ASHBURN — A name the Washington Redskins would rather forget surfaced at the midway point of the first round of the NFL Draft.
Robert Griffin III. RG3. The man, the myth, the legend.
Just when it seemed the Redskins had purged the memory of a story that started with such promise, grew to be a melodrama and ended with bad feelings all around, here it was again.
When the Redskins drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the 15th pick in the round, the comparisons to Griffin began.
Haskins caught the attention of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, perhaps, according to Haskins, because Haskins made an impression on Snyder’s son, a student at Haskins’ high school alma mater, Bullis School, in Potomac, Maryland.
And the Redskins had to have the Ohio State quarterback.
But for now, the story is different from that of Griffin. The Redskins had to make a giant trade to move to the second spot in the draft to take Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor.
Haskins fell to them at the 15th pick, a lucky break, for now anyway, for Haskins and the team. Haskins is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound pocket passer, not a 6-2, 223-pound option quarterback who has yet to master the nuances of being a pocket passer.
“He is a big, strong guy,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He can maneuver in the pocket. There are a lot of quarterbacks that are not necessarily scramblers, so to speak. You have to maneuver in the pocket, whether it is a six-inch step, a step up, a lateral step, what have you, to buy some time.
“And he can buy some time with his size and strength. People bounce off of him. He can do a good job in the pocket. He is a big, strong kid, and he has functional mobility — I’ve seen him do it at Ohio State, I’ve seen him get outside the pocket and make throws for touchdowns in the red zone and other areas of the field.”
Another difference between Haskins and Griffin is that Haskins will learn Gruden’s offense instead of having an offense designed specifically for him, as the Shanahans — head coach Mike and his son, Kyle, then the Redskins offensive coordinator — did for Griffin.
The Haskins situation also has similarities to the selection of quarterback Jason Campbell in the first round in the 2005 draft. Joe Gibbs, in his second era as Redskins’ coach, wanted Campbell, and the Redskins traded into the first round, giving up a third-round pick in 2005 plus their first and fourth-round picks in 2006, to get him. That turned out to be a high price for a player who never developed into a franchise quarterback.
Campbell watched and learned as a rookie, playing behind veterans Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey.
Haskins has two veterans in front of him, Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, but Gruden isn’t Gibbs, who had complete control of the football operations and the complete trust of Snyder.
It seems inevitable Haskins will start in 2019. It might be Game 1 of the regular season. It might be later. It most certainly will occur if the offense sputters with Keenum or McCoy at the controls.
But it comes with risk. Haskins’ college career consists of 14 starts, all last season. It is a huge leap to go from dominating in college to success in the NFL.
Gruden, with two years left on his contract and in need of a winning season and success in the playoffs, might prefer the steadier hand of Keenum at the controls. There is something to be said for a quarterback who doesn’t cost his team victories by making foolish or inexperienced mistakes.
Gruden also understands the economics of the NFL — first-round picks have to play — and Snyder’s interest in Haskins’ success.
“I never met Dan Snyder before I was able to meet him in the draft process,” Haskins said. “It’s cool that his son [Gerry] went to my high school, and I know his son. It’s just crazy how small this world is and how you meet somebody and that can change your life. That’s why I make sure I treat people the way I want to be treated, and I’ve got to do all I can to make sure that I leave a lasting impression on people. I think that’s what Mr. Snyder thought that I was the guy for this franchise.”
For Gruden, working with Haskins could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Or, it could be the beginning of another turbulent, melodramatic quarterback drama, which also might be called business as usual for the Redskins.
Griffin certainly hasn’t forgotten his days in Washington. As a rookie, he led the team on an improbable playoff run — the Redskins went from 3-6 to 10-6 — then suffered a torn ACL in a playoff loss to Seattle. Nothing was ever the same after that.
Thursday, Griffin posted a tweet that was at once encouraging to Haskins and not so subtly critical of the Redskins.
Griffin wrote, “You didn’t draft the young man for nothing. You did it because you believe in the young man. You did it because you need a Quarterback. Don’t give up on him prematurely. He is your investment. Give the kid time to prove himself. Congrats young gun!!! Enjoy every second of it!”
Griffin left the Redskins after the 2015 season. He is gone, not forgotten and, apparently, still bitter.
Haskins, and Gruden, hope for a happier ending.