Big Al, Everybody’s Friend

In the end, we all do what’s best for us. Some of us have no problem cutting in line and taking our chunk straight off the top in plain view of the entire world, then sleep like a baby full of mother’s milk. Some of us take our sliver from an edge on the bottom, obscure to everyone and everything, but an electron microscope, and then suffer guilt for days. It’s pretty obvious Albert Haynesworth belongs in the first category, but usually, the obvious, me-first type people are not particularly well liked by the folks their attitude affects the most --- their peers.

Big Al is an anomaly in this regard. I’ve yet to hear a person in his workplace disparage him. They all agree; he didn’t work hard enough, didn’t buy into his role, was inconsistent with his play etc. etc. But nary a player or coach has lashed out at him personally. In fact they all have gone out of their way to say they actually like him, and this includes Jim Hasslett, the defensive coordinator. Some have said they wish they could still be playing with him.

The fact Haynesworth can pull off this feat, defies human reasoning. If you put yourself on that team in general and the defense specifically, whether as a coach or a player; and consider Big Al’s contributions on the field and how they’ve been described in practice, wouldn’t you be frustrated and resentful of him? As a player, I would be resentful, because after last year and the perceived culture at Ashburn, his way of doing things would be a continuation of the angst and heartache. He would be preventing me from trying to gain some respectability and relevance by winning!

When a coach says, “We’ve got to do what’s best for the team,” he’s actually saying, “We’ve got to do what’s best for me,” of which I have no problem. But, to constantly segregate a player from his teammates as Shanahan did with Big Al, yet, force that player upon them, is counter-intuitive. It seems the very authority Shanahan tried to instill, he unwittingly undermined. By keeping Haynesworth in close proximity to his other players, could they have become victims to a reverse stockholm syndrome if you will, and started identifying with the captive. In the end, the players were ultimately left unhinged and confused.

To be this long into a coaching career and not know what’s best for you, and therefore the team, says a lot about how the future may unfold.