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Haynesworth Suspension the Latest Act
Maybe it was too much to think that Mike Shanahan could undo years of damage in Washington just because he was the new sheriff in town. Maybe it was ridiculous to think that order would immediately be restored.
It certainly seems foolish now that the Redskins (5-7) are a mess – again – complete with embarrassing performances, high-profile controversies, and now even a player suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. All that’s missing is for Dan Snyder to step out of his owner’s box and run some interference.
Then the circus will really be back in town.
Even without that, though, Shanahan has his hands full with a hapless team that somehow has managed to be just as bad as the 2009 edition — even if their record is going to end up slightly better. Injuries have ravaged their offense and controversies are taking apart their chemistry piece by piece — whether it’s the benching of quarterback Donovan McNabb because of his conditioning, or the ongoing saga of Albert Haynesworth, their $100 million suspended man.
Actually, it all was on display in the Redskins’ 31-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday, a do-or-die game that could have gotten them back to the fringe of the playoff chase. Instead, their effort was questionable and their performance was disastrous. Before they opened their eyes they were down 28-0. Before it was over, they had turned over the football six times.
McNabb played well, but he’s done nothing this season to make anyone think he has a long-term future in Washington — except for the fact that he signed a much-ridiculed, five-year, $78 million contract extension. That came a week after he was benched for Rex Grossman — Rex Grossman! — in the final two minutes of a winnable game because of Shanahan’s concern about his “cardiovascular endurance.”
That was a remarkable takedown of a franchise quarterback that had cost the organization a ton in both contract and trade, and certainly opened up questions about whether Shanahan and McNabb were ever — or could ever be – on the same page. Those questions seemed to be answered by his contract extension — until it was revealed he could be cut after the season and the Skins would owe just $3.75 million, which led to even more questions about the Redskins’ future plans.
And then there’s big Albert Haynesworth, who has been a thorn in Shanahan’s side since the minute he took over as coach and decided he wanted to run a 3-4 defense. Haynesworth didn’t like it and the two have been battling ever since as Haynesworth continued to collect his sizeable checks.
At least he continued to collect them until Tuesday, when the Redskins suspended him without pay after things got so bad that Haynesworth went to Redskins GM Bruce Allen and said he would no longer talk to Shanahan. That came after Haynesworth missed a practice the previous week with what the team called an “illness” and apparently missed a team meeting, too. He reportedly even got into a heated exchange with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and, as a result, was inactive against the Giants.
Not that he really seemed to care.
“It’s whatever,” Haynesworth said. “They choose to sit me, then they choose to sit me. It’s their organization. I’m just a piece.”
Not a welcomed piece, though. Shanahan hammered him and his attitude in the statement he released when the suspension was announced.
“Despite the club’s numerous attempts to persuade Albert Haynesworth to abide by the terms of his contract, he has repeatedly refused to cooperate with our coaching staff in a variety of ways over an extended period of time,” Shanahan said. “Among other things, he has consistently indicated to our defensive coaches that he refuses to play in our base defense or on first-down or second-down nickel situations. He has also refused to follow the instructions of our coaches both during weekly practices and during actual games as well.”
That’s startling, insubordinate conduct. And it wore on Haynesworth’s Redskins teammates, too. Defensive end Phillip Daniels ripped into Haynesworth on Monday because he “let (his) teammates down in a lot of ways.”
And apparently, Haynesworth isn’t alone. Daniels indicated a lot of players have been letting down the team.
“That’s the problem with this team for a while now,” Daniels said. “Guys not wanting to practice, guys not wanting to put forth the effort to help this team be better. … If you ain’t all in, you don’t need to be here. I’m tired of going through season after season where we lose games we should win, guys not doing the right thing, guys not putting the effort in.
“I’m tired of that. The Redskins, we deserve better as a team and as fans.”
That was all supposed to change when Shanahan took over. So was the quality of football.
“It’s the same old story, week in and week out,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “We’re just not a sound fundamental football team. (We’re) probably the worst tackling team I’ve been around. (We) don’t do the fundamental things well. (We) don’t catch footballs, don’t hold onto the ball, don’t tackle well.”
Oh, is that all?
Shanahan is getting $7 million per season through 2014 from Snyder to change all that, to keep the Redskins from continually being among the laughingstocks of the NFL. Maybe he eventually will.
But it’s obviously going to take a lot longer than just one year.