In a lot of ways, Dwayne Haskins isn’t unlike a lot of young people. Fresh out of college, where they excelled in classes geared to prepare them for their chosen profession, but once they get into a job with a paycheck and expectations and co-workers who are as talented or more talented than they are, some put their nose down immediately and figure out what it will take to survive and excel, some take a little longer to grasp that notion, and others flail.
It’s life. Adulting is hard. That’s not just a graphic for your favorite sweatshirt, it actually is hard. For so many of us, we spend our first 18 to 22 years protected by parents or guardians, our primary concerns revolving around social acceptance and trying to pass chemistry. Then somewhere along the line that protective bubble is pretty much gone, and there are bills to pay and budgets to make and priorities to juggle.
By all accounts, Haskins, who was waived by the Washington Football Team on Monday, less than two full seasons after being drafted 15th overall, isn’t a bad young man. He was inexperienced when he was drafted and his immaturity didn’t help. He didn’t put in the work needed to play quarterback at an NFL level, wasn’t committed to the first-one-in, last-one-out work ethic required of the position, especially for someone in the early stages of his career.
But let’s be crystal clear: Haskins’ stumble should not be held against any other player, particularly Black quarterbacks. His situation is his and his alone, and it is entirely unfair to paint it any other way.
Unfortunately, ESPN analyst Booger McFarland already did, which is why this is being written.
Yes, Haskins may be a bust, though hopefully he’ll land with a team that wants him and get good coaching and a chance to learn where there’s a starter in place. But bringing up Haskins’ name with JaMarcus Russell — an epic bust drafted 13 years ago, a lifetime in NFL years — is a stretch.
Any quarterback taken in the first round, especially higher in the first round, is hyped by media and the fan base as the potential franchise savior; after all, he wouldn’t have been a high pick if the team was coming off a successful season.
You’d be hard pressed to find a quarterback who got more pre-draft hype than Johnny Manziel in 2014. Nike even made and sold a capsule collection of gear for Manziel’s Texas A&M pro day, and he was seemingly everywhere before he’d even taken an NFL snap.
Eight starts over two seasons and countless negative headlines later — including allegations of partner violence — and Manziel was out of the league. Haskins’ transgressions, as far as we know, aren’t nearly as egregious (which is not to say it was wrong for Washington to move on from him).
Yet after Manziel’s flameout, no one was saying, as McFarland did with Black players on Monday night, that white NFL players who come into the league are interested in only social media followings and building their brands, and not in becoming better players.
It’s not true of the vast majority of white players and it’s not true of the vast majority of Black players either.
No player of any background lasts in this league if he isn’t putting in the work and being productive on the field. And so many are doing so much more than that.
The past two NFL MVPs, quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, are Black. Twenty-five of the 32 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees this year are Black. Six of the eight finalists for the league’s Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award are Black.
But Dwayne Haskins is a drag on every player of his race?
And as for the notion that players are interested in building their personal brand: good. They should be. The NFL will chew up players and spit them out, physically broken and without warning. If they’re not working on their post-playing life while they’re still collecting team paychecks, they’re setting themselves up to fail once their playing days are done.
In the words of Marshawn Lynch, players should be taking care of their bodies, their chicken and their mentals, “and when y’all ready to walk away [from football], you walk away and be able to do what you want to do.”
Players spend hours during the season studying film and preparing for games, and in the offseason they’re working out every day to stay in shape. There’s also time in the offseason to finish a degree, take part in an internship, invest in a franchise or record commercials. If they’re doing it right, they’re laying the foundation for a fulfilling life post-NFL. Because lest we forget, even for the lucky ones, that phase will start when they’re just 30 or 32 years old, with decades left to live.
Haskins’ issues aren’t unfamiliar, but they are his. They shouldn’t be painted any other way.
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