Long Live Albert Haynesworth And The Redskins, The Ultimate Cautionary Tale

ASHBURN VA - AUGUST 06: Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth #92 of the Washington Redskins walks off the field after missing his eighth consecutive day of practice during Redskins training camp on August 6 2010 in Ashburn Virginia. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Two years after signing with the Redskins, Albert Haynesworth was reportedly traded to the Patriots on Thursday. Before he leaves Washington, though, let's relive the free agent madness from a few years ago. Plus: Reggie Bush, Butch Davis, the NBA Lockout, and Steve Jobs quietly taking over the world. Talking Points is a series that highlights some of the best stories in sports (and elsewhere). Read the archives here.

As you know by now, Haynesworth was traded to the New England Patriots on Thursday, and we'll get to today's news in a bit. But first let's relive the history here. Sometimes it helps to add some commentary to stories like this, and other times, it's best to just let the characters speak for themselves.

In that spirit, today seems like a good day to relive this USA Today story from 2009:

A fat cigar dangled from Dan Snyder's left hand as he pondered dinner plans on Friday night ... This was a symbolic victory cigar for the aggressive Washington Redskins owner...


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"We've learned our lesson," Dan Snyder said later. "This is not the old ways at all. This is what I should have done a long time ago. [Haynesworth is] a very young man. I've learned that you don't do a seven-year contract with a player that's 33. You do it when he's 27. That's the big difference."

Then Jim Zorn confronted the elephant in the room. "It's a bit scary, because there are a lot of dollars out there, and now that you've made it, you can kind of relax, can't you? But the way he made it sound, it's not going to be that way. He has another whole motivation."

And then Skins defensive coordinator Greg Blache used history for some perspective.  "Blah, blah, blah," he said. "Reggie White proved the naysayers wrong. Albert — same university, same number, same explosiveness. I think he dominates the game in the same way."

Jesus. Reggie White, huh?

There's also this article, where Vinny Cerrato ominously draws a parallel between Haynesworth and CC Sabathia, and Haynesworth says, "All the years of my mom making me run around the house when I was getting too big, waking me up at about 6 o'clock in the morning to get ready for the season, I guess it's a recouping or something like that." It's all pretty glorious to in hindsight.

If most free agent busts are like drunken sprees at a CVS, buying stars like Haynesworth is what happens when you start drunkenly shopping online. Next morning, you wake up and BOOM! You spent $35.6 million for two years, 20 games, and 6.5 sacks. It's a lesson teams should keep in mind this week--about 50% of the time, hindsight makes free agency look insane.

No matter how much work teams put in, anytime you hear the words "record contract" with an NFL free agent, you're basically playing Russian Roulette. The Redskins may shoot themselves in the face more often than most, but it's not limited to Dan Snyder. If nothing else, looking back at all this madness provides a pretty compelling counterpoint to everyone else's triumphant press conferences this week.

"You're not going to remember Albert Haynesworth as a bust," Haynesworth told media in 2009.

"Amen!" Jim Zorn added.

Isn't NFL Free Agency the best?


As for Haynesworth's new life with the Patriots... He was better than the numbers suggest during his first season in Washington, and last year's controversy was as much a function of Mike Shanahan's dickish power plays as anything Haynesworth did. On a good team, with a good defense around him, and a real coach motivating him, there's no reason to think he can't get back to wreaking havoc soon enough.

So, instead of being the guy that makes a splash and pays $35 million up front for a superstar, Bill Belichick just stole an A+ talent for a fifth round pick, with none of the money guaranteed.

If free agency's like Russian Roulette for teams spending big money, Belichick sometimes makes this stuff seem like shooting fish in a barrel. And this is why we all hate him so much.


With that, let's get into Talking Points...


Speaking Of Free Agency, How Will Reggie Bush Fit In Miami? From National Football Post:

Bush isn’t a No.1, plus he doesn’t get downhill and hit the hole with physical power. That role in Miami (for now) belongs to rookie Daniel Thomas out of Kansas State. A power scheme that relies on the off-tackle running package: Power O, Lead Open, Lead Strong, and Counter OF. A fit for Bush’s skill set? No, and the Dolphins can’t force him into that role.

... Bottom line, Bush isn’t an every down player. We didn’t see that in New Orleans, so don’t expect it in Miami.


Okay then!


Don't You Hate When Stupid Teams Make Life More Difficult? Like when the Carolina Panthers give an average running back $40 million, and pretty much guarantee that Chris Johnson will hold out in Tennessee for at least the next month? It's been a banner offseason for the Panthers.


Wait, This Coach Was Caught Cheating? Nahhhh.... I'll never get sanctimonious about a college football coach breaking a bunch of asinine rules, but this quote sorta screams NCAA violations, doesn't it? Here's UNC safety Deunta Williams, eulogizing departed UNC coach Butch Davis:

"Sometimes coaches just have ‘it.’ And Coach Davis was one of those coaches. All of the guys loved him. Of course, the ballers loved him because he treated the ballers very nice. His policy was a "what have you done for me lately" type of thing. So if you were balling, you were in the good graces of Coach. Players like that type of stuff. When he came in, he gave us gear and all types of incentives to do the right thing. Even with academics, if you got a certain GPA, you were able to do more stuff – cut back on mandatory study time, move off campus, get sweatshirts or jumpsuits or things of that nature."

The ballers loved him... he treated the ballers very nice. I love college sports.


Did You Know That Billy Hunter Used To...? The NFL Lockout was resolved this week in large part because DeMaurice Smith guided the players' negotiations better than anyone expected. Instead of a one-sided war of attrition that the players would inevitably lose, Smith turned the tables on the owners and used a series of masterful ploys to keep the owners off-balance, and ultimately convince everyone that missing the season was a bad idea.

De Smith was Don Draper, complete with the fedora and the swagger and the perpetual chip on his shoulder. By comparison, Billy Hunter sometimes seems like Betty Draper--disrespected, easily bullied, and silently resentful about it all. It may not be fair, but there are a lot of people who worry about Hunter's ability to lead the players. All of which brings us to Jonathan Abrams' piece at Grantland this week, which adds more depth to Hunter's character and tells the story of a guy with who's more complicated--and accomplished--than you may realize.

He played in the NFL?

After Syracuse, Hunter went on to a brief but eventful NFL career, in which he mostly served as a kick returner. He played with the Washington Redskins in 1965 and the expansion Miami Dolphins in his next and, ultimately last, season.

"What I learned in the NFL was just that it was very political, that you thought once you arrived at the pro level, it would be all about skill and ability, but the politics at the pro level, once you're involved with the teams back then, was just kind of endemic," Hunter said. "I don't want to get vulgar, but you had to genuflect and all that. You had to kiss ass and also perform. What they did back then was, there were limited positions that brothers could play."

He prosecuted Jim Jones' cult?

Hunter also prosecuted the surviving members who aided Jim Jones' cult after the mass suicide of more than 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. Hunter visited Jonestown following the assassination of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan.

He also helped free Patty Hearst? Uh... What?

They talked about life, and Hunter noted the irony of how he, a poor kid from New Jersey, was holding the key to the freedom of one of the country's most wealthy heiresses. At the end of the three-hour conversation, Hearst plainly asked Hunter of his intentions. "I told her that I would recommend getting her out of here."

Hunter's got a lot of work to do with the NBA Lockout, and there's still a chance that he's the Betty Draper to De Smith's (or David Stern's) Don. But there's still a chance that we've underestimated him all along. And as Smith proved during the past five or six months, sometimes being underestimated can be the greatest negotiating weapon of all.


Where The NBA Lockout Will Be Won? Overseas. While NBA superstars party it up with the locals in China, some voices back home have been wondering whether that's such a good idea. CBS' Ken Berger, in particular, thinks that stars should get home and start fighting for the players.

Tom Ziller nails the rebuttal in today's edition of his new column, The Hook:

This is a real battle for money, and the best thing the players can do individually is not try to sway a skeptical, bored and annoyed public. The best thing the players can do is show the NBA that they do not need the NBA. Deron Williams showed his new boss that he can make money without a Nets jersey. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose made a reported $400,000 each to play two exhibition games in the Philippines. The NBA nor those players' teams saw a dime. You think Jerry Buss, Clay Bennett and Jerry Reinsdorf like to see that?


Maybe Apple Should Just Buy The NBA? Jeeeeeeeeeeee-susssssssss.


Also, Apple's adding facial recognition software to all of its new products in the near future. So they have an endless fortune and unprecedented access to our information, including our facial features. What could possibly go wrong?


Finally, Two Great Videos. First, here's Brazil's Neymar dominating six defenders all by himself. Visual evidence that Americans will never, ever be as good at soccer as Brazilians:

But do Brazilians have awesome YouTube parodies of Nascar prayers? DIDN'T THINK SO.

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