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There is a way to release a player in the NFL.
Then there’s the way Washington just released quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The way Washington got rid of their 2019 first-round draft choice today just seemed to have a message written all over it. With only one game left in the season, they could have easily just made him inactive for Sunday night’s regular-season finale with Philadelphia. No one would have cared given his performance yesterday, and then he could have been quietly released in the off-season.
But no, Washington wanted this separation to include blunt force trauma. It’s like a couple breaking up and one person wants the world to KNOW what they really thought about the other. They released him with a week to go, and they did it promptly on Monday, less than 24 hours after Sunday’s game ended. Head Coach Ron Rivera was short and to the point about the decision.
"This afternoon I met with Dwayne and informed him that we would be releasing him," Rivera wrote in a statement. "I told him that I believe it benefits both parties that we go our separate ways. We want to thank Dwayne for his contributions these last two seasons and wish him well moving forward."
Notice he didn’t say they met and mutually agreed to part ways. It says clearly Rivera called a meeting and there was no conversation about anything other than him telling Haskins to not let the door hit him in the backside while carrying his stuff to the car.
My experience has been when you say things like that, at least in a corporate setting, the person you’re firing has finally gotten on your very last nerve, exhausted your last thread of patience, and you can’t wait to get that person out of the building.
Maybe that was the case with Rivera.
But he also could be sending a message to two groups of people. One could be his own locker room, where he’s saying there are things we’ll stand for and things we won’t. Haskins may have crossed the line in the “things we won’t” category far too many times, so perhaps Rivera was telling his team he wasn’t kidding around.
Or as many a parent has said, “don’t TRY me.”
He also could be sending Haskins a message to maybe one day help him. One of the challenges in managing people is that your heart wants to give people second chances, but because of that, you find yourself painted into a corner more often than you’d like. You can only tell a guy once that this is his last chance before that guy now holds the upper hand. Once you tell someone “one more time and you’re out of here” and then there is one more mistake and he’s still there, what else are you going to do?
Perhaps Haskins’ behavior suggested he didn’t think he could be released or disciplined to the degree it would affect him. He has plenty of money so fining him isn’t going to get his attention. And this is not the day or age where you take a talented guy who is not paying attention and run him up and down the bleacher steps ten thousand times.
All I know is, Haskins seemed to have talent. He certainly had the physical tools. But when he would struggle in games, many of those struggles seemed to be based on not being able to figure out what the defense was doing. Many a player from college has had the same issues in the pros, and some never figure it out.
But many a player has also spent hours and hours of studying film to try to make up for that. The NFL is full of great coaches, but they do not re-invent the wheel every week. With enough study, you can get a feel for another team’s and another coach’s tendencies. You then end up making better guesses once you understand that.
In Haskins case, he has reminded me a little of Mike Vick at one point in his career. Both were blessed with great physical tools which made them believe they did not have to work as hard. For Vick, it really wasn’t until it all came crashing down and he got a second chance with the Philadelphia Eagles that he realized how important that was. I’ve seen him quoted many times saying when he went to Philadelphia, Andy Reid made him wish he had worked that hard on studying the game when he was in Atlanta.
He could have been even better than he was in those early years.
I don’t know if Haskins will amount to that level, because he certainly wasn’t at Vick’s level in college. But the point should have been as painfully made to Haskins today as it was to Vick when he got to Philadelphia: Nothing comes easy in the NFL, and if you don’t work at it every hour, every day and every season, things are going to pass you by.
I still think Haskins can be good. But it will have to be in a different town where the team actually has a nickname.
It will also have to be in a world where Haskins got today’s message and took it to heart.