Playing devil’s advocate with the Albert Haynesworth situation

While the rest of us fans and media members are playing the bongos with Albert Haynesworth’s vital organs this week, columnist Patrick Hruby decided to play devil’s advocate with the defensive end’s situation. Hruby even goes as far as to write that he’s sympathetic to Haynesworth.

Here’s the crux of Hruby’s argument:

Haynesworth’s argument essentially goes like this:

I signed with the Redskins expecting to be a havoc-creating, quarterback-attacking playmaker in a 4-3 defense. That’s the role in which I excel; that’s the style of play I enjoy; that’s what was promised during my free-agent courtship. Only now, the team has shifted to a new coaching staff and a new 3-4 scheme, which basically asks me to eat double-team blocks. Thanks, but no thanks. I’d like a little more excitement. A lot more glory. Please send me somewhere else.

Is that really so awful? So craven?

Because this column is about the 6-foot-6, 350-pound Haynesworth — and not, say, the 5-6, 185-pound Darren Sproles — let’s try a food analogy. Imagine you’re a pastry chef. The top pastry chef in New York. A bunch of restaurants want you. One restaurant offers you more money than the others, plus the opportunity to run the dessert menu. You take it. A year later, the same restaurant switches to an all-fondue format and demands that you become a sous chef, chopping chocolate-dippable fruit wedges in the back room.

Technically, you’re still preparing dessert. And you’re still working with sugar. Woo-hoo! But otherwise, it’s not exactly the gig you signed up for. Would you be annoyed? Feeling jerked around? Would you maybe call in sick and check the restaurant want ads, even though you’re perfectly healthy? Would you try to prepare apple tarts somewhere else, perhaps move to a soufflé-friendly city like Boston or Philadelphia?

You would? Good. ‘Cause all of the above is pretty much Haynesworth’s situation. A situation that makes his reaction both understandably human and adult, as opposed to that of the world’s largest pouting toddler.

It’s a fair point, but it only works if the Redskins promised Haynesworth that he wouldn’t have to play in the 3-4. He and his agent claim that’s what the Redskins told him, but there is no proof of that to my knowledge. (Side Note: If anyone has record of the Redskins telling Haynesworth he didn’t have to play in the 3-4, feel free to share it.)

Hruby goes on…

Speaking of impotent rage: Skins supporters, team members or press box critics upset over Haynesworth’s intransigence maybe ought to direct some of their ire toward the club’s financial decision-makers. After all, Haynesworth wouldn’t have so much leverage — $21 million worth, which last I checked goes a long way, Antoine Walker excluded — if Washington hadn’t been stupid enough to cut such a large check.

Correction: a bonus check. Not a check for playing. A check for agreeing to play. Which Haynesworth did. And now he’s a bad guy? For saying yes to a big, fat sack of cash, real-life Monopoly money?

This is where Hruby’s argument falls apart. Haynesworth signed a seven-year contract – not a one-year contract. By taking the $21 million, he did agree to play, but he only played for one year. That $21 million bonus was given to him (no doubt foolishly, as Hruby points out) on the assumption that he would honor the full seven years of his deal. He couldn’t even make it two years without demanding a trade.

Hruby’s right when he says that the Redskins contractually owed Haynesworth the $21 million. But if we want to get technical, nowhere in Haynesworth’s contract does it read that the Redskins have to trade him if they switched to a 3-4. Nowhere in his contract does it say he can skip mandatory camps just because he doesn’t want to play nose tackle or a 3-4 defensive end.

Another flaw in Hruby’s argument is that the Redskins already paid Haynesworth to show up. Using Hruby’s analogy, that would be like the restaurant using direct deposit to pay the chef $50 million to cook for seven years and the chef only shows up for one. And as far as the chef “calling in sick” so he can look for other jobs: Let’s not forget that the Redskins gave Haynesworth the opportunity to seek employment elsewhere and instead, he did nothing until April 1 and then cashed the $21 million. (According to Mike Shanahan, the Skins told Haynesworth he had until April 1 to find a trade partner or else he had to honor his commitment to the team.)

While I appreciate Hruby having some chops and looking at this situation from a different point of view, Haynesworth is still in the wrong here. Ever since he got to Washington, his goal was to get paid. And ever since he got to Washington, the Redskins’ goal was to have the top defensive lineman playing for them for multiple years – not just one.

Thanks to the Redskins, Haynesworth achieved his goal. And thanks to Haynesworth, the Redskins have yet to achieve theirs.

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