ASHBURN, Va. – Dwayne Haskins didn't show enough progress in Ron Rivera's eyes, so he's going from starting quarterback to out of uniform.
Rivera benched Haskins for Washington's next game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams and turned to Kyle Allen as the new starter. The team is 1-3 and at what the coach believes is a crucial moment of the season in a wide-open NFC East within reach, so he pulled the plug on Haskins despite no pressure to win now.
“I think our best chance to win is putting the ball in somebody else’s hands," Rivera said Wednesday. “I think the best chance to have things done in our offense is in somebody else’s hands. That’s what I’m doing.”
Alex Smith will back up Allen with Haskins inactive after not having enough time to learn a new system in his second year in the NFL. Smith will be active for the first time since breaking his right tibia and fibula Nov. 18, 2018.
Rivera ended the Haskins experiment after a third consecutive loss in just his 11th pro start. Washington's first-year coach defended the 2019 first-round pick for having “an NFL arm” but lamented Haskins not getting enough snaps in offseason workouts, training camp and practice to make him ready for this.
“We gave him every opportunity,” Rivera said. "We gave him a chance to start four games and truly evaluate. But with the division where it is right now, I’d be stupid to not give it a shot and see what happens in the next four games. But I wanted to put it in the hands of someone that knows the situation a little better, backed up by a guy that’s been there.”
Rivera passed on the opportunity to bring in former Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, whom he'd coached for nine seasons dating to his rookie year, preferring to give Haskins an opportunity to keep his starting job. Washington acquired Allen from Carolina instead, and Smith was cleared for full contact 22 months since the broken leg and subsequent medical troubles he had to overcome.
Haskins was made the Week 1 starter, and Rivera saw some of Newton's qualities in the 2019 first-round pick out of Ohio State. Leading a comeback against Philadelphia after no preseason work in new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system was a good start.
It was downhill from there. Haskins completed 72 of 115 passing attempts, threw three touchdowns and three interceptions and was sacked 10 times during Washington's three game skid.
Overall, Haskins has thrown for 939 yards and has completed 61% of his passes, with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We’ve been trying to do things to play toward his strengths,” Turner said. “We just feel like at this point he’s got a little ways to go. There’s been some mistakes that showed up that were kind of repeat-type mistakes.”
As a rookie, Haskins had 1,365 yards passing, seven TDs and seven interceptions and completed 58.6% of his throws. Washington went 2-5 in his starts last year.
Agent David Mulugheta tweeted Sunday pointing out Haskins' limited opportunity as a starter, the new system, lack of weapons and young offensive line contributing to the current situation.
Rivera was looking for growth from Haskins and didn't see enough in Sunday's 31-17 loss to Baltimore. A key play came on fourth-and-goal from the 13-yard line, with Haskins managing only a 5-yard pass to the 8, turning the ball over on downs.
“The one thing a lot of people don’t see is the frustration on the sidelines of the other players, as well,” Rivera said. “I see that. I feel that. The guys want to win. Right now, where his development is, I think our best shot to win now is with guys that have been in the system."
That's Allen, who is familiar with Turner from their time together in Carolina. The 24-year-old took over for Rivera's Panthers last season when Newton was injured and feels ready to jump in with Washington.
Allen only has slightly more experience than Haskins: 13 pro starts and 15 appearances in which he has thrown for 19 TDs and 16 INTs. But the familiarity is his benefit, along with watching the first four games from the sideline.
“I just need to go out there and be myself,” Allen said. "I don’t think there’s anything extra that needs to be done or anything over the top. I think we just need to go out there and execute and do our thing. We’re a good enough team.”
After undergoing 17 surgeries to repair the broken bones and surviving a life-threatening infection, Smith is now one injury to Allen away from completing a remarkable comeback. Rivera is confident putting the 36-year-old into a game because doctors have said it's safe.
“We feel good about Alex's progression physically,” said Turner, who confirmed Smith has not been hit in practice despite his unique circumstances. "This is the next step with him."
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed.
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