WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Critics are divided about who is to blame for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth’s disastrous tenure with the Washington Redskins, a once-proud club now plagued with controversy, restless fans and an intrusive owner.
Less than two years after signing a staggering seven-year, $100-million deal with the Redskins, the player has been suspended by the team for the rest of the season.
Some say hard-nosed head coach Mike Shanahan was at fault for not being flexible, or that owner Dan Snyder should take the blame for bringing Haynesworth to the Redskins.
Others say Haynesworth himself was responsible for the problems, after speaking out against the Redskins’ defensive schemes and setting the tone for what became Washington’s most intriguing soap opera.
Gil Brandt, a former Dallas Cowboys general manager who is now an analyst with NFL.com, blames Haynesworth, who he said had “tremendous ability but not a lot of mental toughness.”
“Albert has size and youth — he just has everything,” said Brandt. “But it starts with dedication and passion. And I don’t think he has dedication and I don’t think he has passion.”
He said Haynesworth was unstoppable during his last year with the Tennessee Titans when he was “playing for a contract” but when the Redskins signed him “he went to sleep again.”
Washington Post columnist John Feinstein questioned the Redskins’ desire to land the two-time Pro Bowler in the first place, saying Haynesworth had battled injuries in the past and tended to “have one good year and one bad year.”
He blames Snyder, who has an abysmal record in signing big-name free agents.
“With Haynesworth, it was another ‘Dan Snyder I want to hold a uniform up with a famous guy’ signing’,” Feinstein told Reuters. “The last thing the Redskins needed was another free agent who was a question mark.
“But Snyder and (former general manager Vinny) Cerrato always wanted to put together fantasy football teams and this was another example.”
The 29-year-old Haynesworth joins Deion Sanders, Adam Archuleta, Bruce Smith and Dana Stubblefield as top-dollar, free-agent failures for the Redskins.
Feinstein does not blame the Haynesworth debacle for the Redskins’ disappointing season, saying “they weren’t that good to begin with.”
“The problem is that they haven’t drafted an offensive lineman for years,” he said. “They have no depth because of those free-agent signings — they used up so much of their salary cap on so few players.
“The real problem with the Redskins for 11 years has been the same, it’s been Dan Snyder.”
Snyder, who has a reputation as a meddling owner, appears to have let Shanahan take control of the team but Feinstein questions how long that can last.
Haynesworth has probably seen his last day as a Redskin but he could return next year. He has already been paid nearly $35 million in bonus and salary money for playing 20 games.
Shanahan said Haynesworth came into camp out of shape and was insubordinate, adding that the situation had reached the point where the club had “no alternative” but to suspend him.
“He has consistently indicated to our defensive coaches that he refuses to play in our base defense or on first-down or second-down nickel situations,” Shanahan said.
“He has also refused to follow the instructions of our coaches both during weekly practices and during actual games as well.”
Haynesworth’s agent said the Redskins had not formally warned the defensive tackle before the suspension that his actions were unacceptable.
This month’s benching of big-money, off-season acquisition Donovan McNabb was the latest flap for the beleaguered franchise, once considered the model NFL team.
Washington has won three Super Bowls but the last followed the 1991 season, a distant memory for arguably the league’s most passionate fans.
The fans are angry and the Haynesworth fiasco typified the problems of a franchise that has made the playoffs only three times since their last Super Bowl triumph.
Having signed the NFL’s richest-ever contract at the time when he landed with the Redskins, Haynesworth will lose nearly $850,000 in salary should he lose an appeal on his suspension.
“To me, Haynesworth is a guy who got his money, $41 million guaranteed, and now the guaranteed money runs out,” said Brandt. “It’s gone.”
“He waiting for somebody on the Redskins to cut him and then he’s hoping that his agent can get him another big-money signing bonus.
“And you know what? There might be one team of the 32 out there that will do that. I don’t think so but you never know.”
Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com