Join Date: Jan 2006
Why Haynesworth, and the Redskins, haven't worked out
I don't usually post in the team forums; not even the Titans one. But I've naturally been monitoring the outcome of the Haynesworth signing this season and, as a Titans fan, I think I can offer some views from the outside that may be of use to the Redskins fans here.
Albert Haynesworth in 2007 and 2008 was incredibly enjoyable to watch for Titans fans. He was so dominant at times it literally became unusual to witness a play where he wasn't doing something to influence the outcome in Tennessee's favor. If you were to study performance from the DT position in NFL history, I'm confident Albert's 2007-2008 span was up there with the best.
So what went wrong in Washington this season?
As usual, Albert got hurt, and when Albert gets hurt, his ability to dominate the opposition starts to decline. But he got hurt in 2007 and 2008 as well, and while Titans fans saw a decline after injury then too, he was still incredible otherwise.
So it's deeper than that, as recent grumblings from the big man would suggest. He isn't being used right, he claims. The coaches are not living up to their promise. He doesn't want to take up space, he wants to attack. And fair enough - because as any Titans fan will say, Albert in attack mode is an impressive sight to behold.
It's easy to think Albert is making up excuses because, after all, why would you spend so much to bring in Albert Haynesworth and then proceed to use him like Grady Jackson?
The answer to this, and I think possibly the answer (or at least partially the answer) to most of Washington's free agency disappointments in recent years, is because Washington suffers a fundamental disconnect between owner and coaching staff. Not just this current coaching staff, but in general.
This disconnect isn't necessarily a communication thing. The disconnect comes because of Dan Snyder's philosophy on player salaries, best seen with the Haynesworth signing. To most other teams such a contract would be a massive burden on the team's salary cap status, so getting the best value from the signing would be very important. The decision would have to be extremely well scrutinized.
But not so much for Snyder and the Redskins. The "cash over cap", base salary converting style that constantly pushes cap hits into the future means Haynesworth's cap impact lessens. On top of this, based on what I recall from the structure of the deal, after the first 2 seasons or so, Albert is a pretty cheap cut. Snyder can do all this because of his raw cash. He hasn't "defeated" the salary cap, but there's little doubt the cap limit is a pretty relaxed issue at Redskins HQ.
And this is where the disconnect exists. The massive deal creates expectation amongst the fans, and the acquisition no doubt proves to be a good business move for Dan, but it has a minimal influence on the coaching staff. What do they care if Albert Haynesworth (replace this name with other free agents of the past, does it still make any sense Redskin fans?) got paid a crap load of money - they can use him how they please, apparently, and if he doesn't work out, then it's not really that big a deal to them - there will be other free agents, and cutting the player loose won't be too difficult.
Of course, this doesn't explain the entire situation with Albert. It may possibly help to explain part of reason why coaches may not be finding it necessary to get the most out of the acquisition, but it doesn't explain why they wouldn't want to get the most out of it. So, why wouldn't they want Albert Haynesworth as the literal center piece of their defense? Don't they want to win?
I think the answer to this is rather simple and obvious, and ultimately lead to his elapsed contract on the Titans. To put it plainly, Albert Haynesworth just can't stay healthy.
Not once did he last a whole season with the Titans, and when he came back from injuries he was never getting back to anywhere near the same performance level he was showing prior to injury. So basically, by the time January rolled around and the playoffs were looming, the Titans primary cog on defense - the focal point of their defensive scheme - was not playing at the level they needed, if he was playing at all.
Is this any way to build a defense, as dominant as he is? around an injury prone big guy who takes plays off regularly?
Personally, I don't think so. What it does, and did with the Titans, was create a false sense of elite defense that just didn't have the mileage to last the distance, time and time again. This is incredibly disruptive to a team. I also suspect this is made Albert far less valuable on the trade market than many people think, explaining why the Titans didn't just trade him before 2008, but rather decided to have one last crack at a Superbowl run with Haynesworth as the featured player on defense.
I think the Redskins coaching staff must agree that building a defense around Albert is unstable and risky. Instead, they don't allow their scheme and play calling to become hostages to Albert's injury status. I can't say it is a poor decision because I've seen what happens when you do and he goes down to an inevitable injury.
So, despite his massive contract, the Washington coaches plugged Albert in as they saw fit, and going back to my 'disconnected' theory, I think one can see both positives and negatives. Not being dictated, as a coaching staff, by player contracts would certainly be a positive (assuming you know what you're doing as a coach), but it's going to produce more disappointing free agency signings than usual.
It's hard to say whether Albert's case is a positive or negative at this point. There are a lot of factors involved, such as his moral, and future years under, perhaps, different coaches. Even in a limited role he's still a good DT, but what would the Redskins season look like right now had Albert been explored to the max? Keep in mind the Titans went 10-6 in 2007 with possibly one on the worst offenses in the NFL over the past decade. On the other hand, even in his limited role this season, Albert got hurt, again. So what would the Redskins team look like right this very instant? A playoff team on the brink of disappointment, like the Titans in 2007 and 2008? A playoff team that can't play defense like it did in week 5?
Ultimately, Albert probably isn't worth the big deal whether he is used "right" or not due to the injury issues, but then he probably wouldn't have been a free agent without the injury issues. Really, Albert would have been best suited to a Colts or Saints like team on a much smaller contract, pushing them well over the edge of likely Superbowl success. His skills and abilities make him such an attractive prospect to add to your defense, but perhaps the truth is he's much more of a role player than a superstar due to his unreliable nature who should be paid as such, and perhaps there exists in the Redskins organization fundamental issues that permitted this to go without acknowledgement.