What's a fair bar to set for Dwayne Haskins in year two?

Chris Lingebach
May 14, 2020 - 5:44 pm

Dwayne Haskins is heading into his sophomore NFL season with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

After a sluggish start in 2019, in which he had to fight through circumstances that were beyond his control, Haskins rallied to close it out, peaking in his last three games.

Yet again, the former 15th overall pick is beset with circumstances beyond his control, having to learn a new offense for the second straight offseason as the world waits out a pandemic unlike any other in the past 100 years. Haskins must do this without the personal touch of a coach leaning over his shoulder as he studies the playbook.

He must do it during an abnormally muted offseason, with no OTAs to install the offense or work out the kinks, and no receivers to throw to. It's a lot to expect of anyone, most certainly of a second-year quarterback fighting for his future in the NFL.

"I don't think anybody has ever had it worse than he has for these first couple years as a quarterback in the league," Danny Rouhier told his 106.7 The Fan co-host, Grant Paulsen. "There have been other bad situations. You can compare those until you're blue in the face.

"I don't know that anybody's dealt with this, especially when you add in a pandemic where he can't go to the facility and talk to an assistant coach in person or work on stuff."

Given these exceedingly irregular circumstances, Grant & Danny sought to reassess where the bar should be for Haskins in 2020, because it's only fair.

"I want to find a way, Danny, to satisfy both truths," Paulsen said. "One which is he's gotta be better, and he's gotta show growth, and he's gotta play at a level that is satisfactory this year, to feel like you don't have to draft a quarterback.

"Because if they're terrible, and they go 3-13 and he doesn't play well, and they're drafting in the top two with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields available, then they're going with one of those guys and this is over. But if he plays well enough and you're 5-11, you have to trade up to get one of those two guys and you're actually picking fourth or fifth, then maybe you can just continue forward if you saw enough progress."

Paulsen stressed the importance of setting realistic expectations for Haskins, knowing a dramatic jump in performance is unlikely with one arm tied behind his back.

"We also have to understand no one should be expecting 4,200 yards and 30 touchdown passes," Paulsen said. "Nobody should be probably even expecting like 3,800 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 picks – some kind of Kirk Cousins Light-type season.

"It's not fair, based, not just on weaponry, but two head coaches and two offenses in two years, not to mention an interim coach sandwiched there in the middle, and just how early we are in this process. The fact that he probably shouldn't have been drafted at 15 and we know that now is irrelevant, that he was very raw and he'd only played X number of games."

"We've got to deal with what is, and it's unfair to just expect him to look like a great quarterback this season," Paulsen said. "So where should we put the bar? If we're trying to lower it a little bit, and we say, 'Hey, it's okay if he's not very good in his second year, but he's got to give us this,' what does this look like?"

"To me, it's the measurables that aren't necessarily football numbers, because I think their weaponry isn't very good," said Rouhier. "You're hoping for mid-round picks to pan out. Let me rephrase that: They're counting on mid-round picks to pan out. They're counting on lightning to strike again like the way it did for Terry McLaurin and this group."

"Usually, third-round picks are Chad Rinehart. They're guys that are just okay," he said. "They're Geron Christian – that's a third-round pick. So to me, what I'm gonna be looking for is the in-between stuff. It's... are we getting the reports that aren't like last year where his study habits were criticized? It sounds like he wasn't as committed.

"Are we getting those reports, or are we hearing about first man in, last man out? Are we seeing the leadership traits? You know what it looks like. You know what it looks like when Jay Cutler's pouting on the bench, and the backup quarterback is struggling for his life in a playoff game and Jay Cutler doesn't care."

"Or is this guy looking at the Microsoft Surface?" Rouhier went on. "Is he disinterested like Haskins was early in the season? Or is he invested? Is he involved?"

"I want to see some these things that won't necessarily translate into 66 percent completion percentage, and 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, as you so correctly pointed out, because I don't think it's there," he said. "I don't think it's happening this year."

"So to me, it's gonna be the other stuff," he said. "It's... are you controlling everything that you can control properly? It's kind of the week leading up to what I expect to be a really tough season for him. And I think I just have a little bit more wait."

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The conversation starts at 15:30 below.