Grief and Albert Haynesworth

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 02:  Washington Redskins fan 'Chief Zee' fights back tears during a pre game ceremony honoring the late Sean Taylor before the game against the Buffalo Bills on December 2, 2007 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)



The writers at Redskins Hog Heaven figured the Washington Redskins for seven or eight wins this season. The Redskins are on that pace. The only surprise is the three teams they actually beat

The scenario  we envisioned for the Redskins to break out to nine or more wins involved Albert Haynesworth and tonight’s opponent, the Indianapolis Colts.

This is the last round of weekend games before the NFL trading deadline on October 19. What better time for Big Al and Mike Shanahan to work together on the outcome they both seem to want–Albert elsewhere. Both have been saying all the right things lately. That can be interpreted as talking up Haynesworth’s trade value.

A great showing tonight might brand Haynesworth enough as a “must have” player that some GM might kick in the draft picks Washington needs to restock the team. GMs will just sit on their hands otherwise and wait out the Redskins who may release Haynesworth next season.

Haynesworth suffered a death in his family. He took bereavement leave from the team and did not return until Thursday. People deal with death in ways unique to themselves. We don’t know how Big Al is coping. Whether he plays or not is a game time decision and it’s likely his decision.

Working your craft while dealing with death is incredibly difficult. If you are my age, you’ve been through it. If you have, then you know what must be going through Big Al’s head today. If you are under 40, just sit tight. Your day is coming.

To over-simplify the point, one can cope by withdrawing from work, or throwing oneself into it. If Haynesworth’s head is not in tonight’s game, he should remove himself without any comment or finger pointing from the peanut gallery.

Sports teams are entertainers and losses suffered by NFL players are very public. Its affect can take strange turns in the locker room. Look no further than what happened at FedEx Field December 2, 2007.

What we learned from the 2007 Redskins

The Redskins tried to channel grief from the death of Sean Taylor into an emotional win against the Buffalo Bills. Grief led them to a series of dumb moves. The ‘Skins opened their defense of the Bills’ first possession with 10 men on the field to honor Taylor as the “missing man.” LaRon Landry played deep safety as thestopgap against a long pass.

Instead, the Bills ran the ball gaining 22 yards on the play. The Bills did not score, but there were severe repercussions for the Redskins.

Daniel Snyder seethed that Gregg Williams colluded with the defensive players on the stunt without the knowledge of head coach Joe Gibbs. It cost Williams any shot at head coach when Gibbs stepped down at the end of the season.

Grief-stricken Snyder would name Vinny Cerrato as executive vice president of football operations. Cerrato led the coach search that gave us Jim Zorn and all that followed.

Gibbs was holding his emotionally compromised team together while rethinking life and where he was at that moment. His then three-year old grandson was diagnosed with blood cancer. For the second time in his professional career, he found himself in touch with his family by video while he was with the team. Life was repeating itself and he did not like it.

Late that game, Gibbs attempted to call two consecutive time-outs to ice Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell’s go-ahead field goal attempt. Lindell was successful on both attempts. The Bills won a game 17-16 that they were expected to lose.

Gibbs was lambasted afterwards for the double time-outs, mostly by insensitive fans who said he lost it to age rather than grief. Gibbs never complained, but the episode must have fed thoughts of “I don’t need this sh*t.” He walked away at the end of the season.

The Bills ranked low in rushing defense that season. They held Clinton Portis, Taylor’s close friend, to 50 yards rushing. They went 1-3 in their last four games.

The Redskins won their last four games to make the playoffs. If they hadn’t worn their grief on their sleeves, they might have beat Buffalo that night to finish the season 10-6 instead of 9-7. They might have avoided the trip west to face the Seattle Seahawks, a 35-14 loss. They, not the New York Giants, might have upset the Cowboys the following weekend then faced the Packers for the conference championship. Gregg Williams might have been named head coach.

Playing well was the fitting tribute to Sean Taylor.

The dream scenario

If life flowed like a Hollywood script, Haynesworth would be so inspired by his brother’s death that he would be a one-man wrecking crew on national television tonight against the Colts to fuel a Redskins win.

The Colts are not a movie. Life doesn’t follow a script. Players should play if their head is in the game, if they are making smart plays, or at least avoiding dumb ones.

If playing well helps Haynesworth cope with his loss, then good for him and God help the Colts.

If Big Al isn’t at that point, then he should take time out and God help him.

However it goes, no comments from the peanut gallery please. Grief is going to happen to you too.

Point after: Redskins Hog Heaven again extends our condolences to the Haynesworth family for their loss.

My Magic 8 Ball says the Redskins will win tonight.

UPDATE: SNF All-Access – Haynesworth Woulld’ve “Loved to Play” Tonight


Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.