Congratulations, Mike Shanahan. You turned one of the most talented players in the NFL into the rough equivalent of a sack of jockstraps. That's sure to make your team a whole lot better.
In suspending defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth(notes) for the final four games for conduct detrimental to the team, Shanahan proved one thing: In a battle of wills, he is going to win no matter the costs. That's admirable, particularly in D.C., where the government is always looking for someone who can survive after being captured and tortured by the enemy in wartime.
In fact, Shanahan pulled the perfect time to do it … if you're thinking in terms of public relations. On Sunday, Washington got hammered by the Giants. The Redskins played with the intensity of a pack of basset hounds.
And Haynesworth wasn't even to blame. He didn't play because he was inactive. However, rather than have people examine the true stench of his team's effort, Shanahan came up with a great idea that is sure to please the fan base:
(Cue the applause from the fans who despise Haynesworth as some overpaid, underperforming louse who is just another symbol of what is wrong with all of sports and how the American way of life is threatened by Haynesworth's mere presence in this country.)
But for those who prefer to focus on how to rebuild a moribund franchise that hasn't won anything of great substance in almost 20 years, well, Shanahan's latest maneuver is a derivation of Albert Einstein's quote on the definition of insanity.
In essence, Shanahan – a brilliant football strategist, without question – has spent the past 10 years of his career trying to prove to people how great he is by trying to control everything and everyone. His problem is that by trying to control it all, he loses in the most important place: the football field.
Or as Einstein put it, insanity "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Over Shanahan's past four seasons as a coach, he has compiled a 29-31 record. He hasn't had a truly dominant team since 1998, when he had John Elway at quarterback, Terrell Davis at running back and offensive line coach Alex Gibbs in his ear. But if you want to talk about winning battles with players, Shanahan is one tough hombre. Haynesworth can get in line behind Jake Plummer(notes), Ashley Lelie(notes) and Daryl Gardener in terms of guys who messed with Shanahan and ultimately lost.
The problem is that Shanahan's teams aren't winning. Worse, Shanahan has turned a good asset in Haynesworth into a worthless property. Instead of either trading Haynesworth before the season or at some point before the deadline in October – when the Redskins could have presumably received a second-round pick for him – opposing teams will now wait until Washington cuts Haynesworth this offseason.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who signed Haynesworth in 2009 to a seven-year, $100 million contract that guaranteed Haynesworth $41 million, hasn't had his money go bad this fast since he bought Six Flags.
That said, this situation was so predictable that Haynesworth was warned before training camp and throughout the season that Shanahan was just waiting for him to say the wrong thing to slap him with a suspension. Or, in this case, what Haynesworth didn't say.
"[Monday], when Albert was at Redskin Park, he told our General Manager Bruce Allen that he [Haynesworth] would no longer speak with me," Shanahan said in a statement Tuesday. "Although suspending any player is not a decision that a head coach enters into lightly, I believe the situation has reached the point where the club clearly has no alternative."
OK, wait a second. Haynesworth refused to do what the team wanted earlier, but that wasn't enough to get suspended. It took snubbing Shanahan to do that? Wow, talk about misplaced priorities.
Of course, the NFL Players Association is going to test that. Spokesman George Atallah conveyed via text message that the union was looking into whether to fight the suspension.
While Haynesworth has certainly hurt himself in the process by dogging it on plays (his failure to get back off the ground against Philadelphia is a terrible indictment of the bad Haynesworth), he did manage to avoid the suspension until now.
It only took all of training camp – including a ridiculous battle over a conditioning test – and 13 weeks of the regular season, but Shanahan finally got what he was seeking.
Wow, what a win.
- Mike Shanahan