Andrew Strickert, my MVN and Bloguin colleague who covers the Tennessee Titans, asked how we were getting along with Albert Haynesworth?
What? I asked in mock shock. You haven’t heard about the road rage charge and the sexual assault charge?
Both of those charges are alleged, so Andrew agreed with me that a presumption of innocence was called for.
“On the other hand,” said Andrew, “if Albert had a history of road rage incidents or a history of anger management issues, such as fights and stomping people’s faces, then I’d be tempted to think the worst.”
That particular line is from a post by Laserjock on the goTitans forum. They still talk about Big Al in Tennessee, mostly how happy they are he has gone.
Most Washington Redskins fans would be just as happy if he were out of Washington. But, should he go?
We like to challenge conventional wisdom around here, so here we go with…
Three Reasons to Keep Albert Haynesworth…
1. Haynesworth is the best defensive lineman in the league. That makes him the best defensive lineman on the team. Note: I’m not calling him the most effective lineman on Jim Haslett’s defense. Lack of confidence or motivation gets in Haynesworth’s way. No one now on the roster plugs a gap, or collapses a pocket the way Big Al can. No one creates opportunities for others the way Big Al does. Haynesworth off the field means it easier for opponents to game plan LaRon Landry and Brian Orakpo. To quote Bob Dole, you know it. I know it. The American people know it. The Redskins coaches know it, too. That’s why they drop broad hints that Big Al is welcome to stay…if he wants to.
2. The Haynesworth Way. Pro football is a game of precision, a game of inches as some describe it. Coaches perfect a system that works, develop assistants that understands the system and look for snap-in players who make it go. Former Redskins assistant head coach Gregg Williams always said “every player’s a starter.” He was going for depth, precision, and the sense that the whole defense was better when players accepted their role. Haynesworth argues that stifles what he is good at–disrupting the offense in a way no one can stop, or duplicate. He has a point. Williams earned his chops as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator. Tennessee eventually, grudgingly, learned to let Albert play his way. The payoff? In his last two years with the Titans, Haynesworth produced 91 total tackles and 14.5 sacks. Tennessee’s defense finished ranked fifth and seventh in those two years and the team won 23 regular season games in that span. Isn’t that what we brought Haynesworth here to do?
3. Haynesworth has no trade value. Albert Haynesworth is worth more to the Redskins than he is to any other team. When Mike Shanahan looks in the mirror, he will see the only man responsible. Big Al is what he always was. Shanahan eroded any shot at trading Haynesworth for value. The first step in remaking the Redskins was to break down the star system, the sense of privilege for the owner’s favorite players. I get that. Haynesworth was the perfect foil. But by the second day of “conditioning drill tests,” that only Haynesworth had to take, the coach went all tunnel vision on Big Al. With a little guile and a broader view of Washington’s need for multiple draft picks, Shanahan could have boosted Big Al as trade bait. All the coach had to do was to let Albert freelance a bit more for his video resume. It’s not as if that would have hurt Washington’s 31st-ranked pass defense. Talking Haynesworth up, rather than knocking him down, might have convinced cold-eyed GMs that they need to give up draft picks to get No. 92. Today, everyone is waiting out Shanahan until he cuts Haynesworth. It makes no football sense to cut Haynesworth.
and three reasons not
1. Albert Haynesworth is the biggest diva on the team. Willful refusal even to try to adapt to a new regime is beyond the pale. Haynesworth already said he would train this offseason as he did last season–his own regimen with his own trainer. Feeling betrayed by the new approach in defense, he’s not going to try to make that work. Save it for Oprah. The inmates don’t get to run the asylum. Keeping Haynesworth means this year will be like last year.
2. Off-field incidents erode franchise value. Hard to put a dollar figure on this, but Washington has enough problems holding on the fan allegiance without Big Al’s repeated off-field imbroglios. The Redskins pretty much avoided that throughout Dan Snyder’s ownership. High character is a team strength. It is most needed when adversity strikes as it did in 2007 with Sean Taylor’s tragic death. The ‘Skins made the playoffs that year…without Haynesworth.
3. Limited value to the defense. Haynesworth was inactive when the Redskins faced the Colts last season. Haynesworth’s brother passed away the week before. He was excused from practice and most believed Mike Shanahan gave him bereavement leave from the game. That was a factor, but Washington threw a lot of nickel and dime packages at the Colts. Haynesworth would have seen limited action for reasons already given. When the Redskins can’t throw a healthy premier defender at a premier opponent like Peyton Manning, there is no point to that player remaining on the team. Limiting when he is motivated to play limits his overall usefulness. Every employee struggles with this. Most work it out with a lot less drama.
Nothing to see here, folks. Move on.