The Dwayne Haskins era in Washington ended with a thud.
Haskins, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, fell out of favor at a ridiculous pace. Just this year, Haskins was benched twice, handed two fines for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols, and lost his captaincy. So to say Haskins had a turbulent ending to his time in our nation’s capital would be putting it lightly. And yet, it would be wrong to write off Haskins.
After all, Haskins has a unique prospect pedigree, skill set, and ample motivation to get it right.
Haskins is a free agent after clearing waivers. Meaning any of the league’s other 31 teams can sign him and give him a second chance. And according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, some teams have already expressed interest. Considering the Bears’ future needs at the position, I found myself wondering if they should be among the teams that inquire bringing in Haskins.
There is a lot on our plate this week. And our focus is elsewhere for obvious reasons (PLAYOFFS!?). But let’s take a moment to briefly discuss.
Pros: Haskins’ pre-draft write-up is absolutely glowing
Haskins is immensely talented. He has been a high-profile prospect since he was a high school standout in Maryland, where he earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior, earned a top-5 ranking among quarterbacks in his class, and was a four-star recruit by ESPN and Rivals.
In college, Haskins racked up all sorts of honors when he got a chance to start in 2018. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, as well as its Quarterback of the Year awards. He also picked up the Chicago Tribune Silver Football (given annually to the Big Ten’s best player) and the Sammy Baugh Trophy (given to college football’s top passer). And for good measure, Haskins earned the Big Ten Conference Championship Game’s MVP award, as well as the 2019 Rose Bowl MVP.
Altogether, Haskins completed 70 percent of his passes, threw for 4,831 yards, tossed 50 touchdowns, and limited his interceptions to just 8. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy vote, jumped into the 2019 NFL Draft, and went 15th overall to Washington.
Had we been using our composite ranking system at the time, Haskins would’ve been QB2 behind Kyler Murray (QB2 for ESPN, Pro Football Focus, and Walter Football). That tells you everything you need to know about how highly thought of Haskins’ prospect stock was at the time.
Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com Draft profile for Haskins is absolutely glowing. “Groomed for this moment since he was young.” “Effortless throwing motion.” “Shows potential to be a full-field reader on NFL level.” “Explosive, clutch production to finish final four games.” That’s just a small snippet of Haskins’ listed strengths.
Haskins drew a favorable NFL comparison from Zierlein, who comped him to four-time Pro Bowler Drew Bledsoe. Here’s an overview of Haskins from Zierlein’s point of view:
“Big and talented with explosive arm talent but limited mobility Haskins is a chance-taker with the arm strength to get away with some tight window throws that most in this class can’t make. Haskins is still very early in his journey and is prone to misreading coverage and stalling in getting through his progressions. … His athletic limitations could keep him pocket-bound, but he has the arm talent, confidence and pocket savvy to become a good NFL starter if he’s protected and given the time to develop early on.”
All things considered, Haskins was a prospect worth rolling the dice on during the 2019 NFL Draft.
Cons: There were serious pre-draft warts
To be clear, Haskins had some prominent red flags as a prospect. Otherwise, he would’ve given Kyler Murray a run for his money as the unquestioned QB1 of that Draft class. For instance, Haskins was a one-year starter at Ohio State. Bears fans are well-versed in watching a talented, but inexperienced quarterback navigate through the NFL. So I won’t delve too deep into that stuff. However, it’s worth noting how many bullet points Zierlein listed as weaknesses.
“Still learning to attack zone coverage.” “Baited into bad decisions on high-low reads.” “Will need to improve anticipatory throws.” “Needs to expedite his process in the face of pressure.” “Fumbles due to carelessness and lack of concentration on snaps.” Don’t get me wrong. You dream of quarterback prospects with Haskins’ strengths. But the wave of weaknesses point to how much growth Haskins needed to make to reach his potential.
Pre-Draft weaknesses aside, it’s how Haskins’ 2020 unfolded that serves as the biggest red flag of them all.
Red flags fly in 2020
Haskins’ poor play through four weeks was enough to get a demotion. At the time, Haskins owned a 60.9% completion rate, averaged 234.8 yards per game, had a 4-3 TD-INT ratio, and an 80.3 passer rating. None of the aforementioned numbers are all that awe-inspiring. In fact, they were among the league’s worst. Haskins’ completion percentage ranked 27th, while his 6.4 yards per attempt checked in at 26th. But it wasn’t just the numbers. Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner (via ESPN) said: “There were mistakes that showed up that were repeat mistakes.” That’s pretty damning.
Later in October, Haskins was fined $4,833 for violating the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol. Then, in December, Haskins was fined another $40,000 for his second breaking of COVID-19 protocols. It’s the second violation that was the last straw, with the team and quarterback parting ways.
All this in a year that began with Head Coach Ron Rivera naming Haskins a team captain. Ouch.
Potential Bears Fit:
Nick Foles is the only quarterback under contract with the Bears for 2021. With that said, Foles showed nothing to suggest he is worthy of entering 2021 as an unquestioned starter. So with that in mind, I suppose kicking the tires on Dwayne Haskins is a sensible option.
But there’s a but … as there is always a but.
There is so much that is up-in-the-air regarding the Bears’ future, it would be foolish to take a stab at squeezing Haskins into a fit. Sunday’s game against the Packers has so much on the line. Everyone from GM Ryan Pace, Head Coach Matt Nagy, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and beyond is under the microscope when the Bears and Packers square off. A win against Green Bay puts folks in better standing now with Chicago than they were during the team’s six-game losing streak. But losing to the Packers ratchets up the conversations suggesting that a house-cleaning is in order. And I don’t even want to entertain the idea of the Bears backing into the playoffs.
Let’s monitor the situation from afar.
As a free agent, Haskins can sign with any team at any time. That means he could be scooped up immediately. It’s possible he could wait to see how things shake out, then settle into a spot when free agency opens up in March.
The Bears’ situation can change so much between now and then. As can the quarterback situations elsewhere. Even still … Haskins’ prospect pedigree and raw talent is too good to look past when your organization is as quarterback-starved as Chicago’s has been. This isn’t me saying that Haskins is The Answer. But when there are no clear solutions, I feel as if everything should be on the table.