Albert Haynesworth wins battle, but everyone ultimately loses

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 11:35 PM

When Prima Donna Player vs. Taskmaster Coach finally ended after 11-plus grueling months, Mike Shanahan's extra, beet-red complexion spared the ringside judges any work.

Albert Haynesworth won - by technical knockout.

He got his money.

He got out of doing a job for which he said his unique talents were unsuited.

He made the employer bend to meet his needs instead of the company's.

And with his Redskins career ostensibly over after being suspended for the remainder of the season, Haynesworth incredibly pulled off the parlay: He also gets the holidays off.

He does not have to suffer the drudgery of preparing for, in all likelihood, an unimportant game on the day after Christmas with teammates in Jacksonville.

Just as well, though. Cliches about teams being families aside, Haynesworth never behaved as if he considered his teammates kin.

The single, most expensive indictment of owner Daniel Snyder's shopping addiction era will eventually leave town with almost $34.8 million for 53 tackles and 61/2 sacks in 20 games over two seasons.

That's $656,000 per tackle, $1.74 million per game and $5.35 million per sack.

Uh, Albert won.

Brian Mitchell, the former player and analyst whose opinion I highly respect, said 60 percent of the blame for Haynesworth not working out in Washington should be leveled at Shanahan. I wouldn't go that far, but clearly the franchise's top decisionmaker on all things football has to own his part in this season-long migraine.

Perhaps not wanting to deflect blame toward his new boss, Snyder, who did the usual spendthrift thing and signed Haynesworth to the richest-ever deal for a defensive player in 2009 - an ungodly $100 million deal, $41 million of which was guaranteed - Shanahan begrudgingly kept Big Al. Like every accomplished coach with an ego, perhaps he thought he could siphon more out of Haynesworth than Jeff Fisher had in Tennessee or Jim Zorn had in Haynesworth's first season in Washington.

That was his first mistake.

Then, rather than deduce Haynesworth's potential for becoming a season-long distraction prior to training camp, Shanahan set out to make an example of him by quarantining the big lug from his teammates and making him submit to a conditioning drill. My-Way Mike let all the world know how many times No. 92 failed, as if it were sweeps week and the "Biggest Loser" needed a dramatic conclusion.

On this dereliction-of-duty theme went until Shanahan broke him, to the point Haynesworth told General Manager Bruce Allen Tuesday he no longer wanted to speak to the coach.

What Shanahan failed to realize while he was playing "The Great Santini" is that Haynesworth actually broke him.

He made him realize the truth: that for two Super Bowls and turning all those bit-part running backs into 1,000-yard rushers in Denver, Shanahan still couldn't reform the troublemaker in the back of the class in Washington. He couldn't bring out the best - or even the better - in a guy who seemingly didn't want to learn.

If someone high up in the Redskins organization wanted it out that Haynesworth was allegedly hung over last Friday - a scurrilous allegation that sadly made its way to television without so much as a named source - that backfired, too.

Because in perhaps infuriating Haynesworth enough to get himself suspended the last four games, and trying to give the Redskins an edge in public opinion poll when Tuesday's suspension went down, everyone in Ashburn now must absorb blame for trying to unsuccessfully make a very, very round peg fit in their square hole.

Haynesworth won because he got almost everything he wanted - most of his guaranteed money, a pass on playing the 3-4 defense full time and a chance to move away from an organization which he tormented as much as it tormented him.

Instead of a having a Pro Bowler who makes NFC East quarterbacks run for cover each Sunday, the defense is about to give up more yards than any other in the 73-year history of the Redskins. Because the organization was at war with its most talented defensive player all year, yet another need has to be met in the offseason.

Haynesworth gets about 70 percent of the blame in my book. As Redskins defensive lineman Andre Carter said Tuesday on the radio show I co-host on 106.7 FM, "Sometimes you got to look in the mirror to fix things."

Beyond legal filings against Haynesworth the past year and a Miami stripper alleging paternity at last year's Super Bowl, no one should have to endure a family member dying so young, as Haynesworth did when his brother was killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this season. He has already called this year "the worst" of his life.

But at least professionally, if not personally, when relationships keep going south, at some point it's best to look at the common denominator in all of the acrimony, the one constant through all the turmoil: Albert Haynesworth.

Until he at least acknowledges he needs to begin taking care of his side of the fence, he won't win anything besides a costly and calamitous personality clash with his employer.

If you count the further damage inflicted upon Haynesworth's reputation, everybody lost.

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