As a group, Washington’s quarterbacks have produced a 79.3 passer rating since Cousins departed for Minnesota last offseason. Only the Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have gotten worse performance from their quarterbacks over that span. However, all three of those teams have drafted, and are now starting, their potential young franchise quarterbacks.
The Redskins? They selected Haskins in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, which prompted some twinges of optimism. However, midway through his rookie year, with the team going nowhere, he remains relegated to backup duty in favor of Keenum, and his coach’s words hardly inspire faith.
“In all fairness, if we say hey, we are going to put Dwayne in there and see how he does, in some respects, he needs a little bit more work,” interim Redskins coach Bill Callahan said on Friday. “Time is invaluable where he can sit back and learn from quarterbacks like Case and Colt [McCoy] as well as players like Alex [Smith]. It is a fine line. We are trying to win games still. Our dynamic is tough, and it is challenging.”
It’s fair to ask what, exactly, Haskins could be learning. Keenum has been the 19th most valuable passer of 2019, per ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, performing well enough for an NFL team to win less than 50 percent of its games, a generous assessment considering his actual record as Washington’s starter is 1-6. McCoy only has one start this season, which earned him a 23.9 QBR, meaning a team would be projected to go 4-12 with him under center for a full season with similar performance. McCoy’s QBR was 38.8 in three games played last season, which isn’t much better. And even Smith’s QBR last year was 46.9, the eighth worst among all qualified passers.
In a league that is becoming more and more dependent on the pass, these are all disturbing data points for Washington. Over the past two seasons, a team passer rating of 70 or less resulted in a win-loss record of 12-40-0, or a .231 win rate. A team passer rating of between 70 and 80 earned a 21-42 combined record (.333) and a team passer rating in excess of 100 produced a combined record 134-70-1 (.654). A team has needed its quarterback to produce a passer rating of 90 or higher to get its record over .500. Washington’s QB rating over that span, remember, is under 80.
The smart move would be to get Haskins as many starter reps as possible to prepare him for future. After all, how much worse could he do for a team that has gone 1-7 with Keenum and McCoy under center? But there remain questions about his readiness, and what happens if he doesn’t pan out?
Washington could look to free agency for help, but the prospects there could be slim. The list of potential unrestricted free agents quarterbacks available in 2020 include Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
Brees and Brady are not coming to Washington. Manning seems likely to retire. Rivers (92.5 passer rating) would get the Redskins past the passer rating benchmark discussed above, but he also turns 38 in December. Bridgewater did a fine job replacing the injured Brees in New Orleans this season, but the talent pool for the Saints is vastly superior to that of Washington. Winston is hardly an upgrade, with an 82.1 passer rating in 2019, and Mariota was recently benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Washington could imagine a trade for Nick Foles or perhaps Cam Newton but that scenario almost certainly relies on parting with draft assets, the exact opposite strategy the Redskins should be taking.
Perhaps Washington will try to draft another quarterback in 2020. Finishing with one of the NFL’s two worst records this season would earn the Redskins the option to select either Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert, two highly coveted college quarterbacks, in the 2020 draft. Any pursuit of wins, however, would have to cease immediately. The Redskins are one of five teams with either one or zero wins in 2019 and would draft at No. 3 if the season ended today. The two teams in “front” of them, the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, are looking for their next franchise quarterback, too.
Even if the Redskins did finally find their franchise quarterback for 2020, protecting him would remain an issue. Washington’s offensive line is one of the worst pass-blocking units in the NFL this year, according to the game charters at Pro Football Focus. Right guard Brandon Scherff has dealt with injuries but has graded out as an average guard, just 27th out of 59 qualified guards. Left guard Ereck Flowers ranks 55th at the position. Center Chase Roullier ranks 18th out of 32 centers graded. Right tackle Morgan Moses (33rd out of 60 graded tackles) and left tackle Donald Penn (42nd) are also below average. Trent Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle, has held out all season and the team reportedly will (finally) field offers for their embattled offensive lineman this week.
Finding players for their quarterback to throw to is yet another issue. Rookie Terry McLaurin has been stellar but Paul Richardson Jr. and Trey Quinn rank 54th and 66th, respectively, this season out of 70 qualified receivers, per Pro Football Focus.
No matter what, the Redskins should not be in the business of winning games this season. They have virtually no chance at a playoff spot and each win only erodes their potentially lofty draft position. Instead, they should take inventory of the young players on the roster, jettison the veteran players for more draft picks and try to build from the ashes. And figuring out whether they have, or still need, their quarterback of the future should be an immediate priority.
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