This was a moment he had waited for since childhood, but it wasn’t a happy one. The Redskins were throttled, 24-3, by the division rival New York Giants, the team he grew up admiring, and the subpar performance of starter Case Keenum necessitated Haskins’s NFL initiation. Yes, the 15th overall pick wants to play, but he doesn’t wish ill will toward Keenum. And the rookie certainly doesn’t want to lose games, regardless of how he gains his opportunities.
“I had a whole bunch of emotions in my head,” Haskins said. “I just wanted to win the game, and we didn’t. It is what it is. On to the next week. … I hate losing, I really do. We’re going to keep getting better, and that’s not happening again.”
When Haskins will get his next opportunity is unclear. After the loss, Coach Jay Gruden was unwilling to name a starter for next week’s game against the New England Patriots.
“We’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow,” Gruden said brusquely. “Then I’ll reevaluate everything. . . . He’s got to earn that right [to start] first. I don’t care where you’re drafted, when you’re drafted. You need to earn that. He’s got to come in here and perform when he’s asked to perform. If I feel like he gives us the best chance to win against New England, I’ll put him in there. . . . You’re just not handed the keys because of where you’re drafted.”
Haskins was drafted to be the future franchise quarterback. He competed for the starting job in training camp but clearly wasn’t ready to be the opening-week starter. Fans called for Haskins to start as the team fell to 0-3, particularly with other first-round quarterbacks, such as Daniel Jones of the Giants, starting throughout the league, but Gruden resisted.
After Keenum struggled early Sunday — including overthrowing a wide-open Trey Quinn for a potential touchdown on the first snap of the game and throwing an interception two plays later — Gruden relented and went to his young signal-caller.
Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell gave Haskins a warning early in the second quarter that his time may be coming, and the rookie injected some life into the offense upon entering the game. He connected on his first two passes, including a third-down conversion, and his 14-yard scramble set up first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Haskins nearly had his first touchdown pass, but he threw wide and outside to an open Vernon Davis on third down, and the team settled for a field goal.
He struggled as the Redskins were held scoreless in the second half, and he finished 9 for 17 passing with 107 yards and three interceptions. He was sacked twice.
“I thought he did provide a spark,” running back Adrian Peterson said. “He came in and did a good job. Of course, he had interceptions, but that’s things he can tweak. … Of course things could have been better.”
Gruden now will have to decide whether he wants to turn to Haskins on a full-time basis and give him the first-team reps in practice. The coach also could go back to Keenum or call upon Colt McCoy. The veteran returned to practice last week after dealing with complications stemming from last season’s broken leg and is expected to be healthy enough to play against the Patriots.
The 22-year-old Haskins did have some positives — he showed good mobility and earned praise from Gruden for his pocket presence — but there’s plenty he needs to improve.
“I just knew that my time would be coming and, when the day comes, that I’d be ready for it,” Haskins said. “I didn’t execute the way I wanted to, but the good thing about it is that it hurts, and there [are] going to be brighter days tomorrow. . . . I want to win. I’m going to win. Whatever it takes to win, we will do that. . . . We’re going to change that and win some games. I’ll be here for a while, so get used to seeing me smile up here.”
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