Life can change pretty fast in the National Football League. Just two weeks ago second-year passer Dwayne Haskins was the captain and the starting quarterback of the Washington Football Team.
Today he is without a job.
The organization made the decision to release Haskins before the end of his second season, deciding to quickly move on from one of their first-round picks of the 2019 NFL Draft. During his time in Washington Haskins failed to produce on the field - he leaves behind 12 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions, a completion percentage of just 60.1 and 6.3 yards per attempt - and was a growing distraction off it. Just last week he was stripped of his captain’s “C” and fined by the team for appearing at a party without a mask after Washington’s Week 15 loss.
To give you a sense of how the team feels about Haskins, the organization released him during a week where a win on Sunday night secures them the division and a playoff spot. Instead Washington will choose from a hobbled Alex Smith, journeyman Taylor Heinicke or Steven Montez, who has yet to throw an NFL pass in a regular season game.
Now, “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” as history tells us. So the Haskins situation is perhaps illuminating for the New York Giants, who passed on Haskins to select Daniel Jones with the sixth-overall pick in that 2019 draft. There were some - this author included - who thought that Haskins was the better prospect. But the way Haskins’ time in Washington has drawn to a close is yet another reminder that quarterback evaluation is a flawed art at best, and complete voodoo economics at worst.
But there are three important lessons for the Giants to take from the Haskins debacle.
First, schematic offensive consistency is critical.
Haskins was a one-year starter at Ohio State, and played under Ryan Day in his only years as the triggerman for the Buckeyes. Then as a rookie he played under Jay Gruden until he was fired, but the team did keep offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell in place when Bill Callahan was installed as the interim head coach. This season, Ron Rivera brought Scott Turner to Washington to take over as the offensive coordinator.
That means in three seasons (one at Ohio State and two in Washington) Haskins played for three different offensive coordinators. It is hard enough to develop as a passer in the NFL in when you are in a stable offensive environment in the same system for your first few years. It is much harder to do it when you are constantly learning a new playbook, new terminology, and developing a new relationship with yet another OC.
Right now, counting his time at Duke, Jones is playing for his third offensive coordinator. If the team decides not to retain Jason Garrett, he will be on his fourth in 2021.
Lesson two: Organizational cohesiveness matters.
Haskins is just the most recent example of a new regime deciding to move on from the decisions of their predecessors. A few years ago Kliff Kingsbury joined the Arizona Cardinals and the team almost immediately moved on from Josh Rosen - drafted before he arrived - in favor of the quarterback Kingsbury wanted. Haskins was not a choice made by Rivera, and while the head coach said all the right things about the young QB, it has become clear over time that Rivera was not enamored with the Ohio State product.
Furthermore, in the wake of the Haskins news it has become clear that he was not even the choice of Rivera’s predecessor:
I will never forget the week leading up the draft in 2019. A member of the Washington coaching staff told me he was going to actually throw up in the war room because ownership wasn’t listening. Coaches didn’t believe Haskins was the right person to be the future of the franchise— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) December 28, 2020
Now apply this line of thinking to Jones. He was the choice of David Gettleman, perhaps with some input from Pat Shurmur. Joe Judge was hired after the decision, and if the Giants are to miss out on the playoffs this season, who can state with 100% certainty that Gettleman is going to be back in 2021?
When the decision-makers change, the products of previous decisions might feel an impact.
While these two lessons might lead one to believe that Jones is facing an uphill struggle in New York there is one aspect of the Haskins saga that works in favor of the current Giants quarterback. Mobility matters in today’s NFL at the quarterback position. Haskins is a throwback, a “battleship” as our fearless leader Ed Valentine described him to me once. Jones has that mobility and can be used in the running game as a result. That is one factor working in his favor.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The Giants would be wise to impart some of the lessons from Haskins’ tenure in Washington into how they handle Daniel Jones going into 2021.