The most vicious hit the Washington Redskins took Sunday at FedEx Field wasn’t the 24-0 beating at the hands of the St. Louis Rams. It wasn’t suffering their 10th loss of the season.
It wasn’t the six sacks of Colt McCoy, the last one knocking him out of the game with a strained neck, or the one that Robert Griffin III took in mop-up duty.
It wasn’t the missed assignments, the penalties, or even the fake punt by Tress Way in the third quarter that came up two yards short — bringing back memories of Jim Zorn and the “swinging gate” fake-punt debacle of 2009.
We’ve seen all of that before. It’s become the identity of this beleaguered franchise.
No, the hardest hit the Redskins took was from one of their own — their former captain and team leader, linebacker London Fletcher, who viciously attacked his old coach, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, in the pregame show on the CBS Sports Network.
“Why does Jim Haslett still have his job as a defensive coordinator after five years now of just ineptitude at the defensive coordinator position? Fletcher said. “He’s clueless as a defensive coordinator. He lacks attention to detail. He lacks feel on how to call a game.”
This was a stunning attack by a former player who is less than a year removed from playing for Haslett — even by Redskins standards of dysfunction, particularly coming from a player who was revered in Washington during the seven years he played here.
The buzz went through the stadium as word spread of Fletcher’s attack. On the field before halftime, former Redskins Tony McGee and Rick “Doc” Walker — while the Redskins were struggling to a 6-0 deficit before going into the locker room — spoke of how shocked they were with the intensity of the criticism leveled by Fletcher.
“Something’s going on there,” Walker said. “That’s personal.”
It was embarrassing for a franchise that has a long list of embarrassments to have one of its own be so brutal in his criticisms of a member of this coaching staff.
“Some of the calls he used to call when I was playing were head-scratching,” Fletcher continued. “They were so bad, I used to change them, like, ‘We’re not running that.’ And we’d get off the field and he would ask, ‘Why did you change the call.’ [I would say], ‘Because that’s just a dumb call. That’s why I changed it.’”
It’s hard to imagine how these two co-existed since Haslett arrived in 2010, considering Fletcher was considered the quarterback on the field as the veteran middle linebacker
“For years he has always made excuses,” Fletcher said. “One minute it was ‘We’re changing from the 3-4 and we don’t have the right personnel. Next minute it is salary cap. Next minute it is Mike Shanahan. Next minute it is injuries. Mike Shanahan recognized early that this guy does not know what he is doing. And he tried to help him out. And what does Jim Haslett do? He threw [Shanahan] under the bus just like he throws everybody under the bus, players and coaches included.
“He is a guy that does not know what he is doing. And the Washington Redskins — and Jay Gruden in particular — better watch his back and get Jim Haslett out of the door. Jay Gruden better get him out the door because he’s probably back stabbing Jay Gruden like he did everybody else — like he did to Scott Linehan in St. Louis and like he did to Mike Shanahan in Washington.”
He accused the guy who has been the Redskins defensive coordinator for five years now of being stupid and deceitful.
Haslett has been the target of criticism by Redskins fans for several years now as the defense has struggled, and particularly following their woeful performance in the 49-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 30. But to hear a former player unload on him like that was unsettling.
“That’s unfortunate,” Gruden said after the game. “I know that Coach Haslett has a lot of respect for London Fletcher, as we all do, as a football player and a person.”
Haslett said he was “disappointed” by his former defensive captain’s comments. “Obviously, he has an opinion and that’s his opinion, but I’m disappointed that he would come out and say something like that. London and I never had an issue.”
During Fletcher’s last season, Haslett went out of his way to publicly praise the linebacker.
“It’s been a great pleasure to coach the guy, probably one of the best I’ve ever been around, probably a Hall of Famer,” Haslett told reporters at the time. “You can’t ask any more — he’s a great person, great family man, he’s a great leader on your football team, an unbelievable skill set.”
Clearly, it wasn’t a mutual admiration.
“This is a guy that would take the ‘85 Bears and turn them into a mediocre defense,” Fletcher said Sunday. “He is clueless. He has no idea what he is doing. Believe me, I had a front row seat for four years.”
It did get very personal when, on Twitter, Haslett’s son Chase reacted to Fletcher’s comment with this tweet: “Sad someone who was respected to much and loved by my father would come out and try to ruin his career.”
To which Fletcher responded on Twitter: “You’re (sic) father has ruined plenty of people’s careers.”
Even by Redskins standards, this was ugly.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com
• Thom Loverro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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