The Organizational Dilemma of Failing Young Quarterbacks
Quarterback prospects like Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold, and Dwayne Haskins are struggling mainly due to a common flaw that is noticeable but often ignored
Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold, and Dwayne Haskins are all having poor seasons.
This is not a good look for young quarterbacks who are designated to carry their franchises going forward. If they cannot display any semblance of promise or growth then their organizations are going to have big problems down the road. The quarterback is the most important position on a football team. They are the ones who teams are supposed to rally behind and elevate the offense whenever they are on the field. The best quarterbacks are the ones who not only know the ins and outs of the playbook but also find ways to win. Even on a bad team they would be able to show a semblance of talent that showcases that “yes, this individual can lead the organization’s offense.”
While these three no doubt have played poorly, they are not responsible for their team’s failures.
The New York Jets, New York Giants, and Washington Football Team all have a common problem as to why they are struggling. Their quarterbacks are not above blame but they are not the ones solely responsible for their perspective teams’ shortcomings. It is easy to pin it on Jones, Darnold, and Haskins because they are essentially the “faces” of their organizations. They represent the teams because they are the leaders. The problems are beyond these three.
The issues stem from the fact that the organizations that drafted these quarterbacks have poor development programs.
The Giants, Jets, and Washington have not seen much success in recent years. These teams have been in rebuild mode for the past few years and have nothing to show for it. Normally you would see some merit of progression but that hasn’t come to pass for these organizations. It’s the result of poor planning, unrealistic expectations, and no cohesion within the organizations.
Let’s start with the Jets who currently are a walking embarrassment as the only NFL team to not secure a win this season. They are currently Year 3 with Darnold as their franchise quarterback and unfortunately do not have the answer if he’s the answer at that position. There are times of brilliance but he has been mostly pedestrian as a lead QB. It’s unlikely that he’ll be the starting quarterback on a 0–8 team.
And yet, Darnold is not the source of the Jets’ problems. That falls on head coach Adam Gase. Prior to being hired by the team, Gase has been touted as a coach difficult to work with. His tenure with the Miami Dolphins was always touted as a negative. He went to the playoffs in his first year with the Dolphins, but he went 13–19 the next two years and was subsequently fired. He also got into several conflicts with well-known Dolphins players like wide receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Jay Ajayi. Till this day neither of them hold the coach in high regard.
Ryan Tannehill is the most egregious example of a former player that thrived after leaving Adam Gase. When he came to Miami, Tannehill saw his yards and touchdown numbers plummet. He only threw for 4,974 yards and 36 touchdowns in the two seasons Gase coached him. After he was traded to the Tennessee Titans he recently played his best season to date, leading the Titans to the AFC Championship with a 9–3 record while setting career-highs in touchdowns (22) and completion percentage (70.3) — the later led the NFL. He also led the NFL in passer rating (117.5), yards per pass attempt (9.6) and yards per completion (13.6). This is in part thanks to playing for a modern offensive minded coach in Mike Vrabel as well as a better structured team that accentuates his skills as a quarterback.
Gase — for whatever reason — still has a job despite being the worst coach in the NFL. The Jets — for whatever reason — still believe in him despite the fact that he essentially ruined their franchise quarterback, alienated the best players on the team, and has the team directionless once again (eerily similar to his tenure in Miami only worse). The only bright side to all this is that the Jets have a chance to draft Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the NFL Draft. If that’s the plan, then Gase cannot be the head coach. The Jets can only offer so many opportunities to an individual who simply isn’t up to task. They would also need to part ways with Sam Darnold and let him find a new home elsewhere with a better opportunity to prove himself in the NFL with a clean slate. It is the least the Jets can do after all the trouble they have put the young quarterback through.
Daniel Jones predicament is unique than his fellow quarterback peer in New York. While Darnold struggles due to the Jets incompetence, Jones struggles mainly due to a lack of consistent talent (at least on the offensive side of the ball). Jones was a player who was always perceived as having potential but too many flaws that would essentially need work if he is ever going to be a consistent starting quarterback in the NFL. Jones is a legit athlete. He’s 6'5" and weighs over 230lbs. He’s durable and quite mobile for his size. He is more or less “mid Josh Allen.” He’s the prototypical quarterback prospect you would want to develop in your organization.
However, Jones was also known to be inconsistent when he was at Duke University. Sure, Jones completed over 764 passes for 8201 yards, and 52 touchdowns for the Blue Devils but he also had over 29 interceptions and was known to be a turnover machine. If a team were to draft him they would have to make sure to construct a roster that would at least minimize his weaknesses and accentuate his strengths on his ability to run the football, make deep passes, and pushing the pace. The Giants roster isn’t good enough to do those things for Jones. They are in the midst of a rebuild and a consistent winning team isn’t going to be built overnight. It takes time. General Manager Dave Gettleman would have to know that otherwise why draft Jones in the first round especially when most scouts had him pegged as a second or third round prospect in a weak quarterback draft. Placing Jones in an imbalanced offensive unit makes it difficult to evaluate whether or not if he has the potential to be a franchise quarterback.
Head coach Joe Judge has displayed that he can get his team to compete despite being a first year head coach. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett seems to have settled into a groove after a rocky start. Still, there are too many unknown variables due to the team’s roster construction. The wide receiver corp is solid with Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton. However, the running game is a mixed bag and it doesn’t help that the supposed star running back Saquon Barkley is out with an ACL tear and hasn’t looked that great after a stellar rookie season and his future with the Giants is in jeopardy since he’ll unlikely play next year while recovering and that’s his contract year. Plus, the offensive line is still pedestrian. Jones has not been able to find a comfort zone every single team the line fails to support him. That’s on Gettleman.
Jones was already a giant question mark the minute he was drafted by the Giants. The current roster construction makes it even more difficult to determine if Jones is destined to lead the Giants to greatness or is simply a mediocre quarterback.
The Washington Football Team have always been something of a strange anomaly. Much like the Jets, they have been maligned by horrible front office decisions that have hampered the team’s success for many years. They somehow find decent quarterback prospects but always seem to put them in losing positions and then complain about not finding success in that position. Whether it was Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins, they fail to put any of their young QBs in a system that will allow them for flourish.
And now we can seemingly add Dwayne Haskins to the list of quarterbacks that have been poorly handled by Washington.
Haskins has not exactly lit the Washington Football Team by storm since he started playing for the team last year. Like his peer Daniel Jones, he has a lot of promise in terms of his size, strong arm, able to push the ball down field, can be very accurate with his passes, and can move well in the pocket. However, he only had one year of experience as a starting quarterback in college and is extremely raw. He also played mostly out of the shotgun at Ohio State and learning new offenses at an NFL level can be tricky. The only way he can improve is by getting more playing time and being entrusted with the offense to learn as he goes along.
So why are the Washington Football Team treating him like he’s a bust in Year 2 of his development as a quarterback?
Head coach Ron Rivera supposedly benched Haskins due to him “bragging about his stats after a loss.” While it is understandable that he wanted to send a strong message to the young player about the importance of team play and not to focus on individual success, the Washington Football Team are still 2–6 in a dismal NFC East division, just lost the replacement starter Kyle Allen for the season due to a serious ankle injury and are relying on former backup Alex Smith to be the starter. But this is pointless since Smith is on his last legs and doesn’t have a future with the Football Team. Haskins does! So this perception that Haskins needs to learn to be a better team player is an empty lesson if he doesn’t get any more opportunities to improve as a quarterback. Benching him for one game is one thing but pretty much negating any chance of him to make amends for his mistakes is just poor development by the Football Team and showcases they haven’t learned anything from the previous times they botched a quarterback’s development.
Naysayers can cry about how poor these quarterbacks are — and there is some fair criticism to be had for their poor play — but ultimately the responsibility also lies on the organizations that drafted them. They read the scouting reports, knew their strengths and weaknesses, and should have an understanding on how to put them in positions to succeed in order to better evaluate them. When they get in their own way of how they develop young talent it only showcases their ineptitude on player development.
So if they wanted a quick fix and are not patient enough to develop them, why bother drafting them at all?
*additional information from NFL.com/CBS Sports/ESPN/Washington Post/Football Reference