Reporting David Elfin
We should be just days away from the start of another Redskins training camp. But thanks to the NFL lockout, which has lasted longer than a regular season, Washington coach Mike Shanahan is still burdened with the twin migraines who plagued his lousy 2010 debut.
Those chronic headaches, of course, are named Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb.
The latter problem is mostly of Shanahan’s making since he spent three months mulling a trade with the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles for the star quarterback, pulled him in Week 8 and then, with McNabb and the offense continuing to sputter, benched him for the meaningless final three games in favor of the much less-accomplished Rex Grossman.
However, Haynesworth is a legacy of the foolish overspending that characterized the reign of former Washington front office boss Vinny Cerrato.
An All-Pro defensive tackle with the Tennessee Titans, Haynesworth was inconsistent and often churlish in 2009, but that was an award-winning effort compared to last year when: he blew off the entire offseason because the coaches dared to ask him to play nose tackle in the new 3-4 defense; missed the first nine days of camp because he couldn’t pass Shanahan’s conditioning test; and after not suiting up for four of the first 12 games was suspended for the final four for insubordination.
So as he prepares to gather his players for his second camp, what does Shanahan do about McNabb and Haynesworth? Ideally, he would trade them for draft picks, but that seems less likely to happen since a new team wouldn’t have the luxury of seeing how they adapt during the offseason while learning systems and teammates.
McNabb will be 35 in November, is coming off the worst of his 11 years as a starter, and clashed with his coaches last season when he struggled to adapt to coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Haynesworth is 30 and almost surely out of shape, has declined to heed consecutive coaching staffs, faces trial next month on his second set of assault charges this year and was a league laughingstock in 2010 for his lack of effort.
Even if the former Pro Bowl players had more trade value, deals figure to be tough to come to make for a while with teams focusing on the much-delayed free agency and on signing their draft picks.
But if Haynesworth and McNabb remain on the roster, does Shanahan want to cause major distractions for the rest of the Redskins if they come to camp?
The coach can gamble that he’ll be able to acquire something for them before the season starts (when McNabb is due a $10 million bonus) or he can do the sensible thing: tell Haynesworth (who has $9 million remaining in salary cap bonus) and McNabb that they can stay home and not get fined.
If they still do show up in Ashburn, then it will be time for the Redskins to run up the white flag and surrender to the inevitable by cutting the migraines. Better to take the hit now than have the controversies infect the entire locker room for another season.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.