After Washington Redskins holder Hunter Smith(notes) botched a snap on a potentially game-tying extra point on Sunday, he knew at whom to point the finger. "If anybody needs to lose their job it's me," he said in the locker room. "I certainly accept blame."
He got it.
Smith was also the team's punter and was having a poor year kicking, something that factored into the decision. (He ranked 30th in the NFL at the time of his release.) That's a fine excuse for Shanahan to make and it's certainly true that Smith was awful this year, but the fact is, without the errant hold, the punter would still have a job.
That's the way it works around Redskins Park, pick a scapegoat, cut ties with him and move on as if that'll magically heal all the problems with the disappointing 5-8 team. First it was Donovan McNabb(notes) for a two-minute drill, then Albert Haynesworth(notes). Now it's the holder whose job it was to reel in wild snaps from a young, inexperienced snapper and place the ball for a kicker who missed two chip shots in the Washington loss.
For his part, Smith was remarkably professional, understanding and even a little zen about his firing. Dan Steinberg transcribed Smith's remarks to a D.C. sports talk show in which the canned punter/holder refused to pull a Shanahan and pass on the blame:
"I don't want to make this too serious -- we are talking about football here -- but it is a moral duty on some level to tell the truth and to take responsibility. And I won't go off too much on my values and things like that, but I believe that I'm a part of a generation, really, the Lawsuit Generation. Everything is somebody else's fault. People that are my age -- and a little younger, and a little older -- want to blame somebody else, and they tend to want to self-protect. And I really reject that as a pattern of behavior, and as a pattern of morality. It's not how I'm going to live my life. When I make a mistake, I'm going to own up to it. And really, that's kind of what all this comes down to."
Smith mentioned that he could have blamed the loss on the missed field goals or any one of Donovan McNabb's errant throws or weird play calling or Shanahan's bizarre first-half time management, but he didn't. He took the high road.
- Mike Shanahan