For most NFL quarterbacks, pressure is a constant. The importance of the position puts all eyes on whoever is under center, and whether things are going right or wrong, they are sure to be in the middle.
For a young quarterback that was chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft, that pressure only increases. You're expected to come in and change the direction of the franchise and be the future. It's exactly what Dwayne Haskins has dealt with since he was selected No. 15 overall in 2019.
It's also what former Washington quarterback Jason Campbell experienced when he was drafted No. 25 overall by Washington in 2005. As Campbell watches the newest first-round passer of the Burgundy and Gold struggle to find his footing in the NFL and deal with early struggles and a benching, he understands what Haskins is going through as good as anyone.
Being a first round pick is all about trying to live up to the hype.
“When you’re the No. 1 pick and you’re coming in, there is a lot of pressure because you want to hold up to that No. 1 pick," Campbell said to Julie Donaldson on Washington Football Team's Quarterback Roundtable that also featured Joe Theismann and Mark Rypien. "On top of that when you first walk into that locker room everyone is looking at you.”
Beyond the reputation of the draft position, Campbell also feels that other factors based on Haskins' past and the situation he is in with Washington now are adding more constraints. One is the adjustment is losing at the professional level.
For Haskins, winning football games felt like second nature before he arrived in the NFL. The quarterback was 13-1 in his one season as a starter at Ohio State. Compound that with plenty of success in high school, and the concept of stringing losses together was something Haskins never really faced. Campbell experienced the same during his time at Auburn.
Yet, he learned -- and Haskins is learning -- that professional football is a much different beast. No matter how good you are or what you did in the past, it's never easy to win. No one ever likes losing, but when it's something that has been uncommon throughout their football career, Campbell explains that it can cause even more doubt to creep in as their own personal expectations don't match the product on the field.
‘When you come to the NFL, you can be beat on any given Sunday," Campbell said. 'And sometimes you can beat yourself up too much where sometimes you make it harder on yourself to come back that next week because you set the ceiling so high for yourself.”
Playing in Washington is something else that Campbell believes isn't helping Haskins feel less stressed. Coming into the franchise in 2005, Campbell understood the rich history of the organization and the passion the fanbase has. Wanting to be the man to bring the team back to it, and avoid being a quarterback that failed to do so, only created more pressure for him early on.
Haskins is in the same boat and may feel even more noise about returning Washington to the glory days given the team's recent stretch of play and history at the position. That only makes the mental aspect of the game more challenging for a young passer.
“At the same time, you’re trying to carry this torch and playing in Washington D.C., there’s so much tradition, there’s so much history behind the team," Campbell said. "They haven’t had consistency going to the playoffs and you’re already prepping your mind for that."
Even though Campbell was in a similar situation to Haskins, the quarterback doesn't believe even he can truly understand the amount of pressure No. 7 is dealing with because of one unique variable Haskins has: his local connection to the franchise.
Campbell grew up in Mississippi, so though he understood the importance of Washington Football, it was a new part of his life. That isn't the case for Haskins. A native of Maryland, the quarterback isn't just playing for an NFL team, he's playing for his hometown NFL team. That means his inner circle isn't just rooting for him to lead his team to victory, their rooting for him to lead their team to victory.
Trying to perform at the professional level is hard enough, and Campbell feels that the weight of the community around him could make it even more challenging for Haskins.
‘He’s dealing with a little more added pressure than anyone else that has ever come through those doors as a quarterback because now you got friends, you got family, everyone is watching you and you’re in your hometown," Campbell said. “Every little thing you do, it matters. Then if you’re not performing well, you have a bad game like we’ve all had before, it gets magnified by two because now your friends and family are involved. So now you feel that pressure like ‘okay I gotta go out there and do this, I got to try to save this franchise.’"
Campbell's situation isn't identical to Haskins', but the two shared similar pressure of being first-round quarterbacks with the hopes of a franchise tethered to them. So, he does have some advice on how the young passer can try and limit some of the outside noise from taking over.
While Haskins may think all the expectations and weight of the world are just on his shoulders, Campbell wants him to understand that is not reality.
“No, you’re only one piece. You look at all the great quarterbacks around the league, the one thing they all have, they’ve always been with their head coach for a long time or they’ve been with their offensive coordinator for a long time," Campbell said.
Haskins hasn't gotten either of those things, with two head coaches (three if you count Bill Callahan) and two offensive coordinators in his two seasons in the NFL.
There is no denying that Haskins faces a great deal of pressure given his status upon entering the league, but Washington as a whole carries the burden of trying to right the ship. The quarterback is a big part of it, but Campbell believes he's not the only part.
Whether Haskins and Washington can overcome the pressure and obstacles together is yet to be determined.