With 11 days to go before the genesis of a new dawn for the Washington Football Team, coach Ron Rivera wanted to make a statement when he let everyone know what he had already realized for some time: Dwayne Haskins was the guy.
"I wanted to give everybody that show right now that this is our guy," Rivera told Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter Wednesday on the Huddle & Flow podcast. "This is the guy I'm supporting 100%. I'm backing him. I want to give him every opportunity to be our quarterback and to help him succeed. And I wanted to do that now so we can start building towards next week."
Rivera's announcement Wednesday that Haskins is the Washington starting quarterback expunged any doubt that Rivera would give the reins to Kyle Allen, despite their history with the Panthers, or would further the unbelievable comeback tale of Alex Smith. However, the veteran coach entering into his first season on the Washington sidelines long ago gave Haskins the opportunity to seize the starting job, and by Rivera's account, he has risen to the moment.
"I decided about three weeks ago I was going to make sure that Dwayne was getting all the primary reps with the ones," Rivera said. "And that's what we did."
Rivera explained that he didn't just offer up a chance to Haskins, but challenged him.
"I really saw things that I liked. But there were also some things I felt he had to improve on," Rivera said. "So I challenged him to do that back in January. And first thing he did was he transformed who he is, not just as an athlete, but he transformed his body physically and his mentality. And then you watch his progression and growth during camp. You know, you learn. I learned a lot about who he is in terms of his competitive spirit and wanting to be right, wanting to do good. And just really watched him and watched the young man progressing, grow. And that to me was exciting. And it just showed me that he wants to be the guy."
And now, Haskins is the guy leading Washington into its season opener. They'll square off with the Eagles on Sept. 13.
Haskins, the franchise's 2019 first-round pick, had a tumultuous rookie campaign in which he struggled mightily in the early going, but flashed his potential brilliance late in the season before an injury called it to an early end. There's a chance Haskins might not have found his way to Washington had it not been for the unfortunate and gruesome leg injury suffered by Smith in 2018.
While Haskins has won the starting reins and his coach's confidence, there's still a quarterback quandary as to whether Smith will make the 53-man roster, a question posed by Wyche and Trotter.
"Well, I'll tell you right now, anything's possible as far as Alex is concerned," Rivera said. "I mean, you know, there's a lot of things that we saw to work through. He's done some really good things. But there's still some things that we have to sit down and talk about as an organization.
"And I would never rule it out as far as Alex is concerned, because of who he is as man and as a competitor."