ASHBURN, Va. — Dwayne Haskins, standing on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial while wearing a Washington Redskins cap, a patterned gray suit and a franchise’s burden, said he knows the task he faces. Being a quarterback in Washington means receiving presidential-like scrutiny. And not a lot of job security.
Haskins, after his introductory news conference ended Saturday, summed up what Doug Williams told him about playing quarterback in Washington. Williams witnessed it as a player and now as the Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel.
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“Definitely difficult,” Haskins said.
To put it mildly.
Especially since the Redskins last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. In the 27 seasons that have followed, 27 different players have started at quarterback. That helps explain why the Redskins haven’t won more than 10 games in a season during that span.
The Redskins did win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks between 1981 and 1991. However, they had stability at the position between 1964 and 1984, when three quarterbacks started all but six games: Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann.
But it’s been a struggle since their most recent Super Bowl triumph.
The Redskins have selected five quarterbacks in the first round since that season, including Haskins at No. 15 this year. The other four included two high-profile selections (Heath Shuler at third overall in 1994 and Robert Griffin III at second overall in 2012). They also chose Patrick Ramsey with the No. 32 pick in 2002 and, three years later, Jason Campbell with the 25th pick.
There have been college favorites of certain ball coaches (Danny Wuerffel with Steve Spurrier) and former high picks who barely made a mark (Jeff George). They traded for aging veterans (Mark Brunell, Donovan McNabb and Alex Smith).
Two of the best quarterbacks produced during this stretch were players Washington drafted in the fourth round or below: Gus Frerotte (seventh round, ’94) and Kirk Cousins (fourth round, ’12). Both outplayed the touted first-round pick from the same draft and appeared in the Pro Bowl.
But it has all added up to … not a whole lot. Only two quarterbacks since that last Super Bowl victory have started at least 13 games in three consecutive seasons: Campbell and Cousins.
And here’s the worst part: Those first-round picks have played in a combined two playoff games and have no victories. In fact, the only Redskins quarterback drafted in the first round who won a playoff game? Sammy Baugh. He was drafted in 1937.
Enter Haskins. He does not arrive with the same experience as any of the previous first-round picks. He does have cachet as a local product, having starred in high school at nearby Bullis School in Potamac, Maryland. Then he threw 50 touchdown passes in his lone season starting at Ohio State. He’s used to the spotlight and the scrutiny. He has some charisma, which pairs well with production to create buzz.
“For playing only one year, to put up the numbers that he put up is really incredible,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “so we feel like there is such an upside with him that you couldn’t pass him up.”
He’s the latest symbol of hope for a franchise in need of some. Fans have bought into players before — Griffin and Cousins the most recent — only to be burned in the end. Griffin couldn’t match his Pro Bowl and Offensive Rookie of the Year season; Cousins and the Redskins never could agree on a price tag. Blame was spread. Frustration mounted. Last season, the Redskins didn’t come close to selling out the home opener.
They thought they had the position solved for at least the next several years with Smith. But when he suffered a compound fracture in his right leg last November, the search was renewed. The Redskins could have traded for Josh Rosen, or moved up for Daniel Jones. They waited for Haskins.
“We have a great system and a great environment to develop a quarterback,” Redskins team president Bruce Allen said Tuesday on ESPN’s First Take.
He said that because they have three coaches on their staff who played in the NFL and a head coach who played the position in college.
There’s also Williams.
“And don’t forget, the secret ingredient maybe for Patrick Mahomes was Alex Smith,” Allen said.
“I just knew this would be a great fit for me,” Haskins said.
While many wonder about how long Haskins might take, the better question is how long will he remain? Whether he’s a Day 1 starter or not is irrelevant; they want him still starting five years from now. If that’s the case, then the Redskins finally hit on a franchise quarterback. He has the tools: A strong arm and work ethic, and he impressed them with his work on the whiteboard during meetings.
It’s what they needed to see.
“Football is taken very seriously down here,” Haskins said. “I am looking forward to bringing that winning tradition back to the Redskins.”
To get there, he’ll have to buck a recent tradition.