It wasn’t a surprise, but it’s now official. Dwayne Haskins will trot the Washington Football Team’s offense onto the field in the season opener as the starting quarterback. While he was always considered the favorite, Haskins went above and beyond to win the job by putting an emphasis on being a leader and transforming his body into a slimmer more athletic version of the No. 15 overall pick we saw last year. 

For new head coach Ron Rivera, naming Haskins the starter reminded him of a situation he was in with the Carolina Panthers when he was a rookie head coach. Rivera had to choose between Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson or rookie Cam Newton as his new starting quarterback. He ended up going with the former No. 1 overall pick, and it was a decision that eventually took him to the Super Bowl and won him AP NFL Coach of the Year twice. Rivera decided to ride with his youth, and it paid dividends. 

“I made a commitment 10 years ago to another young quarterback and just told him: ‘Hey, you know what, I’m choosing you because I believe in you,'” Rivera said, via ESPN’s John Keim. “That’s really how I feel about Dwayne. He’s lived up to his part of our conversation in January. Because of that, I’m living up to mine.

“He deserves the opportunity. He’s going to get my support. Hopefully we can ride it as long as I rode it with Cam. You want to be able to have that guy and have that guy in place.”

There are differences in Haskins and Newton’s situations, however. One was a highly-touted college champion who clearly had a bright future, and the other is someone who was the previous coaching staff’s third option at quarterback and played in just nine games with seven starts during his rookie season. Haskins still has much to prove, but Rivera does see similarities between the two. 

“First of all, it’s the desire to win,” Rivera said. “That to me is one of the overriding things that they both share. Their work ethic. They both have worked hard in their offseason. That to me is a delight — that you have a guy that’s willing to commit to the preparation of it and it’s not just about showing up. Probably the biggest difference to me is Cam is big, Cam is thick. Dwayne to me is still young and dangly and still filling in. But Dwayne and him have the same type of ball. They throw a good football, and it’s a catchable ball.”

While Washington won just three games last season, Haskins had a hand in two of those victories. In nine total games played, he threw for 1,365 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. In his seven starts, however, he threw for 1,225 yards, seven touchdowns and just three interceptions. Haskins had a bit of an up-and-down rookie campaign in all, but did appear to put it all together during the end of the season. In his last three starts, he threw for 564 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception. If anything, there’s no doubt that he has potential as a quarterback in this league, and Rivera is giving him the opportunity to carry this franchise into a new era. 

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