You want benefit of the doubt? Understand this about that kind of grace: Those who receive it have done something to earn it. Those who receive it have track records of success, good deeds, good intentions, sincere business dealings. Does that sound like this organization since Daniel Snyder took ownership in 1999? Don’t assume benefit of the doubt is a right and for darn sure don’t demand it.
Here is how Merriam-Webster defines benefit of the doubt: “the state of accepting something/someone as honest or deserving of trust even though there are doubts.” To accept Washington as honest or deserving of trust would require a level of fandom or gullible negligence so extreme that you should fear whether such believers are capable of navigating daily life. Focus on the word “honest.” It is the key to receiving benefit of the doubt. On Tuesday, after claiming Reuben Foster three days after his domestic violence arrest, Washington released a statement attributed to Doug Williams, the team’s senior vice president of player personnel and beloved Super Bowl XXII MVP.
As explanation — the only explanation the front office has been willing to provide to team beat writers because it has no commented its way through the rest of the week — for bringing in a player with so much baggage, the statement claimed the team made the decision to acquire Foster “after candid conversations with a number of his ex-Alabama teammates and current Redskins players who were overwhelmingly supportive of us taking this chance.”
On Wednesday, two of the most prominent former Alabama players on this team said they weren’t consulted about Foster. Washington didn’t ask safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but okay, he’s older and would have known Foster in college only through the recruiting process because Clinton-Dix turned pro just before Foster arrived at Alabama. But Jonathan Allen is a different story. He played with Foster for three collegiate seasons, and they were in the same 2017 draft class. Allen is also the most important young player on the Washington defense, and he’s already a team leader in his second season. How the heck can you use “candid conversations” with ex-Crimson Tide members on your team to defend the move and not reach out to Allen? How the heck can you talk about “overwhelmingly supportive” players and not seek the opinion of the most relevant Alabama voice in the locker room?
There are seven Alabama-bred players on the roster, including two on injured reserve. Of the five healthy ones, two weren’t consulted. Ryan Anderson and Shaun Dion Hamilton declined to comment, which was peculiar. Daron Payne, the 2018 first-round draft pick, wasn’t in the locker room during media availability.
During an interview Thursday on ESPN 980, Williams admitted to consulting two players.
“We didn’t hold a convention,” he said.
Later, he added, “The two that we did talk to know him very well.”
Well, two is a number.
But it is misleading, at best, to defend the acquisition by claiming an “overwhelmingly supportive” Alabama faction without talking to more than a couple, especially when Big Jon Allen wasn’t one of them. Williams also claimed during the radio interview that all his key decision-makers agreed with the move to acquire Foster, even though The Washington Post and numerous media outlets reported it was not unanimous. (By the way, it is cowardly and disrespectful for Bruce Allen, the team president and the man who ultimately has to sign off on such a controversial move, to let Williams be the front-office face of the Foster debacle. Williams has been left to catch too much heat because his boss shrinks from accountability.)
This isn’t the worst thing the franchise has done, of course. But it illustrates why it would be foolish for any fair-minded person to give the organization the benefit of the doubt. It can’t be straight with you about simple details, and this isn’t an isolated case. Under Snyder, the franchise has a history of this type of manipulation, even though its deception — or outright lies — has been exposed on several occasions.
Washington did not thoroughly vet Foster. It did not call the Tampa police about Foster’s arrest Saturday; according to a USA Today report, the Philadelphia Eagles were the only team to do so. It did not seek some of the most credible opinions about Foster available in its own locker room. It saw Foster’s arrest and release from San Francisco as a team-building loophole to get a talented linebacker on its roster, not as a decision that deserved deeper consideration and patience. It wanted to avoid Foster reaching free agency because it craved his cheap, controllable multiyear contract, and by doing it this way, while Foster is in trouble and deemed untouchable by other franchises, there was no competition for his services.
So, sorry, this is all too shady to deserve any benefit of the doubt. If you’re shuffling, staring at your feet and feeling as if the franchise is being picked on again, you should know that you’re displaying significant willful ignorance in your outrage.
This franchise has a trust problem. The amazing thing, however, is that hope has rarely been a problem. Despite 19 years of controversy after controversy on Snyder’s watch, despite 10 losing seasons and just five playoff appearances under him, despite nine years of letting Bruce Allen infect the organization, despite failing to exceed 10 victories and failing to make back-to-back postseason appearances since 1992, the fan base has kept buying into new reasons for hope. There’s always a Robert Griffin III or Mike Shanahan or Scot McCloughan who makes people hit the reset button, stuff bad history into a corner and expect something different, something better.
The positive vibe lasts for a while. Then it gets crushed. It shouldn’t come back for more, but it does. We often highlight the signs of erosion — declining attendance and anecdotal evidence of diminished passion — but the truth is that weaker fan bases couldn’t persist through two decades of such misery. The damage could be a lot worse. The resilient support should be reason to do right by the fans, not use them and insult their intelligence.
Benefit of the doubt? The Redskins don’t get roasted regularly because it’s popular to roast the Redskins. They get roasted because they won’t stop being the most repugnant version of themselves.
For more by Jerry Brewer, visit washingtonpost.com/brewer.
Read more on the Redskins: