Only four weeks into his first season in Washington, Coach Ron Rivera made the decision to bench 2019 first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins and turn to his backup, Kyle Allen, for a Week 5 meeting with the Los Angeles Rams.

The news, which the team announced Wednesday morning, was jarring to many fans. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Sure, Haskins completed 32 of 45 passes for a career-high 314 yards Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens while not committing any turnovers. But he also didn’t throw for any touchdowns and failed Rivera’s pop quiz in the red zone, throwing the ball well short of the goal line on fourth down.

“The ball’s got to go into the end zone or be put in position to be put in the end zone,” Rivera said.

“It’s something he’s got to learn. If he’s going to be a starter in this league and contribute to the football games, he has to understand and develop,” Rivera added.

That’s the problem. Haskins hasn’t shown any signs of developing into the team’s franchise quarterback. And if history is any guide, Washington may be right to consider a Plan B.

Just look at the numbers. In four games this season, Haskins has thrown for 939 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, producing an 80.3 passer rating, the fifth lowest among 33 qualified quarterbacks. His completion rate is 61 percent, considerably lower than the league average (67 percent).

Haskins is a league-average passer on throws within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, but once he ventures past that, his accuracy suffers. He is 5 for 23 (22 percent) on throws traveling 15 or more yards in the air in a league that averages a 48 percent completion rate on such attempts. Perhaps that’s why Haskins, on average, is throwing the ball more than two yards short of the first-down marker this season, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats; that’s one of the lowest marks in the league, and it makes it difficult for Washington to move the ball down the field or sustain drives. (On an average second-and-eight snap, Haskins is throwing the ball just six yards in the air, hoping his receiver will do the rest of the work.)

It gets worse.

According to ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, Haskins has been the least-valuable passer of 2020. When Haskins drops back, Washington is scoring almost five points per game fewer than expected after taking into account the down, distance and field position of each passing play, per data from TruMedia. By that metric, only Jeff Driskel, Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz have been worse this season.

To put Haskins’s futility in a broader context, here are the passers selected in the first round since 2002 who have produced similar expected-per-game output (within one point) on passing plays over their first 11 NFL starts: Brady Quinn, Kyle Boller, EJ Manuel, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, J.P. Losman and David Carr.

Will it get better? Among that group, only Stafford — who had injury issues during the first two years of his career — and Losman managed a positive “expected points added” result over their next 11 starts, and only Stafford has produced results above expectations over the rest of his career.

The remaining quarterbacks barely hung on in the NFL. Quinn, Boller, Manuel and Losman all became little-used journeymen after unsuccessful tenures as starters, while Carr spent five seasons as Houston’s starter and then barely played over his final six NFL seasons.

First-round quarterback
EPA per game over first 11 starts
EPA per game over next 11 starts
Brady Quinn
Dwayne Haskins
Kyle Boller
EJ Manuel
JaMarcus Russell
Matthew Stafford
J.P. Losman
David Carr

Other members of the 2019 quarterback draft class, even those taken well behind Washington’s No. 15 pick, are outpacing Haskins in that regard. Gardner Minshew II of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and Drew Lock of the Denver Broncos have positively impacted their clubs on passing plays, according to that metric, while Daniel Jones hasn’t hurt the New York Giants as much as Haskins has hurt Washington. (None of the other quarterbacks drafted that year have more than three starts.)

If such esoteric stats as Total Quarterback Rating and Expected Points Added aren’t your thing, consider a subjective take such as the Pro Football Focus player grades, which are based on a player’s “contribution to production” on each play. In other words, if a quarterback delivers a perfect pass to a wideout but the wide receiver drops it, that’s still considered a positive event for the passer. Using this grading method, PFF’s game charters rank Haskins as the NFL’s worst passer through the first four weeks of this season, even including his Week 4 performance, which was the fourth-highest-rated game of the week among quarterbacks.

Haskins also hasn’t shown much awareness in the pocket. He has been sacked 13 times this season, with six of those attributed to Haskins (and not the offensive line) by Pro Football Focus graders. And when he is under pressure, his completion rate drops from 70 percent in a clean pocket to a league-low 24 percent. His passer rating sees a similar decline, from 93.0 in a clean pocket to 36.7 under pressure, a worse rating than if he just threw the ball into the dirt (39.6).

“We’ll talk about situational awareness. We’ll talk about certain things that he’s got to continue to grow on and understand that he has to do. This is all a growing and learning process for him,” Rivera said.

An argument could be made that much of this isn’t Haskins’s fault. Washington’s offensive skill players are mostly young and unproven, and outside of wide receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson, there hasn’t been a reliable target for Haskins to throw to. However, Haskins’s on-target rate was the second worst of 2019 (64 percent) among 33 passers with at least 200 attempts, and he has the worst on-target rate (62 percent) among the 29 passers with at least 100 drop-backs this season, according to data from Sports Info Solutions. Even if he had a plethora of weapons to choose from, it seems unlikely Haskins could put the ball in their hands consistently enough to make Washington’s offense hum.

Could Haskins, given a second chance, turn the corner and blossom into a franchise quarterback the team could depend on? Sure. But through 13 games, the stats, both traditional and advanced, suggest he is more likely to be a bust than a cornerstone.

This story has been updated from a previous version.

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