Redskins must end sagas before flipping script

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 26, 2011; 12:54 AM


Teams would rather not focus on the past here. The NFL draft combine is all about the future, and the Washington Redskins want to move forward.

But they can't with defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth and quarterback Donovan McNabb still on the roster. Who cares about 40-yard dash times when the cornerstone quarterback could be dumped after less than a year? Bench-press reps don't seem as important when the highest-paid player in team history believes he was misled before signing and recently has been a magnet for criminal allegations.

Coach Mike Shanahan expected questions Friday about the Redskins' two most accomplished players - and biggest lingering mistakes - during his first group media session of the offseason. Predictably, Shanahan revealed little. No matter. The situation is obvious: McNabb and Haynesworth must go.

The Redskins will trade McNabb, so disregard happy talk about reconciliation. Ignore reports indicating Redskins officials are lobbying to keep the 12-year veteran.

McNabb's departure is almost inevitable. The details are all that remain.

Because of how McNabb's contract is structured, the Redskins believe teams will make trade offers once the labor situation is resolved, whenever that is.

The day after its first regular season game, if McNabb is still on the team, Washington must decide whether to exercise McNabb's $10 million option. Including his base salary of $1.75 million and weekly game roster bonuses, McNabb could receive $12.75 million if he remains on the 53-man squad for the entire season.

Outside Ashburn, there are teams that believe McNabb, 34, can still play. The sooner McNabb moves on, the sooner he'll have a chance at redemption after his awful Redskins experience. In fact, McNabb is so eager to leave it wouldn't be surprising if he waived his $3.5 million signing bonus in exchange for the team giving him his release immediately.

Although the Redskins could keep McNabb for a while in hopes of igniting a bidding war, doing so would likely exacerbate an already awkward situation that both sides hope to end quietly. McNabb could hold out during training camp if he's on the roster at that point, applying pressure as the Redskins attempt to make the best deal for them involving a player who would be eager to leave.

The Redskins and McNabb never should have reached this point.

The late-game removal of McNabb in Detroit that angered his teammates and sparked league-wide discussion, the late-season benching that publicly revealed the coaching staff's dissatisfaction, the anonymous backstabbing - none of it had to happen.

Game film convinced offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan that McNabb would be a bad fit for his father's offense. Kyle spoke up before the trade, but others in the organization pushed for McNabb. The elder Shanahan approved the deal because he wanted a proven quarterback and, well, what if Kyle was wrong?

He wasn't. And Shanahan's three-year plan for the Redskins has suffered a major setback because of the error in judgment.

The flawed process resulted in destabilizing the Redskins at the game's most important position. Shanahan would only compound his error by selecting a quarterback with the 10th overall pick in the April draft instead of bolstering the team's ineffective 3-4 defense (we've covered that one already).

Unlike the McNabb problem that Shanahan brought on himself, Shanahan inherited much of the Haynesworth problem. Owner Daniel Snyder spearheaded Washington's efforts to sign Haynesworth - the league's top free agent before the 2009 season - as part of his failed star-first approach to team-building.

When some at Redskins Park initially raised concerns about the cost of acquiring Haynesworth, Snyder said it was in the budget. When a coach on Jim Zorn's staff told Haynesworth he would have to fit into the team's style of play, Snyder promised Haynesworth the team would adjust. And when Haynesworth needed help with a significant off-field issue during his first season, Snyder was among those who offered counsel.

Shanahan had no interest in catering to the nine-year veteran or honoring whatever promises Haynesworth believed Snyder made. Haynesworth was guaranteed $41 million to perform for the Redskins, and Shanahan expected him to do so regardless of position or scheme.

Doing the job you're paid for is not unheard of, but there were different rules for certain players in the team's former culture. A head-on Shanahan-Haynesworth collision was inevitable - and it apparently has become personal for Shanahan.

Tired of the ongoing soap opera, many Redskins employees would vote to release Haynesworth. Shanahan is the only one with a vote.

Shanahan rejected Tennessee's trade proposal for Haynesworth last season because the Titans' offer wasn't exactly what he requested. Shanahan would rather pay Haynesworth $5.4 million next season and list him as inactive every game than release him to potentially sign with another team. Shanahan enjoys sending messages about who's in charge.

Sometimes, though, you just have to accept failure, especially in situations you were thrown into. There are instances when the best course is to concede the best-laid plans didn't work. This certainly seems like one of those moments.

Moving McNabb and keeping Haynesworth solves only half the problem. And until Shanahan realizes that, the remaining half is only going to get bigger.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company