It all started before the 2009 season. Albert Haynesworth was introduced as the latest in a long line of high-profile free agent acquisitions by the Snyder/Cerrato team, with a contract worth up to $100 million dollars. Shortly after that, it was revealed that Haynesworth was charged with two misdemeanors for something or other in Tennessee.
I had the same reservations most fans did. $100 million for that guy? The guy who stomped on the head of an opposing player a few years earlier? Oh, but he’s not the same guy, the talking heads assured us. He’s grown up, he’s learned from that. He’ll be out there, and he’ll draw three offensive lineman to try and bring him down. He’ll make everyone else on the field better.
Okay, so I bought in. And the defense didn’t suck; after all we had rookie beast Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher in his first Pro Bowl season. But somehow, the high-priced free agent signing won the Redskins only four games that year.
But that wasn’t what really bothered me about the Haynesworth signing. It was how a few months before, the Redskins organization had laid off about twenty office workers, plus a bunch of other employees at FedEx field. People who did jobs like mine and didn’t make nine figure salaries, in marketing, legal, IT, etc., were out of jobs. Yet, they found the budget to pay $100 million to a guy like Albert Haynesworth (and we all now know how that experiment worked out).
I know that this is apples and oranges. That the budget for office staff is different than that for players and coaches. But still, it didn’t sit right with me, especially since my daughter’s daycare teacher knew personally one of the people laid off. Having been laid off myself in the past, those kind of things run deep with me.
That was the start of a slow decline in interest for me and the Redskins. One that has seen a sudden acceleration since the game against Tampa Bay on December 12. Our kicker misses two chip shot field goals, but the punter/holder gets fired after missing a high snap in the rain?
And then there’s the McNabb situation. After Head Coach Mike Shanahan benched him for the final two minutes of the Detroit game on Halloween, he basically said it was because McNabb was too dumb and too out of shape without saying that he was too dumb or too out of shape. Every time either of the Shanahans opened their mouths, there was a different reason that a six-time Pro Bowler, five-time NFC championship game quarterback couldn’t run a two minute drill and that Sexy Rexy Grossman was the man for the job.
Fast-forward to this past week. Mike Shanahan, mindful of the firestorm it would cause if he were to announce anyone other than McNabb starting at quarterback for the final games of our mathematically irrelevant season, waits until Friday before letting it leak that that would be the case. He could have used the opportunity at the previous Monday press conference to say “Well, since we’re out of the playoffs anyway, we might as well evaluate what we have,” which would have diffused the firestorm before it ever got started.
Instead, you have what happened on Friday. Rage amongst the twitterers, angry debates on the local sports talk airwaves, mock and bewilderment on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. Sure, that worked a whole lot better.
Then on Monday’s press conference, after the loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Mike Shanahan said:
Rex is very familiar with the terminology, which gives him the ability to throw things out there a little quicker than other quarterbacks would.
I’m sorry, but is he saying, again that McNabb is too dumb to learn his offense? After a whole offseason and thirteen weeks of game play, he hasn’t learned the vaunted “terminology”?
Which leads to the questions floating about recently. If McNabb isn’t “the guy” to learn the terminology, why did we spend two draft picks to get him here? Why did the Redskins sign him to an extension (that granted, they could get out of pretty easily and without a whole lot of financial consequences)? Is it perhaps because McNabb isn’t Shanahan’s guy, but rather Snyder’s?
Whether you buy into the conspiracy theory or not, that McNabb was forced down Shanahan’s throat with varying levels of cooperation, it’s clear that signing him was a dumb move in terms of more wasted draft picks. And it’s more clear that Snyder, if he did have his hands in the McNabb trade, hasn’t learned anything in his eleven years as owner of the team, or perhaps ever will. Keep spending the money and the draft picks to get the highest profile name out there. Keep using said players to drive your marketing pushes with the promise that “The Future Is Now.™” Whether or not it will actually help you win football games, eh, who cares?
So we come to our third non-winning season in a row. And not only do I find myself not really caring whether the Redskins win or lose, I find myself not caring whether or not I see the game. There’s just nothing to care about anymore. At least in the past there’s been the hope that after a disastrous season, lessons might be learned and improvements might be made, but that feeling is completely absent this year.
At least last year at this time, I was rejoicing over the firing of Vinny “Talk-Show Host” Cerrato. I never thought Jim “Maroon and Black and Yellow” Zorn was a bad guy, and we were all singing his praises after the 6-2 start in 2008, but by this time last year we were all counting down the days until the end of his tenure and speculating who would be the next coach. The end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 held such promise for a new beginning in Washington, that even though we finished the season in the toilet we had something to genuinely look forward to.
But now what is there? Shanahan’s not going anywhere. McNabb though? Done. And anyone who says Rex Grossman is the future face of this franchise needs to get back on his meds. This is about the lowest I’ve ever felt about the Redskins: complete and total apathy. I’m not ready to turn in my fan card quite yet, I have too many years of my life invested in rooting for this team, but my energy and enthusiasm for the Burgundy and Gold is just absent, void. And until I see something out of Ashburn to show me that there’s real, honest, sincere improvement on the horizon, I’m afraid it will remain so.