HOFFMAN: In lost season, Haskins needs time to make mistakes


The Washington Nationals won 12-3 last night in Game 2 of the World Series. I wanted to remind you that good things can happen and a team from Washington can score in double digits. 

The Washington Redskins have not scored a touchdown in nine quarters.

This was despite a first half where they did not punt Thursday night in Minnesota. They simply could not finish drives in the end zone. 

Everything – including the possible fate of the franchise – changed at halftime when Case Keenum started feeling the effects of a late half hit and entered the concussion protocol. Dwayne Haskins entered, but the excitement soon dissipated and the half became turned into a reminder as to why Washington has been hesitant to play the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

Haskins looked uneasy against a very good Vikings defense. However, what’s concerning is that some of the uneasiness seemed to be self-inflicted. 

Haskins threw just five passes, the last of which was intercepted after he overshot Terry McLaurin on a glance route. It’s a throw he’ll make a thousand times successfully in his NFL career, but this one wasn’t right and he missed his college teammate by about a foot. On another play, the Redskins were completely discombobulated as clearly something went awry with the playcall.
But this is part of the process and Haskins is going to make these mistakes. Most rookies do. For all the talk of how good Daniel Jones and Gardner Minshew looked after their first start or two, both have come back to earth. Shocker: It is hard to play in the NFL. Really hard. And quarterback is the hardest position to play.

And right now is the best time to make these mistakes and to experience growing pains in a lost season when there are no real expectations to succeed. 

“It felt good,” Haskins said when asked how his overall command felt. “There’s room for improvement. I want to be great.”

That sentiment could easily be dumped upon if Haskins wasn’t so damn convincing when you talk to him. It’d be easy to say “focus on being good before we talk about greatness,” but a conversation with him for 30 seconds in a competitive environment leaves you believing that he has greatness in him.

The game is too fast for him right now. He’s not seeing everything. Where quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson have made sport of breaking down every single detail at the podium, Haskins admitted on his interception that he couldn’t quite remember every detail. What he does remember is crystal clear, describing the coverage and how he had to try and bend the ball around the middle linebacker. 

However, filling in the picture to create full clarity is when things will start to click. That will come with experience. That is why Bill Callahan said that Keenum will proceed as the starter moving forward (if healthy) was so disheartening to so many fans after the game.

The Redskins are 1-7. They are not making the playoffs. They have graduated from an abysmal football team to just a bad one with how well their defense has played in the last few weeks. That unit has righted the ship in a way that can keep them competitive and that seems like an ideal situation for Haskins to take his lumps, or maybe even succeed.

It’s important for Haskins to be able to learn from his mistakes and earlier in the season he was not at that point. However, with 10 days to get ready for Buffalo and a bye week to get ready for the Jets after that, it’s time to see how the rookie responds to a full week of reps and ultimately being named the starter.

For all the talk of a Josh Rosen situation in Washington, there’s no way Bruce Allen admits he made a mistake on Haskins after a year even if the rookie were to continue to struggle. This isn’t about “seeing what he’s got” to evaluate whether or not pulling the plug after the year is worth doing. They’re not going to do it. There’s just no way.

The rest of this year is about Haskins getting the experience to get better. It is about giving him every opportunity to unlock the greatness that he, and so many others, believe burns inside him.

"I love everything about (football),” Haskins said, dejected at the podium after the loss. “As far as playing the quarterback position that it requires and what you need to do in order to be successful at it. I gotta keep working and keep getting better, and this is a process for me.”

The process took another step today. It was painful, but it was a step. We all wait with bated breath to find out what the next step will be.

Or we’ll just watch the World Series and deal with it on Monday.

Follow @CraigHoffman on Twitter.