by Michael Lombardi
May 10, 02010
QUOTE: “True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.” -- Edith Wharton
Albert Haynesworth and the ‘Skins
There’s clearly a showdown happening in the nation’s capitol, but it has nothing to do with the new Supreme Court justice appointment being announced today. This showdown is between the Redskins’ 100-million-dollar man and the team that’s paying him all that money. Albert Haynesworth was signed a year ago in March by owner Daniel Snyder and his general manager, Vinny Cerrato, to be a dominating inside defensive tackle, but now the ‘Skins are under new management. Mike Shanahan takes over, and the new staff wants Haynesworth to be a nose tackle — a two-gap nose tackle who frees the linebackers to flow freely to the football. Haynesworth hates the idea of being a nose tackle, and he hates the idea of being double-teamed, with little freedom to move while absorbing all the punishment to benefit the overall framework of the defense.
Money is the reason this showdown continues. Can you imagine how the ‘Skins would feel if they traded Haynesworth for a mid-level draft pick after paying him $21 million last month? That’s a ton of cash for a modest pick. The ‘Skins want some (any) return on their investment, and Haynesworth wants the freedom to play football the way he was told before he signed the big contract. He has some trade value, but his lackluster effort on and off the field makes teams (including the new management of the ‘Skins) nervous. Haynesworth is talented, but he’s also lazy. Watching him on tape, he appears to be lackluster in his effort at times, in his love of the game and in his willingness to fight through injuries. He was all these things before he arrived in Washington, which is the reason the Titans were unwilling to commit to a long-term deal. When the ‘Skins signed Haynesworth, they had to be worried about how he would handle the big contract. Now they have their answer.
So what happens next? Haynesworth’s failure to be involved in the offseason is a blessing to the ‘Skins. His salty attitude isn’t needed around younger players right now, so by being away he’s actually helping the ‘Skins. If he wants to be traded, he should show up. He can cause more harm being in the building. Being away illuminates the notion that he doesn’t love football and that the money has spoiled him. But being there and working hard stops all the idle chatter and might help him achieve his ultimate goal — which is to be traded to a team that plays a four-man line.
Haynesworth thinks his work stoppage is hurting the ‘Skins when it actually makes their life much easier. Clearly, when he’s given a chance to solve any problem, he always will take the path of least resistance or the one that requires the least amount of work.
Trust me on this, Haynesworth playing nose tackle won’t work -- not because he can’t play nose but because he doesn’t want to be a nose. Playing nose requires a selfless attitude that helps teammates play better. Haynesworth wants to rush the passer, not keep the linebackers free to flow. But as all of us know, in the NFL, most downs are nickel downs (when facing Philadelphia’s offense, the defense might be in its nickel front 80 percent of the game), and the solution to the Haynesworth problem lies in how they design their nickel defense. If Haynesworth stays with the ‘Skins, their best course of action would be to have him rush from defensive tackle and keep him fresh, allowing him to impact the most critical downs of the game. Why waste him on running downs when the NFL is all about the pass?
The ‘Skins need to make the best of the situation, and allowing Haynesworth to rush from the tackle position is not giving in to him but rather helping the team. He’s never going to be happy — whether he’s playing on a four- or three-man line. His happiness lies in being unhappy, so the ‘Skins need to make the most of this year, ignore him, play him in their nickel front and count their blessings that he’s staying away from camp.
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