Joe Burrow is arguably coming off the greatest single-season ever by a college football quarterback.
The LSU signal-caller finished the 2019 season a Heisman Trophy winner and a National Champion with a perfect 15-0 record. The 23-year-old broke numerous SEC and college football records with his 5,671 passing yards, 60 passing touchdowns, and just six interceptions.
Burrow, the presumed No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, only ended up at LSU because he did not win the starting QB job at Ohio State. After three years in the program and a recent Buckeye graduate at the time, Burrow announced his intentions to transfer from Ohio State shortly after spring ball ended in 2018.
During that spring, the Buckeyes had an open quarterback competition, and current Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins beat out Burrow for the job. So, how did that happen?
Ohio State beat reporter Bill Rabinowitz joined the latest Redskins Talk podcast to explain how.
Rabinowitz explained that the competition between Haskins and Burrow started long before the spring of 2018. During the 2017 season, Burrow was the backup over Haskins at first, but broke his hand earlier in the season. Haskins became the backup in his place. Haskins, a redshirt freshman at the time, was forced into action against Michigan after longtime starter J.T. Barrett injured his knee in the third quarter.
Haskins rallied the Buckeyes to a victory over their rival Wolverines on the road, which gave him a significant leg up over Burrow in the battle entering spring ball.
«It was an open competition, but we all basically know that Burrow was going to have to knock out the champ,» Rabinowitz said. «If you go into Ann Arbor and rally the Buckeyes to win there, that’s a huge thing on your résumé.»
Rabinowitz explained that the two quarterbacks were practically even during spring ball; neither one stood out above the other. But with Burrow set to graduate in three years, there was no reason for him to stay if he wasn’t the starter. He earned the right to explore his options and chose to head south to LSU.
«Urban Meyer and Ryan Day, the offensive coordinator at the time, had seen what Haskins did in a game, and watched those two in practice,» Rabinowitz said. «There wasn’t a lot of separation. They wanted both to stay, but Burrow earned the right to move on. There were no hard feelings. It was a completely understandable move by all sides. This was a win-win.»
The following fall, Haskins rewarded both Meyer and Day for naming him the starter, leading Ohio State to a 13-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory. Haskins finished third in Heisman Trophy voting and set multiple Ohio State single-season passing records in the process. Additionally, he shattered Drew Brees’ Big Ten single-season passing touchdowns record (Brees had 39, Haskins finished with 50).
In Burrow’s first year with LSU in 2018, he finished with just under 2,900 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, and five interceptions. That’s a solid season, but nothing spectacular, especially when comparing it to Haskins’ 2018 campaign.
«Last year, in 2018, when you asked which quarterback would you rather have, there were no Ohio State fans who said ‘I wish Burrow were here instead of Haskins,'» Rabinowitz said.
«I don’t think anyone, not even Joe Burrow, could have envisioned what he did at LSU,» he continued. «It’s only because Burrow went off this year, had a year for the ages [that we’re having this discussion].»
The one thing that surprised Ohio State with Haskins was not his production in 2018, but his decision to leave for the NFL after just one season as the starter. When Burrow transferred in 2018, he had already graduated. Haskins was just a redshirt sophomore at the time and had two years of eligibility remaining following the 2018 season.
But the combination of Haskins’ incredible season with a weak quarterback class had the Ohio State passer shoot up draft boards towards the end of the 2018 season.
«[Ohio State] expected him to have two years, maybe even three,» Rabinowitz said. «It wasn’t until midseason, maybe even the later part of the season, where they were like, ‘Oh my god, this guy might leave.'»
Haskins left, and the Redskins selected him No. 15 overall. Justin Fields, the No. 1 quarterback recruit from the 2018 class, transferred from Georgia to Ohio State days later, and led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff in 2019. So, this situation also seemed to be a win-win for both sides.
«So I think the fans, the contrarians who wanted Burrow [over Haskins], they’d be looking for a quarterback next year,» Rabinowitz said. «[Ohio State] doesn’t have to. Ohio State has Justin Fields, who’s going to be a Heisman frontrunner next year.»
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How Dwayne Haskins beat Joe Burrow for the starting QB job at Ohio State originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington