If a quarterback isn't comfortable, there are few scenarios in which anything else matters. Dwayne Haskins was uncomfortable Sunday and nothing else mattered.
He was under pressure seemingly every drop back. Some of it was self-induced. Some of it was protection based, which could be on a Haskins misalignment or the offensive line. Only the tape will tell. However, things did seem to change, slightly, for the better.
"After that conversation, it was just 'give me the ball and let me play,'" Haskins said. "That's what I did."
Asked what he meant by that and why things looked a little better in the second half, the rookie elaborated in what will be a defining answer for the rest of this Redskins season.
"Like I said, give me the ball and let me play. Give me plays where I'm comfortable and I can throw the ball in timing and on rhythm and not having to worry about if a guy won or not. And first one's open. If not, second, third, etcetera. That was just the biggest thing with that and we made some changes and we did better."
Haskins' conversation with his line happened after he was sacked with 3:09 left in the third quarter. To that point he was 12-for-20 with 98 yards. In the 4th quarter following, he was 7-for-15 for 116 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"It's tough when you got guys who have been in the league for a long time, and as a young dude with a new voice, you have to earn that trust and earn that ability to ask for what you see out there," he said. "And as the game went on, I was telling them what I want and what I think will help us make plays and they started listening to me. I gotta keep earning that."
He has to, though. A quarterback has to lead by necessity and leadership comes in many forms. Leadership is part being in the center of the huddle and riling the guys up pregame. Haskins did that Sunday, but that's secondary to the ability to literally lead a team down the field. The quarterback touches the ball every single play. He has to have command of where it should go.
It's why the quote and the admission are so defining. It'd be easy to read that quote as whining about play-calling or some criticism of the coaches, but that's not what it is. It's taking ownership that he needs to be more vocal in expressing how he can help this team win.
"He's a guy that's taking on a role and we're all following," said running back Derrius Guice after the game. "It's his offense. Like I always tell him, 'It's your offense, you've got to tell me where to go with protections. Tell the line where to go. Tell us what routes to run. That's on you.'
"Dwayne always has the ability to audible out of certain plays if he wants to. He's gotta lead us and we've got to all follow."
"It's team. It's a team. It's a team," Guice continued. "We've got to play as a team, we've got to win as a team and we've got to lose as a team. It's on all of us. We all made mistakes. We all made errors. We've got to fix it, fast."
Will this fourth quarter be a turning point where Haskins heeds Guice's advice and leads, or will it be another non-memorable moment in an unmemorable season? Will it be the launching point for growth into Haskins' future, or empty stats in an already decided game?
The Redskins coaches have a role to play here in helping Haskins find the answer. He needs to be comfortable. He needs the types of progressions he can succeed with. Bluntly, he needs to get the ball to Terry McLaurin. He's the best player on the team (with all due respect to Tress Way). Figuring out how to take a shot where it's Terry-or-bust or sending him on a slant over the middle shouldn't take until the fourth quarter.
"Life is hard," Haskins said at the podium about what he learned Sunday. "But I gotta work harder."
That's true, too. For as much as the game plan didn't seem to be putting Haskins in a position to succeed, he didn't help himself much either. He needs to learn to stay in the pocket. He created pressure by moving out of a clean pocket, hanging his line out to dry. He needs to get better in assigning protections. He needs to not miss easy throws.
All of these things work together. Work hard during the week on a good game plan and there's a chance to succeed. If not, the Redskins will continue to stack losses in a season going nowhere.