It has been nearly two years since the Washington Football Team selected Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick of the NFL Draft. And while many of the main characters of this saga are no longer around, the potential for another mistake remains
In the last 665 days, Washington has a new name, a new front office, a new head coach, and Haskins is no longer with the team. But there is a constant: Daniel Snyder still owns the team.
And that is the main concern for Washington Football fans after hearing what former head coach Jay Gruden has to say about the decision to draft Haskins.
“I knew we were taking Haskins if he was available 6 months before the draft,” Gruden told The Team 980’s Kevin Sheehan this past week on The Kevin Sheehan Show.
“I just knew Dan loved Dwayne Haskins,” Gruden added. “He went to the same school as [Snyder’s] kid. He talked about him all the time, every time [Ohio State] were on TV if we happened to be on a road game and it was Saturday and [Snyder] saw me ‘Hey, you love that kid, you probably don’t like him but he’s a good player.’ You know, he’d throw a jab at me, but he loved Dwayne Haskins. I just knew it; that if he was available we were taking him. That was just a given.”
Prior to the 2019 Draft, Washington added a third quarterback to the roster when they traded for Case Keenum to be the starter and complement Colt McCoy and Alex Smith, a year away from his return from a life-threatening injury. And when it came to the first-round pick, Gruden indicated quarterback wasn’t a position he was considering.
“We thought at that time we had other positions of need," Gruden told Sheehan about pick No. 15. "Darnell Savage was there, we needed a safety/nickel guy who could run, bring some physicality to the team with Landon Collins, I think that woulda been a nice pair.
“Obviously, [Montez] Sweat was still out there; we needed another pass rusher after losing Preston Smith. So those were probably the top two guys that I can remember off the top of my head that I knew we were talking about [taking].”
In an interview after he was fired by Washington, Gruden told ESPN Radio in Oct. 2019, the team was interested in drafting a QB in 2019, but later in the draft. “There were some other quarterbacks that some people in the building liked later on in the draft, but we chose Dwayne and tried to make the most of it,” he said.
“I think [Haskins] was a good prospect and I think if we had got him in the second round, possibly the third round, and I know people say there’s no way he would have lasted, I think there might have been a chance that he lasted to the second or third round,” Gruden told Sheehan.
“There were some inconsistencies. I can remember the tape that I made [before the draft] that you have to be concerned about if you draft him and expect him to play right away,” Gruden said. “I had the ‘Wow!’ throws, but I also had the ‘Wow!’ throws the other way, like ‘Where are you throwing this ball and how did you miss this guy by this much?’
“It was evident on tape and it was evident when we got him.”
So why did Washington take Haskins at No. 15? In Gruden’s version of the story, Washington’s owner may have been swayed by the pre-draft hype.
“If you turn on the television and you see any of these pre-draft shows with these experts, they’re saying that he’s the best quarterback in the draft by far. So, I think that the hype leading up to the draft on Dwayne was pretty high, pretty significant,” Gruden said.
So who cared about this media hype? “Well, obviously we did,” Gruden said with a laugh.
Sheehan asked why was nobody in the organization willing to go to Snyder and say, don't draft Haskins with a first-round pick?
“Yeah, that was not gonna happen,” Gruden said. “And who knows? Five years from now we could all be talking about this and Dan could be right. Dwayne could be a starting, Pro Bowl-type quarterback, you never know. But at the time we did not need Dwayne in that position in the draft. But we did take him and, unfortunately, it didn’t work out for anybody."
Gruden told Sheehan he would have liked to sit Haskins for his entire rookie season.
“Dwayne wasn’t ready [to start] and he never got himself to be ready,” Gruden said. “I mean you gotta get yourself ready, and he just had a long way to go. I mean, he showed talent in practice, without a doubt. But he also showed that he had a long, long way to go.
“And it was evident. I think all the players saw it, and they saw it after I left that he wasn’t ready and wasn’t gonna be ready for a while.”
Gruden said he isn’t “trying to put down Dwayne Haskins at all,” but added the caveat “there is also evidence on the practice field in front of players and coaches that he has to do a lot better as far as preparation, as far as consistency at that position.”
Haskins played one game under Gruden before making seven starts in a disappointing rookie season under interim head coach Bill Callahan. Haskins was benched after failing to impress in four games as a starter under Ron Rivera, before a combination of poor play and an off-the-field incident saw him released in Dec. 2020.
After clearing waivers, Haskins signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And Gruden said the door isn’t closed on Haskins reaching his full potential.
“He’s just gotta continue to work on his mechanics, his approach to the game, and his consistency,” Gruden told Sheehan, “and he’s got a chance because he does have the arm that you’re looking for.”
Gruden said Haskins has to improve his study habits, the mental side of the game doesn’t have to be his problem.
“He’s not a dumb kid at all, he’s a smart kid, man,” Gruden said. “And he can handle information, he’s got talent, he’s gotta put it all together and hopefully, he does that. He’s got a bright future if he does.”
Listen to the full segment from Jay Gruden starting at 34:12 here:
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