Early Wednesday morning, the Washington Football Team made the surprising decision to bench starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins after, statistically, his best performance as a pro last weekend against the Ravens. It’s only Haskins’ second year in the league with his future in Washington now very much in doubt.
On the opposite sideline Sunday was Lamar Jackson, one of the game’s most exciting players, fresh off an MVP award in his second season in the league.
Haskins, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, has now assumed the team’s third string quarterback role behind Kyle Allen and Alex Smith after just 11 starts as a pro. Head coach Ron Rivera indicated the decision to start Allen was made to give the team its best chance to win now. Haskins’ second year as a pro has been a nightmare.
And at surface level, there’s a few similarities between how Haskins and Jackson entered the league. Both were generally regarded as quarterbacks that needed time to develop: Jackson to hone his passing skills, Haskins to gain more game experience.
But what’s different, though, is the situations they were placed in. And that’s where the paths between Haskins and Jackson split.
Through the first 11 starts of Haskins’ career, he completed 59.94 percent of his passes (196-for-327) for 2,164 yards and 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. Per game, that’s an average of 17.8-for-29.7 for 196.7 yards, a touchdown and 0.5 interceptions.
Jackson, through the first 11 starts of his career, threw for a 61.3 percent completion percentage (179-for-292) and 2,224 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Per game, that’s an average of 16.3-for-26.5 for 202.2 yards, 1.4 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions. Added into that is Jackson’s rushing ability, where he averaged 72.2 yards per game, essentially totaling 280 yards per game.
Both players, when they were drafted by their respective teams, seemed to need time to develop behind veteran starters. Only one was put in a system for success.
Jackson sat behind Joe Flacco, and didn’t make his first start until Week 11 of 2018 after the team’s bye week. He otherwise played in each game, and threw just 12 passes in the first nine games as the Ravens slowly brought him along until inserting him into the starting lineup.
When he did enter the starting lineup, however, the Ravens catered their entire offensive system around Jackson’s unique and incredible skillset. In his draft year of 2018, the Ravens drafted tight end Hayden Hurst a few choices ahead of Jackson, then right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews in the third round. In 2019, the Ravens added two more receivers, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, to the mix. They signed running back Mark Ingram in free agency and added another running back, Justice Hill, in the fourth round. The Ravens did everything they could to let their first-round quarterback succeed.
Haskins, on the other hand, played his first game against the Giants in Week 4 of 2019. He threw for just 107 yards in relief of Case Keenum and tossed three interceptions. He appeared in one more game, in Week 8, and started in Week 9. He started for the rest of the season.
Washington gave Haskins his former Ohio State teammate, Terry McLaurin, in the third round of the 2019 draft and added running back Bryce Love in the fourth. In the 2020 draft, Washington’s first pick went to edge rusher Chase Young — an unsurprising and likely slam-dunk selection — and then picked running back Antonio Gibson in the third round, with wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden at pick 142.
Essentially, the Ravens made sure their young quarterback was surrounded by an offensive staff set to stay, with young players to grow around. Haskins, in his second year in the NFL, is playing under his third head coach.
Surely, if Jackson weren’t picked by the Ravens and instead went to another team in the NFL with a more uncertain coaching staff, the results may not be there. And if Haskins was with one of the more stable franchises in the league, perhaps he’d be much further along.
Instead, one quarterback was given every tool in the arsenal to succeed. The other, at least early in their careers, seemingly never had a shot.