The Washington Football Team has decided that second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins is not producing the results or statistics they desire and that benching him in favor of Kyle Allen is the right move going forward. On the face of it, this decision doesn’t make much sense. It’s undoubtedly true that Haskins has produced unimpressive statistics thus far in 2020. He’s thrown four touchdowns and three interceptions, and the team has lost in each of the last three weeks.
However, Allen hasn’t shown himself to be much better historically, throwing 16 interceptions in 13 games last season. Of course, box score statistics aren’t always perfect indicators of a player’s performance. Fortunately, Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric (OVM), which measures how valuable a player was to their offense, can help rectify that problem. Therefore, let’s utilize it to assess the play of both quarterbacks last season, and see if we can determine what compelled head coach Ron Rivera to favor Allen.
Using OVM to compare Haskins’ statistics to Allen’s
Ignoring any comparisons to Allen for a moment, OVM has not rated Haskins’ performance this season favorably. His overall OVM grade of 16.45 is relatively low, indicating that he has provided limited value to Washington’s offense. The primary reason for his low grade lies in his completion percentage. According to the NFL’s calculations, Haskins’ percentage of 61% is 6.6% lower than expected, the second-worst differential so far this season. Since completing passes is a quarterback’s primary role in an offense, struggling in that area will inevitably lead to a lack of personal and team success.
Examining Haskins and Allen’s 2019 OVM grades
Since Allen has not yet played this season, in order to compare him to Haskins we will be looking back at his 2019 performance instead. His overall grade from that season of 21.42, while still not impressive, is nonetheless a significant improvement over what Haskins has accomplished in 2020.
However, if we are using Allen’s 2019 statistics, it’s only fair to examine Haskins’ as well. His grade of 21.1 wasn’t quite as high as Allen’s, but only by a narrow margin, indicating that while Haskins might be struggling this season, he and Allen have played at roughly the same level in the past.
A quick look at the two quarterback’s advanced metrics reveals why their grades were so similar. Haskins was still struggling to complete passes, doing so 4.6% less often than he should have. Allen’s percentage was just 1.5% lower than expected, which is significantly better, although not anything to write home about. However, Haskins threw into contested windows 6.1% more often, indicating that his overall situation was worse, roughly balancing out the completion percentage differentials.
The two Washington quarterbacks were trending in completely different directions in 2019
While Haskins and Allen had nearly identical overall OVM grades in 2019, what really differentiated their performances was how they were trending when the season ended. Below, you will see a pair of charts displaying their grades from each week of last season, represented by the black dots, compared to the league average for quarterbacks, represented by the yellow line. Let’s start with Allen:
Allen started his 2019 season on a high note with an OVM grade of 35.16, but he was never able to reach that peak again. Across the entire season, he was a remarkably inconsistent player, with multiple games ranking well below average, and he generally declined as the season progressed.
Haskins, on the other hand, started very poorly but his statistics improved dramatically as the season went on, with his two best performances coming in his last two games. I have talked about Haskins’ stellar performances from late in 2019 on multiple occasions, so I won’t rehash the specifics here. However, suffice it to say that he was playing at an exceptionally high level before his injury.
It is this discrepancy that makes Haskins’ benching so confusing. He might be playing poorly now, but he made incredible progress late in his rookie season, showing more potential than Allen ever has. Of course, it is entirely possible that Haskins’ play late last season was a fluke, but it’s worth noting that his regression this season has coincided with the arrival of Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner. Perhaps he would have continued improving if the previous system were still in place, but the need to learn a new offense derailed his development. Unfortunately, thanks to his benching, we’ll never know for sure if he would have rebounded with more time to get comfortable.
Replacing Haskins with Allen doesn’t make sense
It wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see Allen produce better statistics than Haskins as the starter. He is more familiar with working alongside Rivera and should have a better understanding of Turner’s system, as Turner was his quarterback coach in Carolina. However, I simply do not see the long-term upside with him as the starter.
Even if Allen does improve Washington’s offensive output, his historical statistics indicate that it won’t be by a significant margin. On top of that, Haskins’ play in the final weeks of 2019 suggests that he has a much higher upside. From an outside perspective, the only real explanation for choosing Allen is that some reason other than the statistics of the two players is influencing the decision. Not being inside the Washington locker room myself, I can’t say for certain what that might be, but it clearly drove a huge wedge between Haskins and the coaching staff.
Who will be Washington’s quarterback of the future?
Perhaps the most important takeaway from this whole situation is that Rivera and the rest of Washington’s coaching staff don’t have confidence in Haskins. What exactly is compelling them to believe that Allen is a better choice is unclear, but they evidently don’t believe that Haskins has elite potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to move on from him in the near future, which is a shame, as he appeared to be on the right track going into 2020.
However, kicking Haskins to the curb would put Washington in an interesting position. As we’ve already discussed, Allen has not looked like a franchise quarterback. And while current backup Alex Smith has been excellent in the past, at 36 years old and coming off of a major injury, he doesn’t seem like a likely candidate either.
As such, we might see Washington look to the 2021 NFL draft for an answer. The team is currently sitting at 1-3, which equates to sixth in the projected 2021 NFL Draft order. Therefore, Washington may yet find themselves in a position to draft one of college football’s top quarterback prospects, such as Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, although there are a number of terrible NFL teams that will be competing with them for picks near the top of the draft. We’ll see how the rest of Washington’s season plays out, and where Rivera will decide to take the quarterback position going forward.
Lucas Ellinas is a writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Lucas_Ellinas.