"I think he can be a franchise-style quarterback," Rivera said during his introductory press conference.
That praise has value, especially when it comes from a coach who used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to select former MVP Cam Newton. Rivera and the Panthers had a plan to develop Newton when they drafted him, and he's trying to do the same with Haskins and the Redskins.
Rivera immediately followed that praise by saying some "veteran quarterbacks will also get some opportunities to play as well." He doubled down on that statement in the days leading up to Super Bowl LIV by saying the Redskins don't really have an answer at quarterback, but they have two candidates for the starting job in Haskins and presumably Alex Smith.
Haskins doesn't seem bothered by that. He actually sounds excited about it.
"I'm all for competition. At Ohio State, we competed every day," Haskins said at the Qatar National Day of Sport event in Washington D.C. on Friday. "And I'm looking forward to whoever is there. I'm just really excited for the opportunity to lead these guys and not only be a great player, but a leader as well."
Haskins was named the full-time starter in Week 9 of his rookie season and went 2-5 before spraining his ankle against the New York Giants in Week 16, forcing him to miss the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. His play was sporadic for much of the 2019 season, including two games in which he played in relief for Case Keenum, but it looked like Haskins was starting come into his own before his injury. In his final six quarters, Haskins completed 72% of his passes for 394 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Still, Rivera wants to see more out the second-year quarterback he inherited from the previous coaching staff. He wants Haskins to "step up and be a leader," which is expected of all great quarterbacks regardless of their experience. The work starts in the offseason, and Rivera wants to see Haskins put in the work now to earn a starting role in September.
"You've got to step up, you've got to be where you need to be, you've got to do things you're supposed to do," Rivera said. "That's all going to start with your offseason, how you prepare yourself, how do you get yourself ready?"
Haskins has already shown his teammates that he wants to be their leader. Many of them were impressed with how he handled himself in his first-career start against the Buffalo Bills and the way he maintained constant communication with every position group to see how he could help them.
"They guy's only 22 years old," Paul Richardson said after the game. "I liked that. You can tell he has really good leadership qualities. He's just finding his voice."
Adrian Peterson said he saw confidence in Haskins' eyes even though his performance in Buffalo wasn't all perfect. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 144 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
However, it isn't the players Haskins needs to impress; it's Rivera, offensive coordinator Scott Turner and the rest of the new coaching staff -- many of whom were coaching with the Panthers when he was coming out of Ohio State. They liked Haskins in their pre-draft interviews with him, but they still want to see him prove he is ready to be the quarterback of the future.
Doug Williams, who was recently promoted to senior vice president of player development, said Haskins was "ascending" before he suffered the injury. He still has a long way to go, Williams added, while also trying to prove something to the new coaches that are "not married to him."
"He has to look at it from that standpoint," Williams said. "It's about what he does, and he has all the ability to do what any coach wants him to do."
Rivera has seen a lot from the former Buckeye that points to him having the chance to meet those "franchise-style quarterback" expectations. He always goes back to the Redskins' Week 12 game against the Detroit Lions when Haskins led the offense to game-tying and -winning field goals to secure his first-career win.
"That's exciting," Rivera said during Super Bowl week in Miami. "That means the kid's beginning to learn and grow."
Haskins has also had some conversations with Rivera and the rest of the coaching staff. He seems excited for what Rivera will bring to Washington and said the team can do "big things" with him as the head coach.
"I look forward to the future and what we can do together as a team, and I think he's going to do a great job," Haskins said ahead of the NFL Honors on Feb. 1.
Rivera is currently working with his coaching staff to establish a core of players for the team to build around moving forward. Quarterback is one of those positions on offense, and Rivera isn't ruling out either Haskins or Smith, who will likely be the only two quarterbacks on the roster with Keenum and Colt McCoy set to be free agents in March.
Smith is still recovering from a broken leg he suffered during the 2018 season. He has offered little in terms of updates, although he has been running and throwing passes since October, and said at the end of last season that he still plans to play in 2020.
As far as what that means for Haskins, Smith isn't too concerned with that and said their own progressions have little, if anything to do with each other.
"For me, that's the last of my concerns," Smith said. "[Haskins'] path and trajectory and mine are not conflicting each other at all."
Should Smith be ready to play when training camp begins in July, it appears as if Rivera will give Smith a shot to earn a starting job. It would be the third time Haskins has competed to be the starting quarterback, as he did so during last preseason and ahead of the Giants game in Week 4.
Haskins knows Rivera will hold people accountable, so he understands he has to prove himself to his new head coach if he wants to remain the starting quarterback.
"That's cool," Haskins said of Rivera challenging him. "I'm just gonna have to work hard and eventually take it over. You just have to do your best to be accountable for what you have to do and be ready to go."