On the heels of setting records for Ohio State with 4,831 passing yards and 50 touchdowns in his junior season, quarterback Dwayne Haskins was tabbed as the quarterback of the future for the Redskins when they selected him at No. 15 overall in 2019.
Alas, the Redskins went 3-13, coach Jay Gruden was fired after five games and Haskins struggled before he was injured to end the season.
Though Haskins showed vast improvement toward the tail end of his rookie year, criticism and ample doubt has fallen upon him.
The coach who saw Haskins toss those aforementioned 50 scores first-hand believes the criticism is questionable to say the least given the situation Haskins found himself in with the Redskins -- who have made significant franchise changes this offseason.
"So it's the quarterback's fault?" former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks on the "Move the Sticks" podcast. "Nevermind the fact that their coach got fired, the place is a mess, there's this going on, there's this going on, this going on. A lot of stuff I heard from behind the scenes -- cause, once again I have several players there -- yet it's Dwayne's fault."
Meyer's argument was one he characterized as simple. Haskins, who was among a wealth of talent during his junior year under Meyer with the Buckeyes, was in a rather chaotic situation in Washington. And it's nothing new for high-profile rookie QBs. Thus, for Haskins to truly play up to his potential, Meyer doesn't see any difficult quandary to solve.
"I hate to be so simplistic on this, but you better surround him with some really good players," Meyer said. "The NFL is amazing to me is that the minute a team, they draft a quarterback, they put him on a very bad team or there are a lot of culture issues. Which I, I don't want to start throwing stones, but I do know. I talk to my guys. I talk to a lot of these players. So it's the quarterback's fault now that their coach got fired after what, [Week 5]. They were in complete disarray and it's the quarterback's fault now. I wish college was that easy. For some reason it's not the quarterback's fault, it's the coach's fault. To me it's about culture and leadership. You want Dwayne to be a great player? Surround him with some really great players. Surround him with a really elite culture."
During Haskins' rookie season in which he went 2-5 as a starter, three quarterbacks got starts and all of them -- along with a host of other Redskins -- dealt with injuries. Jay Gruden was fired and replaced by interim coach Bill Callahan. Since the end of the 2019 season, Washington has hired Ron Rivera as its new head coach, moved on from longtime team president Bruce Allen and traded away offensive tackle Trent Williams.
They are moves designed, at least, to rebuild an organization that has tallied three straight losing campaigns, hasn't made the playoffs since 2015 and hasn't won a playoff game since 2005. That foundation is also crucial for Haskins -- or any other quarterback -- in the eyes of Meyer.
"Why does the New England Patriots, there's teams in the NFL that have far greater players -- they have to cause they draft every year ahead of them," Meyer said. "So, on paper, there's teams that have been drafting ahead of the New England Patriots for 15 years. Yet they can't beat them. What, so they're bad players? No, there's something else there. It's called an elite culture, elite leadership; they don't have that. There's something wrong with the organization. You want Dwayne to be great? Put a lot of greatness around him. That's the one common denominator of all great quarterbacks, they have great players around them."
That's what Haskins needs, Meyer believes emphatically. It's what any quarterback needs, even the 2020 No. 1 pick.
"You know, Joe Burrow, he's at the Cincinnati Bengals now and they were 2-14 last year," Meyer said. "You want to know how Joe Burrow's gonna become great? Surround him with a great culture, with great leadership, and some great players, he'll be great. If not, he won't."