LANDOVER, Md.—Results are the ultimate measuring stick for an NFL quarterback. And in that regard, Dwayne Haskins had the most successful day of his brief pro career on Sunday.
But a come-from-behind 19–16 victory over the equally moribund Detroit Lions did little to rebut the skeptics of Washington’s talented rookie quarterback. In fact, Haskins may have even raised a few more questions.
Sure, he led two fourth-quarter scoring drives to help his team snap a nine-game home losing streak that predated his arrival. He saved his best for last, including an 11-yard scramble and a 17-yard completion to Terry McLaurin that set up Dustin Hopkins’ game-winning 39-yard field goal with 16 seconds left.
But those accomplishments raised Haskins’ passer rating for the day to an anemic 47.5. He committed two turnovers, failed to get his offense into the end zone and missed several wide-open receivers.
Perhaps most concerning of all, Haskins wasn’t available for the victory formation after Fabian Moreau’s interception with two seconds left. Backup Case Keenum had to make the final kneeldown.
“We were looking for him,” interim coach Bill Callahan said of Haskins. “I think he thought the game was over.”
Let’s hope he did. Photos of Haskins posing for photos with long-suffering fans in the first row of FedEx Field went viral immediately after the game. Haskins insisted they were taken after the gun, but that doesn’t explain his absence for the game’s final play. That will be the defining image of his first professional win, a fate that seemingly could only happen to this team.
Even Joe Theismann, who agreed to allow Haskins to wear his semi-retired No. 7, tweeted after the game: “How do miss the last snap of a game because ur taking selfies. That’s unprofessional & wrong.”
Said Haskins: “I was so hyped. I think I broke a water bottle. I looked up and we were in victory formation. I’ll get it next time.”
Given this team’s recent history, “next time” may not come any time soon. It took a yeoman special-team effort, plus a couple of gift turnovers from Detroit backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, to ensure Washington’s first home win in over a year.
Haskins may have stepped up his play in the fourth quarter (as all good QBs do), but the win came almost in spite of him rather than because of him.
On at least three occasions, Haskins had rookies Terry McLaurin or Kelvin Harmon open deep for potential big gains or touchdowns. Each time, he barely overthrew them. In fact, it took a spectacular one-handed snag from Harmon to set up Dustin Hopkins’ first field goal of the day and a smart fingertip 17-yard grab by McLaurin to put Hopkins in position for his game-winning kick.
“That’s something we know he’ll get better on,” said Harmon, who praised Haskins’ poise throughout the game.
Haskins claimed his inaccuracy was a result of injuring his wrist during the game, but when asked about it, said only, “I’m good.” It was one of several short, seemingly defensive answers to questions during a postgame press conference that should have been joyful.
Washington’s coaches—and all but the team’s most impatient fans—expect growing pains from Haskins, who started for only one season at Ohio State and reportedly was drafted against the wishes of now-fired coach Jay Gruden. Despite a strong arm, he still hasn’t shown enough mastery of the nuances of his position to predict he’ll become even a competent starter.
What the team should take for granted is a level of maturity that Haskins didn’t show in the game’s final minutes. It didn’t cost his team Sunday, but it could be a problem going forward.
Next spring, Washington (2–9) will have a high draft pick and a new coach. He and the front office will have to decide whether Haskins is equipped, physically and mentally, to lead a team through a monumental rebuilding effort.
If so, the team can use its picks (and salary cap room) on its myriad of other needs (most notably offensive line, linebacker and secondary). If not, it means another step back.
Callahan likely won’t make that decision. But the old-school, no-nonsense coach clearly wasn’t pleased. On Saturday night, he delivered a tongue-lashing to his underperforming team that linebackers Cole Holcomb and Jon Bostic estimated lasted 20 minutes. “Coach Callahan ripped us apart,” cornerback Dunbar said.
Asked Sunday about Haskins going AWOL in the final seconds, Callahan said: “I’ll have to find out a little more.”
That applies to all aspects of Haskins’ game.