Finally - yesterday the Washington Redskins did what everybody knew they needed to do. It was inevitable. Albert had to go. By suspending him for the final four games of the season, the Redskins effectively cut ties with the biggest free agent bust in NFL history. What took them so long?
On Feb. 27, 2009 Albert signed a $100 million dollar contract to play for the Redskins. Despite character questions dating back to his days as a college athlete at the University of Tennessee, the Skins had agreed to a deal with Big Al within the first hours of free agency.
Everybody remembers the press conference where Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato were beaming over their new football toy. They finally got the defensive presence in the middle the Redskins have been lacking since the Dave Butz and Darryl Grant days. Or so they thought.
We all know the history at this point. But let me quickly remind you of how this whole thing went so bad. Albert consistently had to be carted off the field or attended to during games. His ability to play a full game was questioned. Off the field issues started to pile up as he was cited for two traffic accidents dating back to Dec. of 2008. Eventually a stripper sued for paternity payments. Christmas Day of 2009 head coach Jim Zorn threw Albert out of Redskins Park after he was late for a team meeting and ordered to stay out of practice.
Eventually Zorn was replaced by no nonsense two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan. Immediately there were issues. Shanny wanted to switch to a 3-4, Big Al only wanted to play in a 4-3. He told Shanahan that he would not attend the teams offseason workout program. Instead he would work out on his own. Red flags weren't raised... they were blowing in tornado-like winds.
Despite all the warning signs, the Redskins still decided to give him a $21 million dollar contract bonus in April of this year. That was their first real opportunity to cut bait. But they rolled the dice that they'd be able to get Albert in line.
Not so much, huh? First thing Al did then was skip the mandatory mini camp and demand to be traded. It's obvious at this point that despite taking the Redskins for every last penny he could he had no intention of being committed to "the best interests of the team" as Mike Shanahan likes to say. Al was worried about Al and EVERYBODY knew it.
This was another blown opportunity. Why not trade him before the season begins and start this new regime off on the right foot? Sure you won't get fair value for his talent but who wants to poison the locker room with a guy that obviously doesn't want to be here.
It's not like teams weren't interested. The Tennessee Titans were courting Albert and basically tampering when they suggested essentially that they knew how to motivate him and get the best out of him. The Lions head coach Jim Schwartz had coached Albert in Tennessee and knew how to make him useful. Teams were interested. The Skins were stubborn and asked for too much.
Eventually #92 in your program and number 9,000 in your heart decided to attend training camp and protect his salary for 2010. Except Shanny wasn't going to let him get off that easy. No, he had to make an example of Haynesworth and force him to pass a conditioning test that seemed fairly difficult for a man of that size. In my opinion Shanahan was putting on a show. Nevertheless, Al needed to do it as an employee. It was his job.
It was at this point that the Haynesworth saga reached a fever pitch. Every day that passed Al either failed the conditioning test or didn't take it. One test wasn't counted out because of a long bathroom break. If you didn't know what happened that day ESPN was there to tell you - over and over. So was every other major media outlet in the sports world including every two cent blog and radio show you could find.
The Redskins were once again the laughingstock of the league and they didn't even play a game yet. Usually the Redskins are out of the playoff chase by late November. You could argue they were out of the postseason festivities the day they signed Haynesworth. This guy was set to derail the mission of the team and the coaching staff. Surely the Redskins would take the best available offer now?
Instead, the Redskins still demanded too much. Tennesse was reportedly still interested. Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan gambled again.
As one seemingly last final insult before the real bullets started flying, Albert was asked to play essentially the entire final game of preseason. Clearly he took it as a snub. Others said when asked to play you do it no matter what position it is or how much time is left on the clock. That's what a real professional would do. Not Albert. He dogged it and went through the motions.
The saga continued. Coach Shanahan declared him inactive for Week 2 against the Houston Texans. Supposedly he had sprained an ankle. But everybody knew better. This was a disaster.
The trade deadline approached and Albert is declared inactive once again after not returning in a timely enough manner for the Redskins after the death of his brother. It's clear Albert won't be here beyond this season. Surely the Redskins would take the best available offer and move on from this nightmare now.
Incredibly, nothing happened. The deadline passes and it's assumed that the Redskins will ride out the Haynesworth roller coaster for the rest of the season. Despite being reportedly offered a fourth round draft pick the Skins decide it's better to dance with the devil one more time.
Finally after a reported night of drinking on Thursday and skipping practice the next day for feeling "sick" the Redskins deactivated Big Al for one last time. On Tuesday of this week, after informing the team he will no longer speak to the head coach - the Redskins finally effectively ended the Albert Haynesworth era in DC.
After reliving this nightmare writing this blog I'm more convinced than ever that nothing much has changed here for Redskins Nation. Despite new head coaches and new general managers the Redskins organization still doesn't get it.
Why is it so hard to figure out?