“The ball wasn’t even on the floor the entirety of the day, which was really impressive,” Callahan said.
Callahan and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell have been saying similar things about Haskins in recent weeks, complimenting the team’s first round draft pick for the way he has worked in practice and has taken extra time to study the Redskins’ offense. But when Haskins replaced Keenum in the second half of last Thursday’s 19-9 loss at Minnesota, he looked confused.
Several times, players scrambled as Haskins called signals at the line of scrimmage, with some appearing to be confused over what play Haskins was calling.
After the game, one player said he didn’t think Haskins had been prepared to play.
Haskins has had trouble running the Redskins offense going back to training camp where he appeared uncomfortable and made many bad throws. Multiple people with knowledge of Haskins’s development said Haskins is struggling to learn the team’s plays, and they expressed surprise that he doesn’t know them yet.
Running back Adrian Peterson cornered Haskins in a corridor outside the locker room following Thursday’s loss. The NFL Network reported that Peterson told Haskins to “learn these plays, everybody thinks that you don’t know them, you’re proving them right. It’s time to study the playbook.”
Peterson, who has been one of Haskins’s biggest supporters in Washington’s locker room, shot down the report in a tweet posted Saturday. On Monday, Peterson again responded in a group interview at his locker, saying the NFL Network had tried “to put words in my mouth.”
“I had a conversation with Dwayne, it was very private and I made sure that no one heard anything I had to say and I didn’t talk to anyone else about it — what I had to say — it was all encouraging,” Peterson said. “For me to see that on the flip side, I was disappointed. Don’t use me to say something you feel you want to say.”
NFL teams usually don’t make quarterbacks available for interviews early in game weeks, and Haskins’ only public response to the report was a reply to Peterson’s weekend tweet that said: “Please don’t include me in this bs media narrative.” During his postgame news conference, Haskins described Peterson’s advice as being encouraging.
The Redskins’ offense is considered to be a difficult system to master quickly. Before he got hurt last year, quarterback Alex Smith appeared to still be thinking his way through some plays in his first season with the team, and Keenum likened studying the Washington offense, installed by former Coach Jay Gruden, to learning Portuguese — which many consider to be a complicated language to grasp.
With the Redskins 1-7, more pressure has come on the organization — and Callahan — to start Haskins. He is the only first-round quarterback from last April’s draft who has not started a game. Callahan, and Gruden before him, have declined to start him, always saying that Haskins is not ready.
Several times in recent days, Callahan has referred to the waits Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had behind Brett Favre in Green Bay and Steve Young had in San Francisco during Joe Montana’s last years with the 49ers.
“It’s about learning and growing,” Callahan said.
Rodgers and Young sat behind Hall of Fame quarterbacks, however. Haskins is backing up Keenum, an offseason acquisition whose contract expires at season’s end. Much of the pressure to play Haskins is built on the idea that the Redskins should want to see what they have in Haskins before they go into the offseason.
“I just think we started a course at the beginning of the year philosophically and we have held true to that course and we will maintain that,” Callahan said Monday. “I really believe Case earned the starting quarterback position, he was voted captain by his teammates.”
Later, he added: “We’re not confusing the issue here, Case is our starter and if he is healthy and ready he will be going forward.”
The point could be moot if Keenum doesn’t clear the concussion protocol this week. Callahan has consistently refused to consider starting Colt McCoy — a Gruden favorite who had likely won the starting job in training camp before leg injuries sidelined him for several weeks — meaning Haskins, the quarterback who is said to not be ready to start, will have to start.