Here’s a hypothetical to keep the stove hot through the NFL offseason: If you were an NFL general manager and you were given the choice of two quarterbacks to have, both this season and for the rest of his career, who would you pick: Washington’s Dwayne Haskins or Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers?
Rodgers, of course, is a Super Bowl champion and widely recognized as one of the game’s best. He’s also 36 years old and counts $36 million against the salary cap next year. Haskins, 23, has yet to prove he can be a reliable NFL quarterback. He could flame out and leave your team with nothing. He could also be a cornerstone player for at least a decade.
Let’s dig into the arguments...
The case for Haskins: The second-year quarterback has two things that are extremely hard to teach: He has a cannon of an arm, and he rises to the occasion in crunch time.
He was a first-round draft pick after just one year of starting in college, and his ceiling remains extremely high.
Not to mention, Haskins is on a cost-controlled rookie contract for the next four years — he’ll only count $3.3 million against the Redskins’ salary cap this season, freeing up room to bring in other difference-makers.
As for his rocky rookie campaign, he was put in a spot where very few players would succeed. The coach he was initially paired with (Jay Gruden) lobbied against drafting him, and he was thrown into his first game to execute another player’s game plan with limited practice.
Urban Meyer, Haskins’ former coach at Ohio State, hinted at the team’s dysfunction in a recent episode of NFL Network’s “Move the Sticks” podcast.
“So it’s the quarterback’s fault?” Meyer asked. “Never mind the fact that their coach got fired, the place is a mess, there’s this going on, there’s this going on, this going on. A lot of stuff I heard from behind the scenes — ‘cause, once again I have several players there — yet it’s Dwayne’s fault.
“To me, it’s about culture and leadership. You want Dwayne to be a great player? Surround him with some really great players. Surround him with a really elite culture.”
The case for Rodgers: The success speaks for itself. In Rodgers, you’re getting a two-time MVP who has led the Packers to sustained success.
So he’s old. So what? Tom Brady is six years older. Quarterbacks are more protected than ever, and Rodgers knows how to protect himself.
There certainly hasn’t been any drop in performance. All Rodgers does is throw for 4,000 yards and lead his team to the playoffs. This past season ended in the NFC title game, a place Washington has never been under Dan Snyder.
In Rodgers, you’re getting several years of a sure thing, a player who can immediately lift the players around him. And if you’re familiar with the “weapons” Rodgers has been given, you know Rodgers has done a lot of lifting.
The case against Haskins: In the NFL, it’s far more wise to bet against a quarterback’s success than betting on it. Every year several quarterbacks are taken in the first round — and every year many of them end up as career backups or wash out of the league.
It’s a brutal league. Quarterbacks have to adjust to more complicated defensive schemes, more talented defenders, and not having coaches who can help them read the defense in real time.
Haskins has the skill, but his last three coaches (Meyer, Gruden and Bill Callahan) have all questioned his maturity. Last season’s selfie-gate, when he was taking pictures with fans instead of kneeling on the ball to secure victory, was far from a serious offense, but it was seen as an example of his focus not being where it needed to be.
At any other position on the field, leadership is a desirable trait, but at quarterback, it’s mandatory. Rodgers has established himself as a leader. Haskins is still working on it.
The case against Rodgers: When the wheels fall off, they fall off quickly.
Just ask the guy who came before Rodgers, Brett Favre. His final season was tough to watch.
No matter when that comes, it won’t arrive with a discount. Rodgers will be getting paid $25 million a year through 2023, not counting the signing bonus money that will push the cap hit to more than $30 million in most of those seasons.
That’s real money, and by taking Haskins, you can get a star left tackle and receiver to build a more potent offense.
Rodgers has also been publicly critical of coaches in recent years, which sets a tone as to who is actually in charge.
The verdict: Taking Rodgers is the safe play. Put him on the right team, and they’re an instant Super Bowl contender. Put him on any team and a playoff appearance is likely.
Haskins is a gamble. If it pans out, your team is set for a decade at the most important position on the field. If it goes poorly, well, 3-13 isn’t out of the question.
The fact that it’s even a debate shows the salary cap’s importance and how rare it is to land on a rookie quarterback who can become a star. The pick is Rodgers, but Haskins has something every NFL general manager treasures: potential.