"I think he can become a franchise-style quarterback," he said.
Haskins appeared to show enough as a rookie to warrant that label. His final stats might not show his growth (1,365 yards with seven touchdowns and interceptions), but Haskins hit his stride against the Eagles and Giants before suffering an ankle injury in Week 16 that ended his first NFL season.
However, Rivera isn't ready to jump to any conclusions. Rivera immediately followed his praise by saying, "It's a process, though."
"What we're trying to do right now is develop a plan for his development as we go forward."
Haskins was taken 15th overall by the Redskins in the 2019 NFL Draft with the hope that he would eventually be the franchise quarterback. The former coaching staff didn't want to rush him into a starting role, though, and decided to let him sit and learn behind quarterbacks Case Keenum and Colt McCoy.
That plan didn't entirely go as anticipated, as Haskins replaced Keenum twice against the Giants and Vikings before being named the starter against the Buffalo Bills in Week 9.
Rivera has his own plan for Haskins and believes he's ready for the next stage of his development. There are specific things Rivera wants to see from Haskins in Year 2, namely stepping up and being the leader that the position demands.
"All the great ones have become leaders, and they've become leaders whether they're rookies or they're 10-, 12-year vets," Rivera said. "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."
For what it's worth, Haskins earned his teammates' respect against the Bills. The team ultimately lost, 24-9, but Haskins did complete 68% of his passes for 144 yards and zero turnovers in a rowdy and windy road environment.
"I saw the confidence in his eyes," said running back Adrian Peterson, who told Haskins to take ownership of the offense before kickoff. "I thought he came out and did a great job. It wasn't all perfect … but for his first start overall, I thought he did good."
Haskins spent halftime talking with his wide receivers about how he can improve his connection with them, which spoke volumes to veterans like Paul Richardson.
"The guy's only ... 22 years old," Richardson said. "I liked that. You can tell he has really good leadership qualities. He's just finding his voice."
That kind of effort is what Rivera wants to see out of Haskins.
"He's got to be a guy that's willing to step up in front of his teammates and tell them, 'Hey, let's go, man. Let's roll," Rivera said.
And Haskins knows he has to get better. Even after putting forth his best statistical game against the Eagles (he completed 19 of 28 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns) his main focus was improving to help his team win games.
"I'm nowhere close to where I want to be," Haskins said after the 37-27 loss. "That should be an average day for me. I will continue to work on it and get better."
Rivera compared Haskins' situation to the one he faced as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, when the team drafted quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Both saw playing time in their rookie seasons, and while Newton was the starter all season, he and Haskins had similar completion percentages (58.6 to 60) and yards per attempt (6.7 to 7.3).
The quarterbacks also have a similar physical makeup. Haskins is listed as 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, while Newton is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. And as far as wins and losses are concerned, Haskins was 2-5 as a starter while Newton was 6-10.
As the Panthers did with Newton, Rivera emphasized the importance of sticking to the plan when it comes to developing a young quarterback like Haskins.
"We can't get ahead of it," Rivera said. "We've got to stay to stay to the plan and make sure we're preparing ourselves properly to win football games."
Rivera is going to give Haskins and the rest of his teammates as much support as possible and will try to be a teacher in his new position. But he also emphasized that it's going to be a process with Haskins, and it will be paramount to stick to that process if he is to be the "franchise-style quarterback" he and the rest of the organization believes he can become.
"That's all going to start with the offseason, how you prepare yourself," Rivera said. "How do you get yourself ready? I think that's probably one of the biggest things we've got to do."