It seems like everybody is starting to scratch their heads over the fact Albert Haynesworth was not in the line up at some point on Sunday night. After hearing Shanahan’s explanation during Monday’s press conference, he did little to explain why this was so. It felt more like the Shakespearean verse: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
I strive to observe Shanahan’s decisions regarding Haynesworth, with logic and compassion, but his thought processes are increasingly perplexing, as they relate to Haynesworth’s contributions to the team and the team itself.
I haven’t done an in depth study on the coach, but some good articles have been written that give insight into how he became the decision maker he is. His upbringing indicates he was not privileged. He went to work in his early years to help support his family. As this process was taking place, he was thinking of a better life through education. He was a runt and wore the chip proudly on his shoulder; turned a negative into a positive, which is quite noble.
While going to college and participating in sports, he was seriously injured in a football game. His kidney was concussed. It almost killed him later that evening, but he refused to come out of the game. And, if he had been on a battlefield this too would be seen as a noble act, but on a football field it becomes self-sacrifice not concomitant with the endeavor. After all it was a college football game that has been forgotten except for the fact that a player’s pride almost killed him. But, perhaps this is what true grit looks like.
Shanahan eventually became a gofer for Barry Switzer at Oklahoma in the mid 70s and started on the coaches carousel, until he landed the head job at Denver in the mid 90s. He has a code by which he lives and expects others do the same. This is reasonable and admirable; he no doubt credits his success to the constitution he’s adapted over the years written in his own blood and perspiration, (Mike doesn’t look like a guy that’s shed many tears). And now we arrive at the intersection, where the chilling effects of one’s personal laws go in one direction and the benevolence of logic and compassion in another.
The first question that must be asked: is the Haynesworth dilemma solely at the feet of Shanahan? He seems too intelligent to let a personal feud boil over onto his team. Or is someone prompting him from back stage? The second question is: as he explained how difficult it is to determine week in and week out, who the best 45 players are, surely there are some players that routinely make the cut without having to prove anything in practice, i.e. #5, #30, #98 etc., ... #92 isn’t one of those players? How can you ignore #92’s body of work in the NFL when it comes to doing what’s best for this team as a unit?
This conditioning thing is off-putting. From where I sit as a former player, I see inconsistency, not strict adherence to the rules. It’s one thing to single Haynesworth out, but you can’t continue to contradict your policy. Has it occurred to anyone that actually playing the game is the best way to get in shape for it?
Haynesworth is coached arbitrarily; there is one set of rules for him and another for the rest of the players. I understand that nothing was given to Mike Shanahan; he did it the old fashioned way; he earned it. Some people that achieve success by earning it, rise above the petty. Others get boxed into tunnel vision and can only see in black and white missing out on the joy of Technicolor.
Haynesworth challenged the immutable laws of his coach. As this novella plays out, they both appear to be two hubris-drunk cowboys, standing at the bar, trading punches. It was entertaining for all of us in the beginning; then it became monotonous, and now it has gotten somewhat pathological, and eventually management is going to ask someone to leave.
The cowpoke that’ll be leavin’ the saloon is tall, dark and handsome. The guy that’s short, dark and handsome, why doggone, that's the new sheriff! What's he doin' here at the bar with that big galoot?