The self-described leader of Washington’s secondary has been among the weakest links of the NFL’s bottom-ranked pass defense. Then late in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hall was ejected — he berated an official in a profanity-laced tirade — and faces possible disciplinary action from the NFL. In his ninth season in the league, Hall is aging poorly, on and off the field.
Although we all lose a step as the clock continues to wind, experience should be an asset. Obviously, at this stage of Hall’s career, the Redskins cannot expect him to perform at the elite level he once did, which was Pro-Bowl-good but not Hall-of-Fame-great.
Few cornerbacks have remained at the top of their game for as long as Hall has been chasing receivers. But it’s quite reasonable for the Redskins to look to Hall to set a positive example, especially since they’re not getting enough from him in the most important part of his job.
In losing his cool in Pittsburgh, Hall missed an opportunity to show younger players on the team the right way to react when things aren’t going your way.
Contending that Pittsburgh wideout Emmanuel Sanders should have been flagged for throwing him to the ground, Hall took off his helmet and confronted head linesman Dana McKenzie. The meeting ended badly for Hall, who was booted from the 27-12 loss with 3 minutes 48 seconds to play. McKenzie only made the situation worse by arguing with Hall (“Man, he was going right back at me,” Hall told me Wednesday).
Even if Commissioner Roger Goodell winds up agreeing with Hall, which is highly unlikely, Hall still would have screwed up.
There’s never a good time to curse at an official and get kicked out of a game. It was fine for Hall to complain to McKenzie about Sanders supposedly using wrestling moves on the football field. Once it became clear McKenzie wasn’t interested in what Hall had to say, Hall should have backed off. True leaders display their best judgment during the most emotional times.
Hall is a three-time Pro Bowler. He’s tied for sixth among active players with 37 career interceptions. In past seasons, he has publicly challenged coaches to put more on his shoulders. Hall has sought the spotlight. Because of that, he has leadership responsibility. He can’t chose to put his personal feelings, no matter how wronged he feels, ahead of what’s best for the team.
During a private conversation with Hall on Wednesday at Redskins Park, I got the sense that he’s trying to have it both ways. He definitely wants the respect that comes with being a leader. But he isn’t willing to hold himself to a higher standard than most in every situation.
“We’re not talking about no civil rights movement here. It wasn’t a global situation or problem” that occurred as a result of his actions, Hall said. “I felt like I was justified.”
Well, sort of. After pausing for a moment to reflect on his comments, Hall seemed to realize he wasn’t sounding like much of a leader. On his second try, Hall came across only slightly better, but at least he indicated he messed up.
“Any situation like that, when you’re facing possible suspensions [and] fines, if you had a chance to do it all over again, you would,” Hall said. “That’s just common sense. You’d be a fool to sit here and say, ‘Nah, I wouldn’t change a thing.’ ”
Hall is a straight shooter; you always know where you stand with him. Often, though, he has lacked self-awareness. He used to get burned for big plays and make his share of them. You got the sense from listening to him, though, that he rarely believed he was at fault for the team’s coverage missteps.
Now, the scale is clearly unbalanced against him. Quarterbacks have gone after Hall with great success all season. He is tied for the most targets (passes thrown at receivers with Hall in coverage) among cornerbacks, according to STATS LLC. Quarterbacks are completing almost 70 percent of their passes against him.
The entire starting defensive backfield — Hall, fellow cornerback Josh Wilson and safeties Madieu Williams and Reed Doughty — has struggled. Still, Hall has drawn the lion’s share of the fans’ ire.
“The plan is to go out there and shut teams down, stop big plays and all that kind of stuff,” Hall said. “That’s always the plan. Sometimes the plan doesn’t always work out.”
Hall disagrees with the notion that his skills have eroded. “All of a sudden, the fans say I can’t play anymore,” Hall said. “I could care less what fans say . . . what anybody in the media says. As long as the coaches see me doing what I’m supposed to be doing out there, and the [general manager] and the front-office guys and my teammates, that’s all I care about.”
Hall is quick to point out that he’s only 28 and that some cornerbacks are productive well into their 30s. Denver Broncos star Champ Bailey, 34, immediately comes to mind. Bailey still sticks to receivers as if they stole something from him.
Redskins Hall of Famer Darrell Green played until he was 42. Green and Bailey, however, are among the greatest players at their position in league history. Hall is not.
Next season, Hall will be owed $7.5 million. If the Redskins release him before the season, he would receive nothing and they would not take a salary cap hit.
As the first eight games have shown, the Redskins need to get younger and better in the secondary. Parting ways with Hall would make sense. But as long as Hall remains on the Redskins’ roster, he needs to start acting like he understands what leadership entails.
For previous Jason Reid columns, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.