RICHMOND, Va. — Dwayne Haskins just couldn’t bring himself to leave. Not yet.
He knew more media interviews awaited him inside the comfort of the air-conditioned facility, but no matter how hard a Washington Redskins team staffer tried to usher the rookie quarterback toward the building Friday afternoon, Haskins refused to leave the rope barrier. And the handful of fans lined up behind it.
They had traveled from all over the DMV area in order to get a glimpse of the new future of the franchise, the 6-foot-4 signal-caller with the commanding presence to match his imposing stature. And Haskins didn’t want to disappoint. Against the sweltering summer heat he stood tall in the pocket of autograph-seekers, grabbing hold of footballs and other objects that soon would bear his signature. Precious time ticked by, but Haskins refused to budge. Not until he had obliged a few more of the children and adults clamoring to get his attention.
The first-round draft pick is only two full days into his first NFL training camp and he’s still weeks — or maybe even months away — from possessing the official title of Redskins starting quarterback. But still, everyone wants a piece of Haskins.
He may be 22 and only three months removed from being drafted 15th overall, but Haskins is one of the main reasons for optimism after so many years of Redskins disappointment. So while he may be a part of a crowded quarterback room alongside veteran journeyman Case Keenum and perennial backup Colt McCoy, the organization and its fan base are keenly aware of how vital the next few weeks in Haskins’ development will be.
The time for him to lead may not be now, but it’s coming.
And when it arrives, Haskins — lacking any shred of uncertainty or self-doubt — says he’ll be ready. But for now, he’s content to bide his time and soak up as much information as he can from those around him.
“That’s just been my whole life. I’ve always been strategic,” Haskins, still soaked in practice sweat, told Yahoo Sports following his brief, but nevertheless important autograph session Friday afternoon. “I’ve been wanting to be in the NFL since I was 8 years old. I wanted to go to Ohio State since I was 8 years old. So I always had stuff lined up for me where I know that if I wanted to do something, I had to put the work in and do it — whether that was right now or whenever God wanted me to do it. And I was OK with that.
“I’m here now and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Haskins added, leaning back in a swivel chair inside an office within the facility. “And whenever the opportunity is for me to seize it, I will.”
It’s a matter of if, not when Haskins will be named the Redskins’ starter. But coach Jay Gruden, who currently finds himself on the hot seat in Year 6, said he doesn’t feel “any pressure at all” to play the young kid with the strong arm at Philadelphia on Sept. 8. Instead, Gruden’s goal is simply to pick “the best guy.”
Haskins is saying all of the right things, at least publicly, and those around him rave about his desire to get better and his willingness to work on his craft.
“He’s wonderfully receptive to everything,” said Redskins great Joe Theismann.
Rather than worry about the timetable of Gruden’s final decision, the rookie would rather focus on the areas of his game that need improvement: mastering the playbook and understanding all of the things that are required of NFL quarterbacks.
Haskins knows he’s a work in progress, and that’s OK. Because he knows he has plenty of resources at his disposal.
“Guys like Joe and Doug [Williams], they have so much wisdom and the opportunity that I get to pick their brain or let them tell me a story is something I feel like is going to benefit me and my career, my life, me as a man, as a football player,” said Haskins, who also has several former quarterbacks (Gruden, offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay and senior offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh) at his disposal.
“It’s something I actually go after and look for, whether it’s calling Doug, calling Joe. …They go out of their way for me and I appreciate that.”
Time will tell if that’s Haskins or one of the other two veterans currently on the roster. But there is one person who doesn’t think No. 7 should be under center in Week 1: the Redskins’ old No. 7.
“He’s not ready,” Theismann told Yahoo Sports, while reiterating his support for the future face of the franchise. “That is absolutely not a knock on the kid. He is not ready for this game yet.”
Theismann, the quarterback for the Redskins’ Super Bowl XVII championship team and the 1983 NFL MVP, highlighted the importance of being able to command the offense, adding: “One of the hardest things for young guys to do is be able to spit out the plays. How you communicate in the huddle. Can you call the play when you’ve got 85,000 people screaming and yelling.”
The Redskins’ great said he believes the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the NFL’s reigning MVP, benefitted from being the backup to veteran quarterbacks Tony Romo and Alex Smith, respectively. “Learn the game. Sit for a little bit. Learn the professional aspect of life. Then you’ve gotta do what you need to do,” Theismann said.
Coincidentally, this same time last year Smith was hailed as the new face of the franchise. He was the organization’s high-priced replacement for Kirk Cousins, a quarterback who grew up in the Redskins organization yet couldn’t get the front office to believe in him. Smith was the offseason target team president Bruce Allen couldn’t wait to acquire. But when Smith broke his leg in Week 11 last season, it forced the Redskins to again search for a new franchise guy.
“Hopefully, down the road, we all hope he is,” Theismann said, referring to Haskins. “… They drafted him to be the guy going forward.”
Even Keenum, Haskins’ training-camp competitor, believes the rookie “will be a great quarterback for a long time.” But rushing Haskins before he’s ready would be a great disservice to the franchise, and most of all, to the kid himself, Theismann said.
“Impatience isn’t going to get you anywhere,” he said, stressing the need for fans to see the bigger picture. “And the only way you get better, interestingly enough, is by making mistakes and looking at it and someone saying, ‘You don’t wanna go here with the ball, you want to go here. Your footwork needs to be this. The ball needs to be protected here. When that guy does that, you have to prepare to do this.’
“I hope he’s the quarterback for 10 years,” Theismann said, reaffirming his belief in Haskins’ long-term potential. “When that first year starts is the question. When is he going to be ready to be able to take the reins of this operation and go forward and give us the chance to win? That’s the thing you’re dealing with. Don’t have the answer to that. No one knows.”
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