Friday, June 18, 2010

Thanks for making me look bad, Albert

For the past several months most of what has been written about Albert Haynesworth has been unnecessary. He said straight up that he would not attend any of the voluntary activities. And yet every day he was absent, it was somehow news. The media, desperate for anything to write about during minicamps, would indignantly exclaim "Albert's still not here! But he makes so much money!" This reminded me of the old SNL news reports that Franco was "still dead." My reaction was always, "We already knew that. Wake me up if he doesn't show up for the mandatory stuff." I said this on the assumption that he would be here for the mandatory stuff.


Up until this little bombshell his actions had been defensible. I do think he was overreacting to the scheme change, but although I didn't love what he was doing it was totally within his rights. The union negotiated limits on the number of mandatory offseason practices, and that has to mean something. Voluntary is voluntary. And I respected that he didn't take the typical disgruntled veteran tactic of just not showing up, giving no explanation, and turning off his cell phone. He was straightforward about what he was doing. Even Mike Shanahan had to admit it: "... I respect him being there the first day and sitting down and talking to me man to man. Any time a person's willing to do that, you feel good about the communication."

And don't try to tell me that because he has such a large contract he should work harder than anyone else. Anyone who is surprised to see the highest-paid employee acting the most entitled has clearly never had a job anywhere.

But he no longer has a moral leg to stand on. He's in violation of his contract. If the Redskins had been able to get decent value for him he would be gone by now, and he can't expect them to give him away for nothing. He made his point, but he's clearly stuck here and he may as well get the best of it. And by taking his act to extreme lengths, he destroyed whatever chance he had of getting what he wants. The Redskins are desperate sellers, so why would anyone offer value? 

And the other Redskins players, instead of the usual empty stock quotes, now seem genuinely pissed off.  TORB compiled some good quotes, and they are not your typical athlete interviews:

Casey Rabach: "You have an obligation to be here. You really do. I can see the OTAs and that stuff, but, y'know, to put the final touches and polishing touches before we go to camp, it's getting selfish now."

Andre Carter: "We all expected him to be here. For him not to show, well, it's obvious that he doesn't want to be here. Fine. We respect that decision. We kinda wish, though, that he should've made that statement a long time ago rather than waiting until June.... It comes to a point that you're either with us or not with us."
Philip Daniels, who had earlier gone on the Extreme Skins message board to clarify that his and other players' dissatisfaction with Haynesworth had, back at that time, been overstated.  But now: "...we all feel like he turned his back on us...for him not to show up, and everybody wants to see him come in here and fix this ... it's just sad."
This is striking stuff.  Players just don't say these things about other players' disputes with management.

There were reports that after skipping the mandatory minicamp he would show up to training camp in August, but I'm not sure I buy it. First, if you're resigned to that then why not do the first mandatory practice as well? Also, things are so bitter now I doubt he can have a productive relationship with the coaches. Granted its a business and coaches, players, and management have to deal with disputes all the time, but this has reached an impressive level of acrimony. 

The agent is saying things like "[The Redskins are] not an organization that Albert would have ever been attracted to... He has made it clear to me that he does not want to play for the Washington Redskins."  That's hard to go back on.  And even dicier, the Redskins are apparently going to try to take back much of his bonus.  I see no possible way that Haynesworth and the coaching staff can work together under these circumstances.

As I think I've made clear, Haynesworth is now unambiguously in the wrong.  But still the most frustrating thing about this situation is that it's completely unnecessary.  Without the new staff's insistance on a mystifying scheme change, none of this would be an issue.  Instead of trying to get any sort of value for Haynesworth, we could still be in a position to utilize one of the best defensive players in the game.

The defense didn't underachieve because of the front seven. The defense underachieved because Greg Blache was thoroughly out-coached week after week. The secondary was a disaster, but the front seven played quite well though not up to their potential because of Blache's utter predictability. My friends and I sitting at home would call out where the pass rush was coming from on every play, and were almost always right. If there was no mystery to schmucks like us I imagine professional quarterbacks had little to worry about. And yet the players got pretty good pressure by using their sheer talent to win matchups.

The front seven talent was the one and only part of the team that wasn't a mess. The personel were perfect for a good 4-3:

- Haynesworth, obviously

- Kedric Golston was a solid and effective though not star-level DT for the nose spot

- Several hybrid end/tackles who provided good production from DT on passing downs (Philip Daniels, Jeremy Jarmon, Lorenzo Alexander)

- Excellent three man rotation of DEs - Brian Orakpo, Andre Carter, and Chris Wilson

- Exceptional 4-3 Mike backer in London Fletcher - one of the greats at his job and now he is changing positions.

Now we're going to rely on DTs coming off injury, ILBs who who struggle shedding blockers (Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh) who will be asked to take on uncovered guards, and OLBs who are raw in pass coverage.

This new scheme just might work brilliantly, but there's so much risk of failure. Given that the offense will likely be a work in progress for at least a year, wouldn't you want to assure yourself a solid defense by making slight scheme adjustments to your very good 4-3 talent? This is clearly a case of fixing something that ain't broke. I am a big fan of defense generally and the Redskins defense in particular. If Jim Haslett wrecks my defense I will be very angry.
Nonetheless, Haynesworth has finally pushed things to the point that even I can no longer defend him.  This hurts me, because I spent the entire 2008 season dreaming of seeing Haynesworth in a Redskins uniform, and for once I got what he wanted.  He took alot of heat from the fans and media, but most of it was unfounded.  He simply instilled fear - real, visible, fear - in offensive lines.  In almost every game, it was clear the opposition's game plan was built around limiting the damage he would wreak.  I hate that this opportunity is being wasted.


  1. SIR........ i have been saying the exact same thing. At first I was like, why do we keep talking about this. the story hasnt changed as it shouldnt. the man said that he was not coming so why are we expecting him early. and i was a little sympathetic because he was lied to by management. but after i heard what shanny said about the pre April 1 thing, he lost me as a defender. by taking that check, to me he said im gonna let go of anything that i have been unhappy with prior to this day of April 1, 2010. and im gonna go and do whatever the coaches ask of me.

  2. SIR - Nice. I am strongly in favor of the Economist format for blog comments.

  3. awesome post. very reasonable perspective on AH. not sure i agree 100% about the scheme switch - i appreciate that haslett wants to emphasize pressure and turnovers; our D ranking has been high for years, yet our D has not been impactful. our personnel may not be perfect, but i think it's close enough to fit the 3-4. everything else you said about haynesworth seems spot on.

    i really like your stuff so i added you to the blogroll on my Skins blog, check me out sometime. the link to my blogroll is in an icon at the bottom of my homepage.