Washington Redskins have an impossible quarterback dilemma

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images /

Who will be the Washington Redskins starting quarterback in 2019?

The Washington Redskins are running out of time to decide which one of their quarterbacks will begin the season as the starter.

I had considered this a no-brainer since the moment Dwayne Haskins was selected with the 15th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Obviously, the team would sit their newly acquired franchise quarterback for a year and let him learn the pro game before throwing him into the fire.

Case Keenum is a capable quarterback and should be able to run an offense that by all accounts is going to use a run-heavy offensive scheme. Additionally, two years ago, Keenum took a team to the NFC championship game. Also two years ago, Patrick Mahomes sat for 15 games before taking the field for the last game of the season. That seems to have worked out pretty well.

After watching the Redskins’ first preseason game against the Browns, my thoughts have changed a little.

My opinion regarding who should trot out onto the field as the starter in Philly in a few weeks obviously was not influenced by a phenomenal performance by Haskins. Nor would I suggest that Keenum was awful. I adhere to the premise that you have to play the quarterback that gives your team the best chance to win. Before that first preseason game, I was certain that would be Keenum. Now I’m waffling.

Neither quarterback won or lost the starting job based on anything that happened last Thursday. What has me double thinking my previous contention that starting the veteran was the only reasonable thing to do was how Haskins performed against the Browns.

Obviously, this isn’t about the stats. I’m talking about the presence he had on the field. The calm demeanor he portrayed. It made me wonder; is the game too fast for him? Is the moment too big for him? It certainly did not appear so.

I’m old enough to remember the sheer terror on Payton Manning’s face during his first start. I can also remember the shell shocked look of a young Troy Aikman as he started his first game. Haskins didn’t have that look of panic. Of course, it was just a preseason game. I don’t want to read too much into a preseason game but I don’t want to ignore it either.

Haskins looked poised. He also moved around much better than he was supposed to be able to. He was able to step up into the pocket. He appeared patient in his reads. There was a decisiveness to his throws and a cool acceptance of his mistakes. In short, his demeanor belied his rookie status.

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His two interceptions come with the territory and I don’t think the interceptions alone should disqualify him as a contender for the starting job. I mean, most of us expect Keenum to throw plenty of those too.

The main thing that has me second guessing myself was Haskins’ very first throw. You remember- that little flick of the wrist dump off he threw on the run. Well, that’s what it seemed like. Before watching the replay I thought he had thrown the equivalent of a screen pass. Watching the replay you see him actually standing on the goal line as he hits his receiver in stride at the 33-yard line. He threw a 33-yard rope off his back foot across his body with the flick of his wrist.

In contrast, Keenum had a beautifully thrown ball to a wide-open Robert Davis. Keenum threw the ball 40 yards in the air. While it was a nice pass, it appeared to take just about everything Keenum had to throw the ball 40 yards. I am not one of those chuckleheads who thinks that arm strength is the most important quality a quarterback can possess. But, there is no denying cannon-armed quarterbacks make life much more difficult on opposing defenses.

While I’m probably still leaning toward starting Keenum as the wiser move, I can’t help but think of the possibilities a big arm could make against Philly or Dallas. Let’s face it, with Keenum at quarterback and Jay Gruden calling the plays, we’re going to get the most vanilla unabashedly predictable offense the world has ever seen.

With Haskins at the helm, the Eagles defense will have to at least consider the possibility that the Washington Redskins might throw it deep. They have three wide receivers that can run 4.3s for crying out loud. Having wide receivers that can blow by defensive backs does not do much good if the quarterback can’t get the ball down the field.

So, with less than a month to go before games get real I don’t have any idea who the Washington Redskins will start at quarterback. I doubt Gruden has figured it out either. Of course, there is the possibility that the decision is going to be made for him which would be unfortunate and unfair as the man is fighting for his job.

I guess the smart play is to go with the veteran and start Keenum and the predictable short passing game. But, if Haskins is smart enough, cool enough and tough enough, this may in fact, as Gruden has stated repeatedly, still be an open competition. If that is indeed the case, Redskins fans are going to see the two most important and intriguing preseason games the team has played in decades.

It is reasonable to assume that a team with the kind of speed that the Washington Redskins have on the outside has legitimate big-play potential. But that big-play potential can be part of the game plan with Haskins and his monster arm on the field. Keenum, on the other hand, will necessitate a game plan featuring a reliance on the running game and a lot of short passes. Big plays with a Keenum run offense will more than likely qualify as the occasional fluke.

Having made a case, albeit a weak one, that Haskins brings an added vertical dimension to the offense I still can’t talk myself into starting the rookie right out of the gate. But, I find it equally difficult to relegate Haskins and his touchdown from anywhere on the field arm to the bench.

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There is no denying Gruden has a seemingly impossible choice to make. Starting the veteran is surely the smart and safe move. But it’s hard to imagine the slow, predictable, methodical Keenum led Redskins doing enough to make a run at the playoffs. If Gruden can get Haskins ready by week one, and I’ll admit he’s not there yet, the Washington Redskins offense immediately becomes unpredictable.