"You're going to get your chance," Rivera told him. "Take advantage of your reps."
Sure enough, Allen received his first-career start in Week 17 against the New Orleans Saints, who were 13-2 at the time. Allen scored a one-yard rushing touchdown on the Panthers' first drive to kick off the team's 33-14 drubbing over its division rival.
That opportunity led to Allen starting 12 games for the Panthers in 2019, and now he will have another chance to prove himself with the Washington Football Team naming him the starter for Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams. Allen and his coaches believe he has learned a lot from his experiences as a starter and backup, and they believe he is well-prepared to lead Washington's offense.
"I'm always ready," Allen said Wednesday. "For me, it's just being ready to go and take advantage of your opportunity when it comes."
Allen, who joined Washington via trade in March, has shown he has the skills to be a starting-caliber quarterback. While Cam Newton was nursing a Lisfranc fracture, Allen came in as the team's starting signal-caller in Week 3 of the 2019 season and threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns in Carolina's 38-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Allen won his next three games, too, helping the Panthers get off to a 4-2 start. In his first four starts of the year, Allen completed 66% of his passes for 901 yards and seven touchdowns. Although he lost seven of his next eight starts, Allen finished the year 3,322 yards and 17 touchdowns to 16 interceptions.
Allen said he was "thrown into the fire" last year and learned from the positive and negative situations that arose throughout the season.
"I think looking back on the tape last year, situationally, there's a lot of things that I can grow from and learn from," he said. "There's a bunch of other things I learned from, too. But, I think that's the main thing."
Allen was a backup once again once he came to Washington. He did not take any starting reps in training camp, but Rivera praised his growth in the offense.
"Kyle's done a nice job," Rivera said Aug. 20. "I think his decision making for the most part is good. You see that he has a grasp and an understanding for the things we're doing."
Rivera has always offered his support to Allen, even dating back to his days as the fourth quarterback on the Panthers' roster.
"In practice, he would make sure you were saying things, and he would say things and work with me," Allen said in March. "As the head coach, you don't have to do that for the fourth guy. At that time, they brought me in to be that. I turned out to be more than that."
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said the 2019 season was essentially Allen's rookie year, although technically he was in his second season. He feels like Allen learned a lot from being a backup and saw the position from "a different lens" than he would as a starter.
"I think this time away from playing has...given him a chance to step back and learn about himself. It'll help him going forward."
Allen said "you get a different point of view" as a backup. He was able to see things a little slower and comprehend the offense, which he said has "hundreds of formations, hundreds of concepts, hundreds of plays."
"There are things that I have learned and seen from just standing to the side and watching from afar. But I'm excited to get out there. I'm ready to go play."
Allen's experience in the system is expected to help the offense; that was part of Rivera's reasoning for making him the starter in place of Haskins. Turner said the playbook doesn't necessarily open up more with Allen as the starter, but he does have more familiarity with certain concepts.
"I think if there is a different look that maybe we've talked about but Dwayne might have not necessarily seen it that will get the response or reaction we were looking for," Turner said. "Kyle's going to have the opportunity to play with the same guys that Dwayne's playing with. We'll all see the results."
With Washington sitting at 1-3 after the first quarter of the season, the team still has a chance to earn a playoff spot with the rest of the NFC East having a combined record of 2-9-1. Rivera wants to win -- he made that clear to reporters Wednesday afternoon -- and he's willing to take a chance on a player who has won him games in the past to do so.
"We're putting the ball in the hands of somebody that knows the system better, that's been through the system for three years," Rivera said. "That's what we're doing, and we're trying to create ways to win. We think this is a good opportunity for us to win."