Prior to former offensive coordinator Sean McVay and his Los Angeles Rams arrival in our nation’s capital this weekend, Head Coach Ron Rivera announced that Washington’s Football Team is flipping the switch and going with offseason signee and former Carolina Panthers backup, QB Kyle Allen, as his starting QB.
He has also said that DWayne Haskins, the starter in Weeks 1-4, will surprisingly be the third option at QB this weekend!While it seemed like a peculiar decision to me, I thought I had better get in the film room and get to the bottom of it.
What I found was a mixed bag of results, often associated with the growing pains of developing a young QB. Here are the details as I see them:
Riverboat Ron put Haskins on notice after the Cleveland game two weeks ago in which they lost 34-20. Haskins was 21/37 for 224 yds but threw three interceptions and took three sacks. His QBR was a lowly 58.8.
Obviously, as per usual, the numbers don’t tell you everything, but in this case the film backed them up. The Washington Football Team ran 65 offensive plays that day against the Browns, pretty normal for an NFL game. What I found to be abnormal was seven bad decisions as to what to do with the football and three flat-out misses of open receivers. I’m no math major but when you don’t execute, for whatever the reason, on 10 of 65 plays, the blame usually gets directed squarely at the QB. Unless the QB can correct his mistakes, the odds of producing a winning offense are reduced.
Haskins has all the physical talent you look for when evaluating a QB. He’s big and he’s a good athlete. He has a fundamentally sound delivery and can even get the ball out quickly when he needs to. He has a live arm and the ball comes off with velocity. Haskins can make all of the throws that most NFL offenses will require. He was very accurate on routes when he had predetermined his receiver and threw beautiful deep balls with the correct trajectory more than once.
It’s the predetermining of the target and locking in too early in the process that gets him in trouble. Haskins threw into coverage multiple times and struggled to anticipate when and where receivers were going to come open. I think his ability to read coverage and process after-the-snap information is still very much a work in progress. This is a very normal step and hurdle for young QBs coming out of college.
When these quarterbacks come out of college, their evaluations are a big puzzle. I’m very cautious when listening to the talking heads. They don’t get a chance to gather all the inside info that is a must. I do not think the Washington Football Team and their personnel staff made mistakes in evaluating Haskins’ skill set.
However, having scouted and made hundreds and hundreds of school visits as a team executive, I definitely can speak to the fact that gathering intangible information about a player, how he processes what he learns and at what pace, is the hardest part of the evaluation to complete. I am not criticizing their scouts nor am I making excuses for them or saying that Haskins won’t “get it” at some point. I actually think his positives outweigh his negatives. I am saying that getting the truth out of sources at places like Ohio State as to what’s exactly being asked of the player and his ability to problem solve/make decisions is a difficult task. This information goes a long way toward determining a learning curve going forward for the player, especially a QB. Everyone develops at a different pace and starts from a different place on the learning curve.
College coaches have an agenda that serves their program, as they should. Many of the bigger programs protect their players, again, as they should. You really have to consider their agenda when you gather and decide what information you want to believe or not believe and take back to your team. Add to the fact, that in this case, Urban Meyer (Haskins head coach at Ohio State) has a relationship with the team. Remember him in the owner’s suite last season? Of course, he’s going to sell his players to anyone who will listen. He wants them to get drafted high. That’s the best thing for recruiting and Ohio State, in this case.
You just really have to trust your sources and know the person well if you expect to get the true picture on some of the intangibles that are very important in the evaluation of any player at any position. I’m not saying that anyone is less than truthful, I’m just saying you have to consider the agenda of your sources as an NFL decision-maker.
Let’s fast forward to last week’s game vs the Ravens for Haskins. He was 32/45 for a career-high 314 yards. I actually thought that he progressed and cut down on his bad decisions and forcing the ball. He threw no picks and had a QB rating of 90.4. I saw a few throws that really impressed me and jumped off the tape.
According to my calculations, the Washington Football Team ran 72 total plays and I could only attribute him to two bad decisions. He also missed five open receivers. I did not see a lot of yards/plays that he left on the field compared to most NFL QBs. His bad decisions came in the form of pocket awareness, or lack thereof, and he took a sack or two that he didn’t need to take.
In my opinion, I did not see a performance worthy of being benched. I did question some of his team’s execution and also some of their play designs. In other words, there was plenty of blame to go around in calculating the loss to Baltimore.
My view of this from 30,000 feet is that Rivera actually thinks they have a decent team. There is no GM in the house so this is a decision made strictly by the coaches. I get that Coach Rivera very much wants to win a few games to show progress. His patience is not great for developing a young QB and he knows and is comfortable with the alternative, Kyle Allen, who he brought from Carolina. He sees a division that is all of sudden filled with mediocrity and there for the taking.
I don’t have a problem with sitting Haskins if it’s a short-term thing. Haskins probably needs to catch his breath and recalibrate the first four weeks. I do think Allen is limited physically. He lacks the upside of Haskins and even though he might make a few less mistakes with protection calls (identifying the Mike linebacker) and take less sacks, he’s not going to get them to the top of the NFC East. I also think defenses will shrink the field because of Allen’s lack of arm strength and opponents will start to crowd the line of scrimmage and bottle up their running game.
I would not give up on Haskins. I think his development is still a work in progress but when you compare his progress with the struggles with that of the QBs in New York and some other teams, there is a lot to like. Kids with his physical skill sets are hard to find.
Let’s not forget he has only four weeks under his belt in a brand-new offense with a brand-new staff. He also had limited OTA’s and no preseason games for some reps with trial and error. The worst thing for this organization is to get to the end of year and still not know if “we have a QB for the long haul”. I think Haskins needs more time to demonstrate if he’s that guy or not.
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