Shanahan suspects Haskins didn't do 'the little things the right way' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
While Haskins has clearly not shown his head coach the positive growth Rivera would have liked, there's no evidence that Allen will be a clear upgrade at the position. Allen's familiarity with Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner certainly gives him an advantage, but over his final eight games with the Panthers last season in that same system, he was simply not a good quarterback.
The situation Rivera is currently in is similar to one former NFL head coach Mike Shanahan dealt with multiple times during his coaching career, most famously with Robert Griffin III in Washington.
Shanahan joined the Kevin Sheehan Show on Team 980 on Wednesday and explained that usually when a switch at quarterback is made this early in the season, it has to do with the signal-caller not doing "the little things the right way."
"Just reading in between the lines, when that usually happens, that means people aren't practicing the right way," Shanahan said. "People aren't doing the little things the right way. You start questioning your quarterback early in the season, something is wrong or you're going to look at somebody else. Is he doing the little things the right way? What's happening in practice that makes a coach have second thoughts on which guy to start? That's usually not a good sign to start with."
Haskins has plenty of physical talent at the quarterback position. He has a cannon for an arm and is a lot more athletic than people give him credit for.
However, a criticism of the 23-year-old, dating back to his days at Ohio State, is how he handles the little things that go a long way at the position. Things like situational awareness, decision making and command in the huddle come to mind.
"Even when he was in college, I thought he was a really talented person. He can run, he can make every throw," Shanahan said. "You don't have to worry about arm strength or athletic ability."
"The big question I have is 'does he do the little things the right way?'" Shanahan said. "That was the question in college. Is he going to do the little things, everything that it takes to understand the game, to minimize his mistakes? That was the big question mark."
During Washington's Week 4 loss to the Ravens, there was one play that Rivera said postgame he called to "test" Haskins.
Washington was down 18 points and faced with a fourth-and-goal from the Baltimore 13. On that play -- one that needed to result in a touchdown -- Haskins checked it down to wideout Isaiah Wright, who would have needed a Houdini-like effort to skate by a flurry of Ravens defenders for a score.
After the game, Rivera expressed his disappointment in Haskins' situational awareness and decision making there.
"[I’m] a little disappointed in the situational awareness," Rivera said. "It was fourth down and we were supposed to be in goal-to-go and I decided to go for it. I wanted to see what would happen, I really did. That’s why I told them: ‘Let’s go for it.’ Unfortunately, that’s a situational awareness that he’ll have to understand that ball has to be in a position to put it in the end zone"
After four weeks, the head coach has decided he had seen enough from Haskins for now. While the second-year quarterback may have plenty of physical talent, Haskins' benching proves the other aspects of the position are just as important.