When Albert Haynesworth was a Titan, he was many things at different times: dominating, disappointing, dirty, respectable steady, out-of-shape. He was definitely all of those things at one time or another, but he never was a scrub. Outside of a decent first season in Washington, Haynesworth has been just that.
Now, Albert is he easiest to dismiss player in the NFL. He's the poster-child for the guy who just played hard enough to get that one massive contract, then shut it down. But the truth of what happened to Albert isn't just that simple.
The truth is Albert showed up to Washington in shape, and played pretty well in that first season on a defense devoid of D-line talent. Where things went wrong was when Mike Shanahan came to town dead-set on playing on of the league's most devastating 4-3 pass rushers as a blocker-eating nose tackle who's goal wasn't necessarily to penetrate. Albert proceeded to bitch, moan and pout like a baby. Even worse, he made damning and distracting statements to the media about these developments, and bookended that with ugly off the field incidents. This kept on until he ended up on the waiver wire.
From there he landed in New England, another defense that primarily plays 3-4. He was used in spots, rather than as a primary lineman and didn't catch on at all. Now, he's in Tampa.
Now he's in Tampa, and looks to be on the last shot of his career. In conversations with the Nashville media ahead of his return to Nashville on Sunday, Albert made a few statements that startled me:
If he had it to do over again, Albert Haynesworth wishes he had stayed a Tennessee Titan.
While Haynesworth got a $100 million payday ($41 million guaranteed) from the Washington Redskins, it sent his career down a path he would rather have not traveled as he bounced from the Redskins to New England and now to Tampa Bay where the Bucs plucked him off waivers just over two weeks ago.
"Guys have definitely got to be careful of that," Haynesworth warned. "Before you go and you think that the grass is going to be greener on the other side, look back at where you played your ball at and see if you maybe you can work something out with them."
I don't think the Titans made a mistake by not ponying up to the franchise-crippling money Albert was clearly going to command. However, I did say over and over again that if Albert was going to get paid and keep playing at a high level, the only place that would ever happen is here. He was a perfect fit for Jim Washburn's system and personality. He and Jeff Fisher knew how to push Albert's buttons, and the results were beautiful for Titans fans. Would have been as good as he was in that franchise year? Almost certainly not. Would 80% of Albert be enough to change the effectiveness of this D over the past few seasons? Absolutely.
But in the end, Albert made his choice, and his baggage picked up a few new luggage tags along the way. The Titans made the right choice, but the results weren't happy for either side.