- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the many jokes with the punchline “Washington Redskins” has been the notion that they are the champions of this time of the year — the start of NFL free agency — and the team should start raising banners to recognize those so-called titles.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. This is actually the time of year where the graves are dug for the Redskins‘ seasons. This is the time of year where 3-13 records are built.

This is the time of year where bad rosters are built at Redskins Park, equaling bad seasons.

No, the winners of this time of year in the NFL are the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, the two teams that met in the Super Bowl. This is the time of year where good teams are built — and bad teams as well.

Vinny Cerrato didn’t just dig a grave for this franchise. He dug a crater that they have yet to recover from. Nobody so far — not former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and certainly not last year’s general manager and current team president Bruce Allen — has been up to the task of digging this organization out.

The shovel has now been passed to new general manager Scot McCloughan. And if he needed a reminder of how deep the hole is, the biggest crater of them all, Albert Haynesworth, emerged last week on a Tennessee sports talk radio show to declare himself a $41 million victim.

“Well, I mean, it wasn’t fun,” Haynesworth said. “To be honest, after like a year or so of doing that, I mean, it really just got old. It was not, not fun. At Washington, it took my love away from the game. When I was with the Titans, playing for [defensive line coach Jim Washburn], we loved the game. We loved, as a D-line, to go out and just destroy an offense. We didn’t win all the time or whatever, but just to know that we really caused problems for other offenses and that we played extremely hard.

“When I went to Washington, it almost became like politics,” he continued. “Almost. It wasn’t 100 percent about football. It was like maybe 50 percent about football, and then 50 percent about just getting the name out there. Like, how many times could you mention ‘Washington Redskins‘? It was just so different.”

He was right about one thing — it’s different.

Haynesworth is long gone, but the damage is still being felt from the $36 million salary cap penalty that handcuffed this franchise in 2012 and 2013.
The other crater, though, remains — you know, the quarterback that now two different people, fellow Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown and Redskins teammate Brian Orakpo, have referred to as “different.”

“Everybody has different personalities, so you can’t beat the drum to other person’s beat too,” Orakpo said on NFL Network’s “NFL AM” show last week. “RGIII’s a different cat, but he has respect from everybody on how he works.”

Recently, Brown, talking about the Heisman House promotional gathering of former trophy winners, also said Griffin was “a different guy.”

Yes, he is. Not many NFL players cost two first-round draft picks and a second and are still struggling to play the position they were drafted for at even a basic level of competence. Or, as his coach, Jay Gruden said last season, is still “very raw, very raw.”

The irony is that of the two personnel decisions that have buried this franchise, the second one — trading away your future for a young quarterback — would not have likely happened if the penalty for the Haynesworth debacle had been announced before the Redskins traded those draft picks to the St. Louis Rams for the chance to select Griffin.

Shanahan, in his interview on my show “The Sports Fix” on ESPN 980 Radio last month, said he would have never traded those draft picks for Griffin if he had known about the salary cap penalty before the deal was made.

If that happened, Washington still would have had first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 and the second-round pick in 2013 as well — in a draft where Russell Wilson would have been available in the third round and Kirk Cousins in the fourth.

And now, McCloughan has been handed this legacy.

Haynesworth said the Redskins are “different.” Now Hall of Famers and teammates said the quarterback is “different.”

It’s McCloughan’s job to, at the very least, turn the franchise into something normal — not “different.”

Let the digging commence.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m.daily on ESPN 980 andespn980.com.

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