Redskins to start Colt McCoy at QB over Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden named Colt McCoy the starting quarterback for Sunday's game vs. New England on Friday, while also defending his handling of rookie Dwayne Haskins.

Gruden, whose job remains in jeopardy, has been criticized for having Haskins replace Case Keenum in the second quarter of the Week 4 loss to the New York Giants. With the team 0-4, many Redskins fans want to see Haskins play, but Gruden said he and his staff are not at that same point.

"There's a lot of talk of what we should do with him, but we're here every day and I have a pretty good gauge of what we should do with him," Gruden told ESPN, "and what his progression should be like and where he is as far as a quarterback in the NFL.

"It's insane to think I would hold a grudge against Dwayne," Gruden said, refuting the notion that he is taking out being mad at the team for drafting Haskins at No. 15 by not playing the rookie.

Gruden said he's starting McCoy because the veteran has the most experience in his offense, having played in it since 2014. But McCoy broke his right leg last December and needed three surgeries to repair it in the offseason. He returned for training camp, but after being told he would start, McCoy began to have issues with his leg when planting and trying to move or throw.

McCoy returned to practice last week, and after watching him the past three days, Gruden said what in his mind had become inevitable. He said McCoy would have been the starter out of camp if he'd stayed healthy.

"I knew it a long time ago: It's going to be Colt and we'll go from there," Gruden said. "It's his sixth year in the system and the other guys just got here in the offseason. It means a lot; confidence in the protections. A lot of it is about being able to protect yourself and obviously knowing the route concepts we've been running for a long time."

"It's insane to think I would hold a grudge against Dwayne."
Jay Gruden, Redskins coach

Haskins relieved Keenum in the 24-3 loss to the Giants and completed 9 of 17 passes for 102 yards and three interceptions. Keenum started the first four games but has a sprained right foot that caused him to miss practice each of the past two Wednesdays while wearing a protective boot. If Gruden feels Keenum is healthy enough, Haskins could be inactive.

But a lot of the conversation reverts back to Haskins and Gruden and the nature of their relationship. Multiple reports since even before the draft have stated that Gruden did not want to take Haskins. There were concerns in the Redskins organization beyond Gruden about how long it would take Haskins to be ready to play. Because Gruden is in a must-win situation, taking such a player with the 15th overall pick was not ideal. But Gruden said being on a hot seat did not matter when it comes to developing Haskins and disputed the notion that he doesn't like him.

"It's always hot," he said of his coaching seat, "but no matter how hot it is you have to do what's best for the team and the player, and this is not just my opinion -- we have a lot of people who know about quarterbacks on our staff. We all feel pretty strongly this is the way to go. I take input from everybody. This is the best thing for him. By Week 10 or 12 if we feel more comfortable that he's more comfortable spitting things out and seeing things and getting the right protection calls and all that, then maybe we throw him in there. Right now it's important to learn and study and get himself ready."

Many in the organization have said the same things about Haskins from the time he was drafted: He's poised and talented but needs a lot of time.

"There is a lot that goes into playing quarterback," Gruden said. "If you haven't done it, there's a lot on your plate. Until he gets really comfortable, it's for his own good. If I didn't like him, I'd put him out there right now. I do like him. I think the world of him. He's going to be a great quarterback one day. Time is really important for him."

Haskins entered the draft after starting one season at Ohio State, where he threw 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Two of his receivers were drafted in the first three rounds in April: Parris Campbell (second round to Indianapolis) and Terry McLaurin (third round to Washington).

Gruden said he spoke with Haskins on Friday "to make sure we're on the same page." Gruden said there has been no pressure from the organization to play Haskins.

"We're here to help him and make him a great player," Gruden said. "It might be this year. I don't know yet. But right now it's important to move forward with guys with more experience and knowledge of the system, especially the protections and all that good stuff. He's 22 years old. He's played [14] games in his career. This really is what should be happening."

When Gruden was an offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, the Bengals drafted quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round and started him immediately.

"That's not to say if we had catered to Dwayne from day one like we did with Andy, maybe we could get him ready in a smaller package type thing," Gruden said. "Still, this is better for Dwayne in my opinion, and my opinion is kind of important when it comes to developing quarterbacks. We've done a good job with quarterbacks around here. Andy has made a pretty good sum of money. Kirk Cousins made a pretty good sum of money and Alex Smith was doing pretty well until he got injured. This is the best for Dwayne and our team."

Meanwhile, Gruden also has to worry about his job. There have been reports for more than a week about his possible firing.

"I haven't heard anything yet," Gruden said. "I'm sure the time could come if we don't start winning here soon. I go about my business and as long as my key works, I come in here and work as hard as I can to get a win. It's the way it is. It's what you sign up for. ... You have to be a very mentally tough individual in pro football."

He also disputed that he has quit on his team, which ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said earlier in the week.

"I heard about that one. That one is far from the truth. Those are fighting words for me," Gruden said. "That's one thing I will never do or have done in my life. I work extremely hard, getting up early as hell and working late and doing the best I can to get ourselves a victory this week. I have a lot of respect for everyone in this locker room and the last thing I would do to these players is quit on them because I know they're not going to quit on me."