“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. It doesn’t appear Haskins is developing into the team’s franchise quarterback. And if history is any guide, it might be time for Washington 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 actually a league-average passer on throws within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, but once he ventures past that, his accuracy suffers. He’s 5 for 23 (22 percent) on throws traveling 15 or more yards in the air, this in a league that averages 48 percent completions 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, one of the lowest marks in the league, which makes it difficult for Washington to move the ball down the field or sustain drives. (In other words, 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.)
According to ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, Haskins has been the least-valuable passer of 2020, just behind San Francisco backup Nick Mullens and Denver backup Jeff Driskel. 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 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 would produce results above expectations over the rest of his career.
The remaining quarterbacks? They 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.
EPA per game over first 11 starts
EPA per game over next 11 starts
Other members of the 2019 quarterback draft class, even those taken well behind Washington’s No. 15 pick, are also outpacing Haskins in that regard. Gardner Minshew of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and Drew Lock of the Denver Broncos have all 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, perhaps you will 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 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’s 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 pass 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 just throwing 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 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. In other words, 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 still turn the corner and blossom into a franchise quarterback the team could depend on? Sure, but through 13 games the stats, both traditional and more advanced, suggest he is more likely to be a bust than a future cornerstone.