be fertile ground for finding franchise quarterbacks. Of the nine players listed above, Joe Flacco has had the best career, with a Super Bowl win on his resume, and the jury is still out on Lamar Jackson. Teddy Bridgewater was showing some promise before suffering a career derailment due to catastrophic injury. He’s now backing up Drew Brees in New Orleans, with hopes of becoming a starter again after Drew hangs up his cleats. Tebow actually started in the playoffs.

When an NFL football fan talks about any of the nine QBs in that list, the description of the player usually involves the word, “but”.

Quarterbacks that fall out of the top-ten picks usually do so for a reason.

Fourteen teams, at least five of whom needed and acquired quarterbacks, passed on the opportunity to draft Dwayne Haskins

The Cardinals thought Kyler Murray was better

The Giants preferred Daniel Jones

The Broncos preferred Drew Lock in the second round

The Bengals preferred Ryan Finlay in the fourth round

The Dolphins preferred to trade draft picks for Josh Rosen

That’s five teams that had the opportunity to draft Haskins but chose a different path to adding a quarterback to their team.

Does Jay Gruden even believe in Dwayne Haskins?

The rumors were swirling ahead of the draft that there was a split in the Redskins organization. Jay wanted Daniel Jones; Snyder wanted Haskins.

When the Redskins didn’t trade up, the Giants took that decision out of Washington’s hands.

Consider Gruden’s comments at the coaches’ breakfast in March, before he knew who his rookie quarterback would be:

Gruden has painted a very small space in the corner that’s left for him to stand upon. Of all the top quarterbacks in the draft that Gruden talked about, Haskins is the one whom he described as needing time to develop. He said this at the same time that he was making the point that “there is no developmental stage” and that it’s “hard to pick a quarterback at 15 and sit him.”

Could that have been Jay Gruden firing shots across Dan Snyder’s bow back in March, four weeks before the draft?


“The part that’s the problem,” Farrar said, “is Haskins under pressure, and there are some ugly numbers here. By whatever measure you want to use, his efficiency plummeted when he didn’t have a clean pocket. And that was pressure from the side that forced him to roll out, which he’s really not good at. He’s not good at throwing on the run at all.”

”This is a major problem in a Gruden system. Gruden’s always wanted a guy who can roll and reduce the field, hit the easy read and go. Haskins is not that guy.”

”Haskins is great at pocket movement. That shows up. But it’s interesting that Gruden, who has always wanted mobile, roll-out boot-action quarterbacks not only takes Haskins 15th overall, but says, ‘Yeah, he’s a big guy and he can bounce off defenders and do all that.’”

”In that way, it’s a big switch and kind of a repudiation of everything that Gruden has wanted in quarterbacks before,” Farrar said


Even now that Jay knows who his rookie quarterback is, his praise has, at times, been muted and limited:

You’re talking about huddle. He’s a guy that didn’t call a lot of plays in the huddle, so you’re talking about breaking the huddle and calling plays in the huddle and snap count and getting guys lined up. Obviously, going through his progressions, his footwork, not only in the passing game but in the running game. It’s just a lot you’re throwing at him. It’s a long process.”

Try to curb your enthusiasm there, Jay.

What did Gruden say at a press conference when asked about Dwayne Haskins starting in Week One?

I’ve been impressed with the other quarterbacks that we have here.

Oof. Throw Jay a softball and he hits it out of the park.

The other day, I mentioned in a comment that I had struggled to find pictures of Jay and Dwayne Haskins working together and talking together at rookie minicamp:

Given the minicamp, it seems surprising that I wasn’t able to locate a single snapshot of the head coach and the freshly drafted star quarterback working together or talking together.

Excuse me while I look for my tinfoil hat.

Scott Jennings, the master of all things Google quickly obliged by finding and posting 3 pictures showing the level of interest Jay is taking in his new development project.

Getty Images
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I think we can see the budding relationship between the team’s head coach and his exciting young protégé.

AP

Is it possible that Gruden is now being forced to put a brave face on an unwanted quarterback situation?

Could it be that we fans are more excited about Haskins than his own coach is?

What if Haskins just can’t do it?

History seems to be against Haskins. The bottom half of the first round doesn’t appear to be the ‘sweet spot’ for drafting a franchise quarterback. Sure, Flacco is the poster boy for those QBs in the past dozen years, and we’ve seen Aaron Rodgers, Jason Campbell, and Drew Brees drafted in that space. Before that, you probably jump back to 1983 before you find a QB who built a strong NFL career after being drafted between 15th and 32nd overall.

Some of Jay Gruden’s comments can be construed as less than a complete endorsement of Haskins as the Redskins draft pick. At the very least, before the draft, when Jay didn’t know who his rookie QB would be, he threw serious cold water on the former Buckeye’s readiness to start in the NFL Week One.

Further, his comments about Dwayne’s limited experience — that he’s currently learning about calling plays and breaking the huddle — don’t seem to inspire confidence that 6 weeks of training camp will be sufficient to get the rookie ready to face NFL defenses in 2019.

So, what’s the big deal if Case Keenum has to play at the start of 2019? Isn’t that why he’s here?

I actually like that Keenum is here. I hope it relieves some of the pressure that may be felt to start Haskins before he’s ready. Facing the Eagles’ pass rush on opening day in Philly is not the way I’d like to see Haskins begin his NFL career.

But, my question in this article goes beyond 2019.

What I’m asking is this - what if Haskins is what most quarterbacks are who are drafted in the back half of the first round? What if he’s really a career backup?

The Redskins had the bad fortune to be in need of a quarterback in a year when there didn’t appear to be a lot of high-quality future NFL signal callers available. Add to that the fact that the Redkskins were picking at 15th overall, combined with the scars remaining from the trade up for RG3, and you have a situation where the Redskins pretty much had to avoid trading up for a quarterback, may not have had the opportunity to draft a franchise-quality QB in 2019 in any event, and then had to draft Haskins when his name was still on the board at 15.

Now we’re all faced with the task of making the best of it.

So, we do what we can. We compare Haskins to the other quarterbacks available this year — grading on a curve. “He was better than the alternatives,” we say.

But being the best option at the time doesn’t make Haskins the best option.

Assuming that Colt McCoy and Case Keenum move onto greener pastures in 2020 and that Alex Smith is still rehabbing his leg, the team could be faced with a situation where they really only have one quarterback — Dwayne Haskins — under contract and healthy in 2020.

What if he either doesn’t get on the field at all in 2019, or he starts some games but plays badly?

What would it mean for the franchise if we’re all fooling ourselves into thinking this guy can do it? Other fan bases have gotten excited about similarly drafted quarterbacks in the past only to suffer disappointment:

  • Paxton Lynch
  • Johnny Manziel
  • Geno Smith
  • Brock Osweiler
  • Jake Locker
  • Christian Ponder
  • Josh Freeman

As Redskins fans, we know the feeling of promise, followed by hope, followed by disappointment connected to players like Heath Schuler, Jason Campbell, and Robert Griffin.

What happens if Dwayne Haskins is just another name on that list?

Poll

Predict Dwayne Haskins’ future:

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Never really finds traction in the NFL, plays out his rookie contract with the Redskins and ends up playing in Canada
    (50 votes)
  • 7%
    Career NFL backup
    (72 votes)
  • 28%
    Inconsistent starter with a couple of playoff losses being the highlight of his career
    (270 votes)
  • 50%
    A consistent winner who is remembered as one of the franchise greats
    (480 votes)
  • 7%
    Hall of Fame career
    (75 votes)
947 votes total Vote Now
NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports