All that Washington asked from Haskins this week was a little bit of dependability — just don’t hurt the team. He couldn’t deliver, on or off the field.
Playing in place of the redoubtable but injured Alex Smith, he made the same familiar mistakes, which suggested he spent his weeks of inactivity in a princely pout over being benched rather than deepening his knowledge of the offense. Then, after his largely poor performance in a 20-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, throwing two stare-down interceptions, he treated himself to a maskless social outing, thereby risking the health of his teammates and coaches and jeopardizing everything they’ve worked for, and got caught on Instagram.
One conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that the Washington coaching staff was entirely right to demote him to third string in the first place. Ron Rivera needed just four games to decide his team was better off with this lax, silly kid in street clothes, even though its only available quarterbacks were the undrafted Kyle Allen and Smith, who hadn’t played since 2018.
Haskins is now very close to being a total bust. And there is no sugarcoating that. It does him no favors to soften the truth because he is only 23 and was a first-round pick. The Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts is just 22. This is a league that discards one flashy kid for another fast.
Haskins issued a statement in which he claimed “full accountability for putting the team at risk. It was irresponsible and immature of me. … I will learn and grow from this and do what’s best for the team moving forward.” But when has Haskins showed any sign of learning anything in these past two years? In fact, he appears utterly learning-averse. This was his second violation of coronavirus protocols this season. On or off the field, he is not appreciably more responsible than he was as a rookie, when he failed to show up for the final snap of a win against the Detroit Lions because he was too busy taking giddy selfies with fans.
The first thing an NFL quarterback has to be is dependable. When he’s not, when he’s uneven and untrustworthy, every single effort around him is compromised. To be frank, the guess here is that if Washington didn’t need another healthy quarterback on the roster, with a chance to clinch the NFC East against Carolina on Sunday, Haskins would be cut right now.
Haskins simply doesn’t seem to understand what’s required to play his position. He was drafted too early, after starting just 14 games at Ohio State, and he shows about the same judgment as a college sophomore. That brings to mind something Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said a few years back about teaching responsibility to kids.
“We have one rule: Don’t do anything that is detrimental to yourself because, if you do something that is detrimental to yourself, you will be doing something that is detrimental to the team,” he said. “You are telling the kid that everything you do has a bearing on this group. That’s what I tell them: ‘Greg, if you’re an idiot in a restaurant, all of us are being idiots.’ … You are a part something that is bigger than you. If you want to be a part of this and you are weak in a crucial moment, then we are all going to be weak.”
A good NFL quarterback doesn’t act like an idiot in restaurants and he isn’t weak in crucial moments, especially with a division title on the line. Rather, he sets the habits and tempo of the entire outfit by stacking bricks of hard work on top of good choices. He is the ultimate grown-up of the team, not its biggest problem child. If Haskins understood any of this, he wouldn’t have gone maskless nightclubbing this week of all weeks, jacked with men’s livelihoods and careers, their playoff chances and bonus clauses.
Waste other people’s efforts enough with juvenility, and they will turn on you. Haskins is on the verge of making himself unemployable. Washington is in a promising rebuild, and before it lets Haskins undermine the values and commitment of the entire organization again, the team will think hard about getting rid of him. And he may well find it hard to get back on a football field with another team.
The NFL is a judgmental and unforgiving league when it comes to failed quarterbacks and wasted draft picks. As Tom Brady told Peyton Manning this season in an interview on “Peyton’s Places” for ESPN: “Listen here: I don’t give a s--- if you’re a first-round pick. I was 199. If you get a chance to be on the field, don’t mess it up, because you may never get a second one.” Haskins is out of chances to mess up.
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