I'll say this for Jimmy Haslett. He tried. He did everything he possibly could to get the uber-rich but lethally unproductive human tree stump Albert Haynesworth to buy into the Redskins' program. He had to know that when he replaced Greg Blache as the team's defensive coordinator in 2010 and tried to install a 3-4 defense, he was doing so with personnel more aligned to 4-3 schemes.
That's a switch that usually leads to coaches losing their jobs (ask Eric Mangini and Herm Edwards), but Haslett honestly thought that he could make it go. What he didn't count on was that his most expensive player would refuse to do just about anything in the new system. Haynesworth couldn't pass Mike Shanahan's bizarre conditioning tests, malingered, goldbricked on the field, and simply and obviously refused to give maximum effort during games, which is about the most unforgiveable breach of player protocol imaginable — at that point, you're not just helping your team lose, you're putting your teammates in harm's way.
In just eight games last season, Haynesworth put together some rather pathetic totals — 16 tackles (13 solo) and 2.5 sacks. And when Haslett did a recent interview with 101 ESPN radio in St. Louis, he tried to be diplomatic — he started the spot by saying that he liked Haynesworth and thought the player might still be dominant as he used to be if he played in a more friendly scheme. But then, perhaps incensed by his own need to adapt around what Haynesworth wouldn't and couldn't do in a 3-4, Haslett went off a bit.
"He can do almost anything he wants. He doesn't want to do anything. To me that's the issue," Haslett said. "He's one of those guys you walk in a meeting and you tell him, 'Put down the phone.' The next day you have to tell him to put down the phone. The next day, you tell him to put down the phone.
"You tell him, 'Don't read the newspaper in meetings.' The next day you have to tell him the same thing. It doesn't stick; it's an every-day thing." [...]
"He just didn't want to play in this scheme. He didn't want to play in the 3-4. He didn't want to do the things we wanted. Then we said, 'OK, if you're not going to do it, let's not do it. Let's play nickel, play the 3-technique.'
"Then, it got to the point where he said, 'I don't want to play first- and second-down nickel. I just want to play third-down nickel.' Oh my God, you're relegating yourself to 10-15 snaps a game. Then after that he didn't want to do the blitzes, he just wanted to rush."
I've watched enough 2010 Redskins film to know that Haslett isn't overstating his willingness to work around Haynesworth's self-imposed limitations; the defense wound up playing more four-man nickel fronts than personnel really allowed, in part to make it work with a guy who was supposed to be unblockable when he signed a ridiculous $100 million contract (over $40 million guaranteed) in February of 2009.
The Redskins owe Haynesworth "just" $5.4 million in base salary in 2011; they had to bite the big one last year with his $21 million guaranteed option bonus (which they converted into a signing bonus), and all the salary in his first two years was guaranteed. This is the first season in which the penalty for dropping him, or trading him and eating some of his salary, wouldn't be a prohibitively expensive move. Judging from Haslett's take on things, you can bet that the worst free-agent signing of the Dan Snyder era (and boy howdy, THAT's saying something) will be underachieving in a different uniform in the future.
- Albert Haynesworth