People like Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder don’t get to be the enormous pricks they are in a vacuum. (Note that I said Snyder is an enormous prick, not that he has an enormous prick. I’m writing only about what I have seen evidence of, and that evidence strongly indicates his prickiness in public may well be an attempt to disguise certain underaccomplishments not readily visible.) They are surrounded with enablers, human remoras who derive their sustenance by supporting the big dog in whatever he feels like doing.
Today’s example is Redskins defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Two weeks ago word leaked out that Gray had interviewed for the head coaching job. Nothing wrong with that in general, except that the position was occupied at the time by the man Gray worked for, and it could reasonably be assumed owed some allegiance to. Gray denied the report at the time; Redskins’ PR amended his reply from “no” to “No comment.” Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has publicly stated more than once that he wouldn’t talk with organizations who had a coach in place; Gray interviewed for his boss’s job, denied it, and still looked the man in the eye at work each day. That’s chutzpah. It’s also a distinct lack of class.
The best part is, Gray has as much chance of getting Zorn’s job as you or I do. Snyder interviewed him solely to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a new coach. Now the way has been cleared for Snyder to hire Mike Shanahan, or whoever else catches his eye. Gray will be but a memory: any new coach will want his own staff, certainly not some holdover who has already proven he can’t be trusted.
Gray symbolizes the toadies who empower the prick at the top; Albert Haynesworth personifies those who are empowered by him. Haynesworth is a defensive tackle, arguably the best in the game at disrupting running plays. When he feels like it. He felt like it more often than not for most of the season, though he rested himself on his own schedule and suffered an unusual number of niggling injuries for someone his size. (Except for him, based on his history.)
Two weeks ago Snyder hired Bruce Allen as new General Manager, thus closing the door all but officially on Jim Zorn’s tenure as coach. Suddenly Albert’s a malcontent. He arrived late for practice on Christmas Day and was sent home after a confrontation. He was quoted as saying “we need somebody to lead us in the right direction.” Haynesworth then addressed the leadership issue in his own way, encouraging his teammates to arrive late to practice on Christmas Day to protest the early start.
Albert also doesn’t care for how he’s being used, as he told The Washington Post’s Jason Reid: “…you can only do so much within the system that's put around you. And I'm not talking about the players.” When asked if his $100 million contract ($41 million guaranteed) bestowed some sort of leadership mantle, Haynesworth replied, “A contract don't make you, as far as leadership. I've never been a guy that wants to talk or get in front of the team and say whatever…I don't even want to be a captain and go out there in the middle for the coin toss because the other team is the enemy.” His reticence clearly doesn’t include not running his mouth to the media.
Late season frustration? Sure, though Haynesworth’s acting out coincides suspiciously with Snyder’s hiring of Allen, which sealed Zorn’s status as lame duck. With an owner like Snyder, coaches like Gray and teammates like Haynesworth, who’s to blame a player for not giving himself up for the team? It’s not like too many people will have your back.
Jim Zorn appears to be a good man who is in over his head as head coach. Jason Campbell has been a trooper, and has shown some skills that might make him a serviceable quarterback for a team with a clue. They, and a good many other players, deserve better than to be in the uniformed insane asylum that passes for a football team in Washington.