In 2007, Albert Haynesworth became one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league, primarily because he was chasing a big sack of money. In 2008, operating under the franchise tag with an addendum that allowed him to avoid a second straight year of franchise money based on certain team or individual factors, Haynesworth continued to play hard, in order to get paid more than handsomely.
Assuming that Haynesworth, who had been average for most of his career pre-2007, would continue to be motivated after losing his financial incentive, the Redskins gave him a six-year, $100 million contract (more like four years, $48 million). His first year wasn’t dominant, and then his second year became a disaster.
So now that he’s in New England and not (yet) chasing another big sack of money, what will he do?
“It’s time for me, the sleeping giant, to awake and get back out there on the field and play football again,” Haynesworth told reporters Thursday, via Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com.
It’s the closest Haynesworth has ever come to admitting that, figuratively and literally, he laid down on the job after getting paid.
“I read what you guys wrote, nothing personal, but I didn’t do much in D.C.,” Haynesworth said. “The scheme didn’t fit me and that stuff. Now I can go out there and play get back to what I used to do.”
He shouldn’t blame it on the scheme. Though Redskins coach Mike Shanahan erred badly when converting from a 4-3 to a 3-4 when Haynesworth was making it clear that he had no interest in that approach, Haynesworth ultimately should have tried to make the change. He never did.
This year, it remains to be seen whether he can get back to his 2007-08 form. If he can, the Patriots will have a much better pass rush than they had in 2010. (Then again, it couldn’t get much worse.) But if he plays well and when he is eligible to get paid more than handsomely again, here’s hoping that folks don’t forgot how he responded after getting his first huge free-agent contract.