By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Washington was lethargic and uninspired to open a game where they had a chance to clinch the NFC East championship. With a young team that was collectively playing in the biggest professional game in their careers, Washington was clearly distracted after trying to sift through the cloud of controversy brought on by quarterback Dwayne Haskins and team owner Daniel M. Snyder during the preceding week.
The revelations of Haskins’ ill-timed behavior at a birthday party for his girlfriend following the loss to Seattle hovered over FedEx like the stench from the controversy involving Snyder and sexual harassment allegations. Washington was listless at kickoff and played with no enthusiasm or rhythm offensively. On a day that was primed for a celebration, they were dispatched 20-13 by one of the NFL’s worst teams.
Thus, the Dwayne Haskins era ended in Washington with a whimper on Monday when the organization released him. When first drafted by Washington, the deposed quarterback said he wanted to be the face of the franchise he cheered on growing up. Instead, he leaves disgraced and looking for a second chance as a Black quarterback with a penchant for making bad decisions on and off the field.
Haskins was outed on social media after images circulated of him at a party, where he violated NFL COVID-19 protocols by not wearing a mask. He was fined $40,000 and stripped of his captain’s title, while having to deal with the public scrutiny of his immature decision. If Alex Smith had been healthy enough to play, Haskins would’ve probably been inactive. Instead midway through the fourth quarter the team’s top pick in the 2018 draft was replaced by Tyler Heinicke, who played for the XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks last spring.
However, after the Washington Post reported Snyder paid $1.6 million to settle a 2009 sexual harassment lawsuit on Friday, it was clear the Football Team would be playing against a 12th man at home. According to the latest report, and in a story that broke just over 48 hours before Sunday’s kickoff, an incident happened on Snyder’s private plane on a flight returning from the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. While Snyder’s business partners called the woman’s allegation, “a serious accusation of sexual misconduct,” he remained defiant that it was just an extension of their attempt to take ownership away from him.
As for the quarterback and the Panthers game, Haskins was lucky there were no fans in FedEx Field stands after two first half interceptions that killed scoring chances. They were two of four giveaways before halftime where he looked overmatched by the Carolina defense, as he succumbed to the pressure of the moment with nobody to blame, but himself. Terry McLaurin, Haskins favorite target and college teammate was inactive, which rendered Washington’s aerial game grounded. If this was his last time playing as D.C.’s quarterback his dubious tenure ended 14/28, 154 yards, and two interceptions.
Panthers running back Curtis Samuel victimized the D.C. secondary twice in the first half, with long receptions to set up Panther scores. Samuel torched the Washington secondary for only five catches for 106 yards, although the defense didn’t give up a score after halftime.
However, going into the final week of the season, Washington still controls their own fate. A win at Philadelphia in the NFL’s final regular season game Sunday night and they win the division. Considering what they have been through all season, that’s all they could have asked.