Washington Football Team's Ron Rivera sticking with Dwayne Haskins despite 3 picks

Washington coach Ron Rivera made one point clear after Sunday's loss to Cleveland: There is no brewing quarterback controversy. He's sticking with Dwayne Haskins despite his three interceptions.

Rivera said he told Haskins after the 34-20 loss to Cleveland that he remains supportive of the second-year passer. Haskins completed 21 of 37 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He also fumbled twice.

"I just got done talking to Dwayne and told him, 'I'm behind you. I'm going to stick with you, so you go out and play,'" Rivera said.

Haskins has been Washington's starter since training camp began in mid-August and there wasn't a true competition between him and the other quarterbacks on the roster, Kyle Allen and Alex Smith. After all, Haskins was the 15th overall pick in 2019. The organization preached patience from the time it drafted him, figuring it would take him a couple of years to fully develop.

Though Rivera wasn't here when they drafted Haskins, he wants to stick to a plan. But Haskins said he's not taking it for granted.

"In spite of the bad I thought I had some good stuff to work on and improve off of," Haskins said. "Coach Rivera and I are very close and I don't want to ever just get comfortable thinking I'm his guy or he believes in me. That doesn't matter if you're not producing on the field. I'm definitely appreciative of that and how he feels of me."

Rivera pointed to how quarterback Cam Newton grew during his time in Carolina and is hoping Haskins follows that path. In Rivera's first season of 2011, Carolina drafted Newton first overall and quickly named him the starter.

Rivera said Newton got better from playing.

"The truth of the matter is how is [Haskins] going to learn?" Rivera said. "Is he going to learn while taking the [scout] team snaps? No. The only way we are going to find out where Dwayne is and what he can do is by putting him back out on the football field and let him get exposed. That is how he grows. That is what we did with Cam Newton and look where he is today. Cam Newton was a league MVP because we trusted him and we took our lumps with him. I am going to take my lumps with Dwayne right now."

Haskins, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft, has gotten off to an unsteady start this season. He entered Week 3 with the lowest total quarterback rating among all starters at 28.4. His completion percentage (56.3) ranked 32nd entering Sunday. Haskins had played poorly in the first half of the opening two games, but was better in the final two quarters.

In those games, he was 16-of-32 for 143 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes; he was 20-of-32 for 258 yards and a touchdown in the final 30.

Sunday, though, Haskins started strong, throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dontrelle Inman on Washington's second possession.

Safety Karl Joseph intercepted Haskins on an overthrow in the second quarter, leading to a Cleveland touchdown and 10-7 lead. Linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted Haskins at Washington's 26-yard line late in the second quarter, setting up yet another Browns' touchdown.

Finally, in the third quarter, linebacker B.J. Goodson undercut receiver Dontrelle Inman to intercept a pass at the Washington 35. That, too, led to a Browns touchdown.

"Just trying to do too much," Haskins said of his picks. "Trying to make a play."

The first interception occurred on a second-and-25. The other two were on third-and-longs. Haskins said he needs to remember that sometimes it's best to just check down to a running back. He said the picks did not result from him staring down receivers, but rather from him forcing passes.

"It's playing situational football and understanding of when to take a sack or when to throw the ball down to the running back and not make plays worse."

But Haskins also threw two scoring tosses to Inman. Haskins started strong as he completed 6 of 9 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown on the first two series. Washington used a more up-tempo approach, putting him more in shotgun formation. They tried to get him comfortable on bootlegs and screens, building momentum.

Those are signs Rivera pointed to as reasons to stick with Haskins, who has made just 10 starts in the NFL. Allen has been Washington's No. 2 quarterback the first three weeks with Smith inactive.

"As long as [Haskins] continues to do things that show he can make things happen, I am going to support the young man," Rivera said. "I am not going to pull the plug just because something like this happens. In my opinion, he is barely through a rookie year right now in terms of being out there, learning, and growing."

Both Rivera and Haskins said the second-year quarterback has to ignore the so-called noise -- any calls for his benching, whether by fans or media.

"When you let outside noise into your head," Haskins said, "you start thinking or believing whatever the hell you read or see. It's really letting all of that go. It's Week 3 and we start over Monday. ... You can't worry about what someone is thinking about you. ... Find the positive and ignore the noise and whoever has something to say that's not in this building."

It has been a bumpy road in Washington for Haskins, who graduated from high school in the area. There was controversy over his pick, with numerous sources saying owner Dan Snyder was the one who wanted him most, overriding the desire of his football staff. Haskins made seven starts in 2019, with his best games coming in his final two starts.

He had a strong offseason by all accounts, but he's also learning a new offense and, entering Sunday, he was one of seven starters on Washington's offense that had a combined 50 NFL starts.

"That's just life and that's adversity," he said. "You have to learn to deal with it and get better from it. I feel I l earned from adversity this week. I felt a lot more confident in-game and before the game and just trying to figure out ways to carry the good stuff from this game and learn from the stuff that was bad."

Late in the game, Haskins' former Ohio State teammate Chase Young talked to him on the bench. At times last year, the organization felt Haskins sulked too much. He wasn't sulking Sunday, but Young, who had to leave the game with a groin injury, wanted to provide his support. He told Haskins he believed in him and would root for him even if the team trailed by 40.

Haskins said others echoed Young's sentiments.

"Teammates did a great job trying to keep my head up," Haskins said. "We all make mistakes and I'll take the blame for what I did and get better for it."