The Albert Haynesworth trade bought Mike Shanahan a little credibility, because it shows he's willing to move on from his own mistake. Now, he needs to capitalize on that and not pick any more fights.
The Albert Haynesworth trade to the Patriots means the end of the Haynesworth era in Washington D.C. Given all the drama that Haynesworth has caused, there's really not a ton that needs to be said. It's almost painful, really. We've spent so many pixels on Haynesworth that reliving the past two years is almost pointless.
So we won't. Instead, we'll discuss what this means for the Redskins' future. Right away, there's one man who stands to gain the most from Haynesworth's departure: Mike Shanahan. Yes, I know the irony in pointing this out, because it was Shanahan who was responsible for the Haynesworth situation dragging out like it did. But as Mark McGwire likes to say, we're not here to talk about the past. We're here to talk about the future.
The reality for Shanahan is this: he had to move Haynesworth for whatever he could. This is a conclusion that took too long for him to make, and frankly, it's a conclusion that may have taken too long for me to take. But if there was any doubt that Haynesworth needed to be shipped out, the events of the last couple days created even more urgeny that finally pushed Shanahan over the edge.
A few days ago, I wrote about how we needed to all be careful how we define a "distraction." The purpose of that wasn't to suggest that Haynesworth or Donovan McNabb needed to stay in Washington D.C., but more to make sure everyone commenting on their sagas were careful to ensure the "distraction" point wasn't clouded by their own bias. I was a bit concerned that, when it came to Haynesworth, those saying "cut him ASAP" were acting out of their own emotion.
Since then, there have been a series of events that have convinced me the "distraction" issue was enough of a reality than merely just being a concept from someone's head. The first key point was on Tuesday, when Brian Orakpo made strong public statements indicating he was tired of all the BS.
"It wears you down.. Last year and the years previous we talked to much about individuals that had problems with the organization."
That was just a small taste of the tone Orakpo took. Watch the full video, and you can tell he wasn't just saying the right things. It was a seminal moment because of Orakpo's status on the team. He's the one defensive player with the most upside, and he's being groomed as the future of the defense. When he speaks out like that, the Redskins should have listened.
The second seminal moment happened late Wednesday night, after the Redskins traded McNabb. It came after Haynesworth's agent confirmed that Haynesworth would be coming to training camp, mostly because the fine for holding out had increased significantly. Once that happened, there was a ton of noise among Redskins local beat reporters that the players wouldn't take it well. Jason Reid's tweet sums it up.
Talked to several Skins veterans about Haynesworth situation. Will not play well in locker room if long-running circus continues.
Now, I admit that this requires us to take a leap of faith. No Redskins players are on the record here. It's also not clear exactly what they said or if they were led on in any way. But I think there was enough smoke where it was still significant enough, especially after McNabb was traded.
What really convinced me, though, was what Rich Campbell of the Washington Times suggested earlier Thursday morning, right after the trade was completed.
No you can't. Players needed to see Shanahan swallow pride & move on. MT @jlovin: Cant underestimate what Albert trade means to locker room
It's crazy that it had to come to that, but consider Shanahan's history here. He definitely bothered a lot of players with his treatment of McNabb, especially his stubborn justifications for benching him against the Lions in Week 8. There's got to be some residue remaining from that. The Haynesworth issue was more complicated, but if Haynesworth were to report to camp on time, Shanahan would have no justification for deactivating him. Last year, he could at least justify the conditioning test to his team by saying it came because he wouldn't participate in the offseason training program. What would the justification have been this time?
So instead of going through that charade, Shanahan can show his team he can compromise. It's taken far too long, but at least now Shanahan has a second chance to reach his team. If he picks a fight with someone now, he'll have no excuses.
Whether Haynesworth succeeds in New England is irrelevant, and it should be irrelevant. The big issue now is that Shanahan has to earn whatever regained credibility he gained from finally moving on. If he can't, we'll surely be talking a lot more about the past.