With the Albert Haynesworth saga all but over, the constant drama hovering over D.C. can take refuge wherever Randy Moss is these days. The Redskins seem to have finally cut their losses, suspending the mercurial Haynesworth for the remainder of the season and moving on from what was quite possibly the worst signing in an extensive history of ill-advised moves by the franchise.
I don't know what was harder to endure the past few months: Fat Al's attitude, the 24/7 media coverage of all things Haynesworth right down to his latest bathroom break or the organization's handling of the whole damn mess.
For starters I'll single out Haynesworth. I was able to watch him up close and personal at training camp and home games this season. From my perspective, I can tell you the guy just didn't care. You could see it in his body language and his performance; he was a lost cause. Still, I held out hope he'd play well enough to score a trade out of town. The coaching staff tried to accommodate him by moving him from nose tackle to defensive end in the Okie package and then to a role where he played solely on passing downs.
All along, Haynesworth told the media he wanted Hall of Fame numbers. Hall of Fame defensive linemen usually draw recognition from their sack totals, and so the $100 million man only wanted to be on the field when he could pin his ears back. Of course this desire was in opposition to what Jim Haslett wanted him to do, but the new defensive coordinator played the game, hoping to get some sort of production out of him. It didn't happen as Haslett received a measly 2.5 sacks in eight games and more commotion than he had ever wanted.
The firestorm of media coverage blew up during the conditioning test Haynesworth was required to pass before joining the rest of his teammates in practice. The epic battle that pitted him against some football cones and the iron will of Mike Shanahan simply illustrated how reporters' obsessive coverage of so trivial a matter can transform it into headline news. In those 10 days, Haynesworth became a national story that transcended the sports world all due to the around the clock coverage that should never have exploded to such a level.
However, the fact is that Haynesworth and all his actions were under such a microscope that anything which even somewhat resembled a development in the story meant the team as a whole would be an afterthought. The situation had become bigger than the Washington Redskins and it might have been a good idea to cut bait and run before the season even started. Instead Shanahan met it head on.
I'm all for a head coach who asserts control over the locker room. Jim Zorn couldn't do that, and look where it landed him. But Shanahan already had control of the Redskins in training camp. They had bought into his system and were behind him 100 percent, meaning he didn't need to showcase his authority with some grandiose display of power. Yet Shanahan did just that by escalating his feud with Haynesworth to the forefront on numerous occasions throughout the season.
Haynesworth was paid a lot of money and he possesses a great deal of talent. Undoubtedly, the Redskins held on to see if they could coax a return out of a hefty investment, but did that merit 13 weeks of chaos where the team and Shanahan himself expressed numerous times they were sick and tired of the whole issue? He clearly didn't like Haynesworth nor did he value him all that highly considering he deactivated him three times this season. So why keep him this long when the entire mess overshadowed a team trying to shed the image of mediocrity both on and off the field?
The way the coaching staff handled Haynesworth only exacerbated the problem. They blamed him for showing up late to practice, failing to work hard and not being in football shape. All those things were likely true, but if that's so, then why retain his services for this long? The Redskins had him on the roster for no apparent reason aside from creating an unwelcome storyline anytime they chose to deactivate him. It doesn't make sense to let the situation linger at the expense of an entire locker room that was sick of dealing with it.
But Shanahan allowed the wounds to fester by poking and prodding at Haynesworth constantly. As much as the new Redskins head coach told reporters he hated discussing the beleaguered defensive lineman, he certainly didn't seem to mind giving them grounds to ask questions about him. Football shape be damned, there was no reason to deactivate him against Indianapolis when Washington was already relying on the worst defensive line in football against Peyton Manning. A half-productive Albert Haynesworth is still better than anyone else on that line, but Shanahan decided he had taken enough reps in practice the week leading up to the game. So he sat and the controversy started up again.
I applaud the Redskins for finally acknowledging a lost cause, but it's partially their fault it even came to this. The whole affair should have been decided weeks ago, but instead the players were forced to stand by and watch their head coach lose his cool with an immature baby who's now laughing all the way to the bank. It's no wonder the team can't perform on the field when things are so dysfunctional off of it.