The correct answer according to the Washington Redskins is 11 months. Almost 11 months to the day after Mike Shanahan was named coach, the plug was finally pulled on Albert Haynesworth.
Conduct detrimental to the team is what Shanahan called it. Then he suspended his highest paid defensive player for the final 4 games, or the rest of the season. Washington, at 5-7, is out of the playoff hunt so Haynesworth can’t get them over the top.
Shanahan knew the timing. For months this conflict has been brewing and Shanahan put up with it as long as the Skins had a chance to make the playoffs. In the post season hunt, Shanahan would bite his lip and hope Haynesworth might have reacquired the passion. But that dream ended and so did the lineman’s future with the team.
Haynesworth’s agent says he will appeal the suspension, citing the Redskins front office cannot give them a good reason for the action. Good Reason? Haynesworth should look in the mirror. His progressive battles with the organization, in particular Shanahan, led to this. His conflict is what fans believe is wrong with athletes today.
He refused to participate in the off season training and mini camps, whether voluntary or mandatory. Before and after he cashed his $21 million bonus check in April. He came to camp put of shape and Shanahan made him run. Not as much to get him into shape but to prove to the rest of the team the off season is as important as the regular season.
Shanahan, in Haynesworth’s opinion, had the audacity to change the defensive alignment, going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment. With Haynesworth moving from his tackle position to nose and fighting it all the way. In Shanahan’s defense, the line occupies the offensive line and the linebackers make the tackles. That’s not the way Haynesworth wanted to play. He wanted the glory of stopping the ball carrier or sacking the quarterback.
He signed a $100 million dollar contract in 2009 to do that. He was making over $200,000 a game and for that the Redskins got 16 tackles, 13 of them solo and only 3 sacks this season. He was a disinterested player. He was left off the game roster once and said he was injured several times to get out of practice and some games. Last week against the Giants Haynesworth refused to not only play in the 3-4, but also the base defense. Shanahan knew it was over.
Football is still a team game. 11 players working in concert with each other. If one player isn’t doing his job or doesn’t care, it leaves the team at a disadvantage. Haynesworth was committing the cardinal sin of team play. Privately the players are happy the drama is gone. Happy they can now move on and not worry about the constant complaining and lack of effort.
Haynesworth will appeal, and might even lose his contract and some of the $41 million dollar signing bonus he received. But another team, with thoughts like Mike Shanahan had earlier, will take a chance on the tackle. He will get another contract and move his act elsewhere. But Haynesworth should remember coaching changes happen every year and with every team.
There is no guarantee.