ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Football Team released quarterback Dwayne Haskins one day after he was benched in a loss to the Carolina Panthers -- and hours after he was demoted behind a player signed to the practice squad less than a month ago.
In a statement, Washington coach Ron Rivera said he met with Haskins on Monday to inform him of his decision.
"I told him that I believe it benefits both parties that we go our separate ways. We want to thank Dwayne for his contributions these last two seasons and wish him well moving forward."
In a tweet, Haskins wrote: "I take full responsibility for not meeting the standards of a NFL QB & will become a better man & player because of this experience."
Two hours earlier, Rivera told the media on his video conference call that Washington would start Taylor Heinicke if Alex Smith was unable to play in Sunday's season finale at Philadelphia. Washington (6-9) can win the NFC East with a victory.
The release signaled yet another step in Haskins' demise since he was drafted 15th overall by Washington in 2019. He went unclaimed on waivers Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter, so he's free to sign with any team.
Haskins will count $8.5 million in dead salary-cap space next year. Rivera informed owner Dan Snyder of his desire to move on from Haskins late Monday morning and was given the green light to make the move.
Haskins received support from former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who tweeted: "You are only 23! Learn from this and bounce back."
Wishing the best for @dh_simba7— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) December 28, 2020
You are only 23! Learn from this and bounce back
Rivera hinted at a possible move during his media session.
"Sometimes you have to go through hard knocks. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can dig your way back out of it. Sometimes a change helps," Rivera said. "With Dwayne, it's: What have you learned? What are you going to take from these experiences that are going to help you grow and get better? That's the big thing with him and the thing I hope he learns from these experiences. Hopefully, they'll make him stronger and they'll help him and, hopefully, when he gets his next opportunity, he'll make the best of it."
The release occurs one week after a maskless Haskins was photographed at his girlfriend's birthday party with strippers, hours after a loss to Seattle. Washington fined Haskins $40,000 for his second breach of COVID-19 protocols and took away his captaincy. Earlier in the season, Haskins was fined for making a reservation for a family friend at the team hotel the night before a game in New York. There was a sense that perhaps playing in his hometown did not help Haskins, providing too many distractions.
If Haskins had produced on the field, Washington likely would not have made such a move. But he failed to produce and on Sunday was outplayed by Heinicke. The team was frustrated that Haskins would go through his progressions incorrectly and with how he'd set protections -- subtle but vital parts of the position. He would tantalize with good quarters, getting into a rhythm reminiscent of his time at Ohio State, when he threw 50 touchdowns to eight interceptions in 2018.
Haskins started Washington's first four games this season but was benched after a 30-10 loss to Baltimore. The coaches did not like how he was preparing during the week, saying it fell way short of the standards for an NFL quarterback. After that Baltimore game, in which Haskins had his first 300-yard passing game, multiple people said they felt he was celebrating that feat in the locker room. The next day, Rivera announced his benching.
Haskins was third-string behind Kyle Allen and Smith for the next four games. But when Allen broke his ankle on Nov. 8, Haskins became the primary backup. Although his in-week preparation had improved, team sources said it still wasn't to the desired level -- and that it would take time for it to truly help him.
Haskins played in 15 games over two seasons with Washington, compiling a Total QBR of 29.4 -- the league average during that time was 63.5. He threw 12 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions.
Haskins' time in Washington started somewhat controversially, as the scouts and coaches lobbied against drafting him with the 15th pick -- but Snyder wanted him. Haskins was a big name locally, having starred for three seasons at Bullis High School. Snyder's son currently attends the same high school but had met Haskins only briefly before the draft.
Washington's coaches were told by Ohio State's coaches that they needed to be patient with Haskins. He had started just 14 games in college and surprised Buckeyes coaches by declaring for the draft.
After he was drafted, the organization preached patience. Multiple people with the team said Haskins needed to sit all season as he learned more about not only Washington's offense but also how to play quarterback at the NFL level. They stressed that he needed to learn how to call plays in the huddle and read defenses at a faster pace, among other things.
By the end of the 2019 season, with Washington headed to a 3-13 finish, Haskins had become the starter. He showed improvement, though multiple coaches said they were concerned with how hard it was for them to get him to prepare the way they wanted.
But when Rivera was hired, he told Snyder they had a plan to help Haskins. Rivera later said former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who coached Haskins in college, said they needed to challenge him. Rivera did so by talking about Haskins' talent but also stressing the desire for him to become a stronger leader. Washington liked how Haskins handled himself in the offseason enough for him to become a captain.
However, Rivera also said had there been a normal preseason, he would have opened up the starting job to a competition, with Allen and even Smith, who was still shaking the rust from his 2018 broken leg at that point.
But Rivera fixated on what others did before him: Haskins' arm strength. It's why other teams will be intrigued by the 23-year-old.
"Well, like I've always said, you watch his talent and you see the arm," Rivera said. "That's the thing that I think is his most redeeming quality as a quarterback, which I think is probably the most important thing."