There is no excusing Dwayne Haskins’ actions off the football field this season. There are few things dumber than partying, without a mask, with a bunch of strangers, in the middle of a pandemic. It put himself, his team, and the entire league at risk — including individuals far beyond his personal bubble, including the family and friends of people in the NFL. Haskins was punished, and rightfully so, being fined $40,000 for the incident.
In light of his release Monday there has been a concerted effort by some to re-write Haskins’ story to make him fit the classic narrative of “the bust.” An odious title reserved for players whose arrival in the NFL was so unceremonious they not only squandered their talent, but hurt the team they played for in the process. There’s no doubt that cutting Haskins now hurts the Washington Football Team, but the idea that Haskins can be safely branded a “bust” ignores a huge part of this scenario: He was drafted by the wrong team, at the wrong time, into the wrong situation.
The idea of rookie quarterbacks making an impact in the NFL immediately was preposterous a decade ago. Even bad teams would select a quarterback and have them ride them bench for at least a season until the game slowed down for them, and they got a better feeling for how the NFL works. In recent years things have changed. College offenses have become as complex as their NFL counterparts, maybe more so, while coaches, entering the league from college backgrounds are bringing their offenses to the pros. This has the effect of making the league more rookie-friendly than ever for quarterbacks, but it’s also warped expectations.
Despite Haskins’ astounding 50 touchdown season at Ohio State, analysts still realized he would need time and development to become an effective pro. This wasn’t a player ready to step in immediately and make an impact, which is why the prospect of him going to a quarterback-needy team was scary for his future. Haskins needed a team who had the time to let him really develop. Even his scouting report on NFL.com reflected this.
“Haskins is still very early in his journey and is prone to misreading coverage and stalling in getting through his progressions. […] His athletic limitations could keep him pocket-bound, but he has the arm talent, confidence and pocket savvy to become a good NFL starter if he’s protected and given the time to develop early on.”
This was known before he was ever drafted. It’s why Haskins fell to the No. 15 pick in the 2019 draft instead of being a Top 5. Everybody knew that whoever selected Haskins would need to be patient, and willing to invest the time in developing him. This was a pick for upside, for the future, not for the present. Good teams knew that.
But Washington wasn’t a good team, and they certainly weren’t the right team for Haskins. Ever a case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing, Dan Snyder reportedly pushed for Haskins to start quickly to generate buzz, while then-coach Jay Gruden resisted, saying the quarterback needed time to develop. In fact, Gruden never wanted Haskins in the first place, which is believed to be a key fracture in the front office relationship the team had.
Assuming they have the talent, there are three things a young quarterback needs to succeed in the NFL:
Haskins didn’t have the support of his coach, or the talent around him. The team was in a state of flux. The owner wasn’t willing to give him time to develop. Then you throw on a coaching staff change and it amplified every issue. This doesn’t mean that Haskins is a star, waiting for some team to snatch him up. There’s still every chance that he just might not have it, like countless players before him, but it’s just too early to say with any certainty.
There are two universal truths in this situation: Firstly, that Haskins’ actions throughout this season when it came to how to dealt with Covid were selfish, stupid, and dumb. The secondly is that Washington was the worst place for him to go, because they weren’t prepared or willing to invest what a young, upside passer like Haskins needed to succeed.
When it comes to on-field performance we’ve seen this go both ways. Sure, he might flame out like Johnny Manziel, or he could turn it all around like Ryan Tannehill.
The future of Haskins’ career is in his own hands. It’s likely that some team who liked him in the draft in 2019 will roll the dice and sign him. From there it will be on Haskins to mature, both on and off the field, and correct the mistakes he’s made. Haskins was set up for failure well before his actions undercut his own career. He has plenty of growing up to do, but there are a lot of people to blame for when a first round pick can’t even make it through his second season.