By Harry Allison
The Jets are enduring a tough season under first-year coach Adam Gase and young quarterback Sam Darnold they hope will be the foundation of long-term success. It’s a reasonable blueprint for the Redskins, who this week named first-rounder Dwayne Haskins their starting quarterback and could hand the coaching reins next season to someone with more say over personnel than the previous regime.
This meeting between New York (2-7) and Washington (1-8) is Haskins’ first game as the full-time starter and a step toward following the Jets’ lead.
”You drafted him as a high first-rounder, and you’ve got to figure out what he brings to the table,” Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses said. ”We all know it’s a business and obviously we have an interim head coach in (Bill) Callahan, and so, if he’s going to be the head coach or whoever’s going to be the next coach, you’ve got to figure out what this kid has.”
Unlike the Jets, who started Darnold immediately after drafting him third in 2018, the Redskins have been cautious about throwing Haskins in the deep end after selecting him 15th in April. Since-fired coach Jay Gruden and Callahan leaned on veteran Case Keenum instead.
Perhaps that’s because Haskins, despite all his tools at his potential, didn’t flash the same NFL-ready look as Darnold did coming out of college. Washington’s coaching staff got an up-close look at Darnold during joint workouts at training camp in the summer of 2018, and he looked prepared to get the nod right away.
”I thought he was ahead of the game,” Callahan said. ”I thought he was mature, he understood the game, he knew where to go with the ball, his decision-making was good and it’s only getting better.”
Darnold still has plenty of growing pains. Before beating the Giants last week, he threw nine interceptions in his previous four starts. And Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones – taken nine spots ahead of Haskins at No. 6 – has eight interceptions to go along with 15 touchdowns since taking over as the starter in Week 3.
Haskins has four interceptions and no touchdowns in three appearances, including his first NFL start Nov. 3 at Buffalo, but that’s part of the process the Redskins are now diving into.
”Mistakes, it’s going to happen, especially when you’re a young guy at the quarterback position,” Washington running back Adrian Peterson said. ”You’re going to make mistakes. Look at both guys in New York. They have had a lot of mistakes – way more mistakes than our young guy. The way that you keep that respect with the veteran guys is coming out, being on point and executing your stuff. That’s what he’s been doing. We’re going to continue to ride with him.”
Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson gave Gase a vote of confidence earlier in the week, saying he’ll remain coach not only through this season but for next season, too.
Gase was hired last January after three seasons in Miami and has a career regular-season record of 25-32 as a head coach.
Johnson cited the various injuries to key players this season, including 14 starters who have missed a total of 53 games, as a major reason for the struggles. He also insisted he believes in Gase being the right coach to help Darnold progress, and stability is a key for a young quarterback.
”It’s absolutely important, but that’s not why I’m keeping Adam, but it’s certainly a component,” Johnson said. ”Changing systems year after year is just a disaster, for a young quarterback, especially.”
The Redskins aren’t just getting a look at their QB of the future but also the guy they hope is their running back for years to come. Second-year back Derrius Guice is set to play for the first time since injuring his right knee Week 1 and will make his home debut after missing all of 2018 with a torn ACL in his left knee.
”It’s great to have him back,” Callahan said. ”I know he’s itching to get back on the field and work and play. He’s worked well the last two weeks and you can see his maturity and his maturation process only get better. I think the rehabilitation process takes you through that, puts you inward a little bit mentally and really take inventory about where you’re at and how important the game is so that when those opportunities come back up again you take full advantage of those.”