In this week’s RSP NFL Lens, Mark Schofield considers the dysfunction on and off the field in Washington and with Dwayne Haskins and shares his thoughts on the best solution.
Washington is a mess.
This is not some sort of lede in which the author tries to make an allusion to the state of national politics. Absolutely not. This is a singular reference to the state of the football team down in our nation’s capital.
Having lived in the Washington, D.C. area for almost two decades, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a Redskins town. Not a sports town, not a football town, but a Redskins town.
Quick story. Whenever I think of the hold this team has over the locals my mind flashes back to November of 2002. In the days before Thanksgiving, the local team limped into a matchup of 4-6 teams with the St. Louis Rams, coming off their loss in Super Bowl XXXVI against the New England Patriots. The Steve Spurrier-led Redskins came out on top 20-17 to improve to 5-6, and faced a short week as they looked to take on the Dallas Cowboys that Thursday on Thanksgiving.
Listening to local radio that Monday morning, the talk in D.C. was playoffs. Yes, to quote Jim Mora, playoffs. The belief was that the Redskins could make a run given three-straight division games building off the victory over the previous NFC Champions.
Washington lost all three and staggered home with a 7-9 record, finishing third in the NFC East.
Fast-forward to today, where Jay Gruden is out as the head coach in the wake of a 33-7 loss at home to the Patriots. Bill Callahan is in as the interim head coach, and early reports are that Callahan will be looking to “establish the run.”
Not something that will instill confidence in the new NFL, given the evidence that points overwhelmingly to the importance of the passing game.
Simmering below the surface are questions about the team’s first selection last year: Quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Ever since the selection stories have bubbled to the surface that Gruden did not want the Ohio State QB, and he has been on record as saying that the quarterback was not ready.
In the wake of Gruden’s dismissal, there are more reports indicating that the QB is struggling to pick up play-calling and identifying defenses and that he might be a “year or two away.”
How much of this is true remains to be seen, as this could be a head coach getting in some parting shots on his way out the door. It is interesting—Haskins’ mind was one of his strengths coming out of Ohio State—at least from my viewing as well as others.
But if he did have a weakness, it was in the execution area. That brings us to two plays from this season in the burgundy and gold, one from preseason and one from his limited action two weeks ago against the New York Giants.
First, the preseason play. This was actually highlighted in a previous piece on Haskins:
Here is what I wrote to describe this incompletion:
Similar to the Ohio State example, everything that Haskins does here is great: Before the throw. This is a red zone concept designed to work that route to the flat open. Haskins knows that in the red zone, space is condensed so everything has to happen faster. As such, he cuts his drop short (notice the shuffled steps on his drop prior to the throw) and knows exactly where to go with the football.
He just flat misses the throw.
Perhaps poor mechanics are an issue still. If you look at his footwork on this release, his left foot is well left of the target line. He “steps in the bucket” to use the common parlance.
The things we see in college, coming to life in the NFL.
As I wrote weeks ago, the things we saw about Haskins, specifically his failure to execute, are coming to life in the NFL.
The rookie was pressed into action in Week 4, replacing an ineffective Case Keenum. Haskins struggled in that contest, throwing three interceptions. But it was this red zone play that stood out to me, for reasons you are about to see yourself:
This is the same route, a speed-out pattern to the left, this time in the direction of tight end Vernon Davis (#85). But Haskins (#7) just flat-out misses it again, failing to put it on Davis and really leading the TE out of bounds.
Again, the things we see in college, coming to life in the NFL.
Whether Haskins is ready or not, these mistakes are apparent on film.
Now, it is certainly not time to write off Haskins. Absolutely, positively not. Some errors and missed throws do not make a career. But it is fair to point out that on film, there are things that he needs to fix, and pairing that fact with the rumblings out of Redskin Park paints a difficult picture.
So how does one go about getting him developed? Patience and opportunity.
Look, Washington is 0-5. This season is a lost cause. The only way to find out what you have in him, what he does well and what he needs to develop is by getting him on the field and figuring it out in live game situations.
If he “is not ready” the best way to fix that is to treat him like the starter, invest the time and energy in getting him ready, and putting him to the test. Sometimes that is just the best way to learn. The longer Washington waits to go down this path, the higher the chances the rest of his career plays out like these two throws: Missed opportunities.
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