From top to bottom, Redskins lack discipline

By Thomas Boswell
Monday, December 28, 2009

Discipline isn't optional in football. It is the very core of the NFL enterprise. That sense of both self-restraint and dedication, as well as group accountability, starts at the top with ownership, flows through the front office and down through the coaching staff to players. And that is what the Redskins lack at every level.

As new General Manager Bruce Allen looks at the disorganized mess in front of him after Sunday night's 17-0 loss to the hated Cowboys -- that's back-to-back defeats to NFC East foes on national TV by a combined score of 62-12 -- he needs to cherish that sense of order and authority that was the trademark of his dad.

"If you go by the last two weeks, we look like a college football team," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "If you're going by this to decide who goes, who stays, there hasn't been a great case for anybody on this 53-man roster."

One play from this game illustrated the Redskins' problem. At the crucial moment, when physical conditioning or mental toughness or allegiance to the team and not yourself is absolutely vital, the Redskins never know what response they'll get. Sometimes, yes. But in far too many crises, the answer screams, No.

In this game, the moment may have come in the middle of the second quarter when the Cowboys' Tony Romo completed a short pass to Jason Witten, who raced 69 yards up the left sideline, directly past the Redskins' bench, all the way to the Washington 3-yard line. Already trailing 7-0, the Redskins were suddenly in desperate need of a goal-line stand. All hands on deck, especially those with huge hands, like 350-pound tackle Albert Haynesworth, the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

But where was Albert? Where was Haynesworth who, on Christmas Day, showed up late for practice, then jawed in public with his head coach and was sent home from practice for "disciplinary reasons?" Ah, "discipline!" Now they think of it.

Where was the former Titan who, the next day, blasted his coordinator Greg Blache and the whole Redskins defensive system, saying that he'd been promised when he signed a $100 million contract that the entire defensive philosophy would be built around him, allowing him to pass rush and "cause havoc."

Before Witten even ended his long run, Haynesworth jogged straight to the Redskins' sideline -- and took himself out of the game.

On the next snap, Marion Barber ran three yards over left tackle -- directly through Haynesworth's supposed position -- for a 14-0 Dallas lead. The 'Boys headed to the playoffs, thanks to a win in Washington, and the Redskins plummeted to a new 4-11 low.

At halftime, as the rest of the Redskins jogged off for intermission, Haynesworth stayed behind, needing minutes to get off the ground and walk to the tunnel.

With Haynesworth, you never know what you'll get next. In Detroit, he was carted off, usually a sign of a serious, perhaps season-ending injury, only to return before halftime. Sometimes, he blows up opposing lines like few NFL players ever have. And he claims, not without some reason, that he plays through injuries. His upper body is gigantic, his lower body merely big. This imbalance tends to lead to lower-body sprains and strains that heal slowly because of the huge tonnage above them.

When No. 92 is fresh, as he was in the third quarter, he can make a defensive line almost impenetrable. Three times in that period, the Cowboys ran in short-yardage situations -- third and one and, twice, fourth and one. All three times, the Redskins held. And all three times Haynesworth was in the center of the mayhem.

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