No one has paid a lot of adoring attention to Morgan Moses. He’s an offensive tackle in his sixth season — a well-paid and respected one, to be sure — but Daniel Snyder has never been seen hustling to the locker room to prevent him from playing hurt. Which Moses has done in this dead-last season — repeatedly. In early November he fought through an injured pectoral, and in early December he took a helmet in the back that cost him some feeling in his legs for a few days. He still managed to start the following week. Moses has made 79 consecutive starts, dating from 2015. No matter the circumstances, or the team’s lousy record, or his battered physical condition, Moses has played through it.
On Sunday against the New York Giants, Moses limped off the field with an injured knee, just two plays after quarterback Dwayne Haskins sprained his ankle to open the second half. Haskins went to the locker room for X-rays, where he met Snyder, who had hurried down from the owner’s suite full of solicitousness.
Snyder urged Haskins to listen to the medical staff and not return to the game.
“He was concerned,” Haskins said. “That meant a lot to me.”
You hope Snyder was as concerned for Moses.
Snyder’s alarm over Haskins was partly understandable: He surely wanted to protect his big-name first-round draft pick, whose dynamic potential at the most critical position will be counted on next season to lift the team from 3-12 and last place in the NFC East. But arguably no one has done more real, unsung, muddy, thankless work to protect Haskins than Moses. He has had a rough season, as have all of the Redskins, and he deserves equal care.
It beggars belief that after two solid decades of toxic dysfunction and failure, the owner would not be more self-aware and careful about the messages he sends with his interactions with players. How are the Redskins supposed to reset their culture if the owner appears to be playing his same old game of pet-the-favorite? Does he have no understanding at all of basic organizational dynamics? Does he not know how favoritism can impair a team, hobble a coaching staff and mess with a locker room?
It’s highly unusual for an owner to go downstairs during a game, much less interact with a player; most don’t do it because they understand the unintended consequences. Did he go hurrying to the locker room to see about Landon Collins’s Achilles’, Fabian Moreau’s hamstring, Donald Penn’s knee, Montae Nicholson’s ankle, Trey Quinn’s and Case Keenum’s concussions or Chris Thompson’s turf toe?
Scores of management tracts have been written on the corrosive effects of favoritism. When someone at the top shows even the appearance of overt partiality or special preference, it’s a disincentive. Pretty soon others feel irritated and demoralized. Their sense of fairness is offended. They have less motive to go above and beyond, because they don’t trust that the rewards are based on performance.
It creates wedges, jealousy, separation, where there should be cohesion. It pressures coaches to overlook the skills of others (Kirk Cousins). Good people (Trent Williams) eventually walk out the door, because they feel uncared for or underappreciated.
What Snyder doesn’t seem to understand is how the perception of favoritism can actually damage his alleged favorite. A supposed pet (Robert Griffin III) can wake up one day to discover that the people he most relies on to succeed, his peers, are subtly unsupportive. Every quarterback, no matter how talented, depends heavily on all-in cooperation and trust from the entire staff and team. If Snyder really cares about Haskins’s future with the team, he will realize he put the rookie in an uncomfortable position.
“You do what Dan says if you want to stay around here,” Haskins said after the game.
Dan. What ruined Griffin’s career with the Redskins wasn’t just playing through a debilitating knee injury; it was the creeping, damning perception that he had special status with Dan and veto power over his teammates.
Fortunately, Haskins is too fresh and promising to be blamed for much of anything or for his relationships to be poisoned yet. While the rookie started out raw, babyish and cosseted, he has progressed by “light-years,” as interim coach Bill Callahan put it — thanks to an exquisite teaching job by the thankless Callahan and his staff. If Haskins is smart, he will understand just how much that progress also depended on players such as Moses, who has been noticeably understanding. When the rookie didn’t yet know how to adjust his protections or hung on to the ball for too long, the people who took it on the chin and in the chops and got hung out to dry were the linemen. But they absorbed it without complaint while expressing nothing but encouragement.
Two weekends ago, when Haskins fumbled on the final play of the game against Philadelphia, Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham picked it up and raced toward the end zone. Just two Redskins made meaningful if ultimately futile pursuits. One was the much-injured Thompson, who attempted a diving tackle. Following him, a large man hauled his girth all the way from the other side of the field, trying to prevent the last-second score, though it didn’t mean anything, except to gamblers, and himself.
That was Moses, if anyone cared to notice.