I feel like the case for Albert Haynesworth's ability to cause a distraction is very well documented...legally documented in some cases. When this man puts his mind to it, the only thing more colossal than the space he occupies while lying down in the middle of a play is the distraction he causes to everything around him.
But this Donovan McNabb thing has me at least a little bit worried. As awful as Haynesworth is, there are few things in sports that generate more controversy than issues surrounding the Washington Redskins quarterback position (historically speaking anyway.)
Right now, McNabb is under contract. Right now, almost nobody expects him to be our starter in 2011. His rumored destination in 2011 continues to be Minnesota, but by what means does he end up there? Bruce Allen has recently stated his willingness to make the exact same move for #5 all over again. To many of us, that could be viewed as an attempt to let the NFL know that the Redskins still value McNabb and will be reticent to release him and let him walk for nothing in return. The problem is that it will most likely be viewed by McNabb and Fletcher Smith, his agent, the same way.
The problem with McNabb isn't that he's a bad guy-it's that he has a reputation as being a good guy. Players-for the most part-like him and really like playing with him. If Bruce Allen is not able to pull off a trade with Minnesota quickly after the lockout ends, we could be in for a real Mexican standoff. (OK...I have to admit, I use the phrase "Mexican standoff" occasionally and people know what I mean, but I really don't know where the phrase comes from. To the best of my knowledge, neither McNabb nor Allen are Mexican.)
The reason why it could be bad is because McNabb's agent has proven very capable of slinging it in the background while McNabb rises above it all in the foreground. McNabb can remain somewhat aloof through the process, saying things like, "I'll be somewhere next year." He can say things like, "We'll just have to wait and see." He can work out in Philly, proclaim to the world he is in great shape and announce he looks forward to proving himself in 2011 to all the doubters.
Meanwhile, Fletcher Smith and Bruce Allen are going to be engaged in a real battle. Smith is going to say all the stuff you expect him to say-"My client has been disrespected and dragged through the mud by the Washington organization." He is going to demand that McNabb be allowed to go and continue his career where he will be appreciated and can get away from the soap opera that the Redskins surround themselves with so well.
Bruce Allen requires some value for McNabb. Smith doesn't care (nor should he.) He has the ability to really make Allen's life miserable if he chooses to press for McNabb's release in the media.
At the same time all that is going on, McNabb could be in our locker room, being a good guy and good teammate. Will he complain about not getting "starter's reps" in camp or wonder aloud whether Rex Grossman or John Beck are even qualified to carry his jock? Of course not-that is not what he does. Fletcher Smith will be doing it and it will be the top story on Sportscenter. And who else will be quoted during those stories? You think London Fletcher believes Grossman or Beck gives him a better chance to win in 2011? You think DeAngelo Hall is going to wear an "In Rex We Trust" T-shirt?
Our locker room could be/is going to be an awkward place...again. At least with Haynesworth, you have a player who is essentially indefensible. In Albert, you have a guy that players know is not there for them. He is there for Albert. McNabb is not a Haynesworth. Donovan, for all his flaws, has generally been a VERY well-respected man in players' circles. Ol' #5 is going to be painted as the victim here. Doing this guy wrong is going to go over miserably.
The last thing we need is to have our young players of the future-Hankerson, Kerrigan, Orakpo, Trent Williams, Roy Helu, etc.-experience a poisonous preseason that forces them to see our front office as the bad guys they will be made to look like.
I happen to very strongly agree with Bruce Allen that we must get something in return for McNabb. I hope he can get something decent from Minnesota. But at some point, Allen is going to have to decide whether this battle should be fought. He is going to have to determine if this circus is one he wants to be the ringmaster of, and he has to weigh the consequences of a potentially greater distraction than Haynesworth was last year.
Good Lord...did anyone think that was possible?