Redskins go with Callahan, but Haskins will still sit

Craig Hoffman
October 08, 2019 - 9:47 am
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The Redskins put Jay Gruden in their past on Monday, but they are not quite ready to flip the page to their future.

That, of course, is Dwayne Haskins, the first-round pick out of Ohio State who will remain third on the depth chart behind Colt McCoy and Case Keenum.

“We’re still contemplating some medical things with Case,” newly minted interim head coach Bill Callahan said on Monday. “We want to see where he’s at. We’re still contemplating whether to start Case or Colt and we’re in the midst of those discussions right now. I think a lot of it will have to do with Miami and their defense and what they present and what we think gives us our best options.”

A rather stunned press room scurried for the follow-up, considering much of the public criticism of Gruden was about his handling of the rookie quarterback. Would Haskins even be considered?

“Not right now,” Callahan said cooly. “But he will be at some point in time. We’re going to continue to develop him, heighten his maturation process and get him on schedule.”

The substance was the same as Gruden, but the tone couldn’t have been more different. Callahan’s job is to help guide Haskins along and the plan is to do so, but the reality of where Haskins is right now hasn’t changed.

Many critics have called for a simplified offense designed around Haskins’s strengths, but that is simply not possible at this point in time. Haskins not only has struggles spitting the plays out in the huddle, something he didn’t have to do in college thanks to a one-word playcalling system, but he is really struggling to identify coverages.

If Haskins cannot identify what the other team is doing, he can’t know what he is supposed to do in any offense. There is no scheme that doesn’t require the quarterback to make decisions or every team would run it. A play that works against any coverage would literally be run every single down. It does not exist, and thus Haskins has to continue to learn by watching for now until his identification skills become better. 

This is not a shot at Haskins, it is just the reality of now. His football IQ is really high. His learning ability was one of the strengths of his draft profile. It would seem unwise to bet against him turning the corner, but he has a long way to go as of now.

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Part of the reason this has been a slow process is because Haskins has to somewhat unlearn what worked for him at Ohio State. With the Buckeyes, Haskins had the luxury of always having better players. That meant he had loads of time to throw behind a stout offensive line to find one of his outrageously talented receivers who would always uncover if given enough time. In the NFL, there is no waiting. A quarterback has to get from his first to his second and maybe to his third read before quickly getting to his checkdown receiver to avoid a sack if none of the primary or secondary reads are open.

The Giants game went much like training camp did, where Haskins held on to the ball waiting for a big play to uncover only to find himself under pressure with nowhere to throw.

All of that can remain true while the narrative around Haskins changes. Callahan handled that extremely well on Monday, taking every question about his young quarterback with care. He knows that while his focus is on the Dolphins, the world’s focus is on Haskins. He also acknowledged it’s time to ramp up his development, even if that takes away from whichever veteran is preparing for the week.

“We have to be conscientious of getting him some repetitions during the course of the practice,” Callahan said when asked about the difficulty of developing a quarterback with limited reps to go around. “That will be a little bit of a shift in philosophy moving forward.”

The other major shift will be one less voice in Haskins’s ear. While Callahan will certainly talk to his young QB, he won’t do it like Gruden did. He will instead leave that to offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay

“They speak the same language, but they all speak it a little bit differently,” Haskins said last week of Gruden, O’Connell, and Rattay. Clearly, the Redskins hope that by making this move, they’ve left their future franchise quarterback with the two voices he understands the most.

Callahan’s been on the job for just about 24 hours, but already things seem calmer. There is less uncertainty around the quarterback position. Some of that is circumstantial as McCoy and Keenum have been battling injuries during the first five weeks, but it is mostly thanks to Callahan’s willingness to acknowledge all facets of the Redskins' current dilemma.

Dwayne Haskins is the future. The future is not right now. That is okay. It is coming soon.

Follow @CraigHoffman on Twitter.