|Albert in Wonderland|
He's painted as one who doesn't love the game, as a quitter, and worse. Washington Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan is slamming him as is the Legendary Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis, who, sadly, is being a hypocrite.
But the person who really deserves the criticism and heat, and isn't getting it at all, is Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan. Moreover, Albert Haynesworth is quite correct that playing in a 3-4 will reduce his ability to be effective; the same skill than landed him a $100 million contract to start with.
Mike Shanahan should know better
All of this controversy would not have started if Mike Shanahan, who I'm personally not sold on as the answer for the Washington Redskins coaching woes, had not insisted on slamming a 3-4 down Albert Haynesworth's mouth. The way Coach Shanahan thinks about the 3-4 is not comforting; the best answer that would meet Albert Haynesworth's concerns is to have both defensive ends over the offensive guards, or at least one engaging in some kind of double-teaming action with Albert. But I've seen no evidence of Shanahan employing such hybrid schemes in the past.
Albert Haynesworth is a 4-3 three-technique tackle. Asking Albert Haynesworth to play the 3-4 as a nose tackle is like asking The Pittsburgh Steeler's "Mean" Joe Greene to do the same for the Steel Curtain Defense of the 1970s. You can bet Greene would have the same reaction.
The 3-4 is harmful to defensive tackles
Simple logic has it that asking one person to rush the passer or defend the run against three people is harmful to that players football life. When the nosetackle isn't double teamed, he (or she in some cases) is tripple teamed, when slide blocking - where the guard "slides" off the nosetackle and blocks the inside linebacker - is used.
So on an off-tackle counter play, we have the guard on the side of the play double teaming with the center on the nose tackle (and the inside linebacker on that side is blocked by the fullback), while the off-playside guard slides off the same nosetackle and blocks the off-side inside linebacker who's movement is slowed by the counter fake from the halfback.
In a 4-3 defense such games are impossible to play. Both offensive guards have to deal with the defensive tackles and the center helps on a double team of the off-side defensive tackle. The resultant hole is one the middle linebacker can plug, take on the fullback, and with the onside defensive tackle stop the play.
Ray Lewis is being a hypocrite
Ray Lewis says he can play well in either a 3-4 or a 4-3, and takes time to slam Albert, according to The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg. Lewis said:
"The response is, whatever you want me to do coach, let's get it done. If you want to switch the defense because you think it'll work better in a 3-4 -- I played in a 4-3 my whole life, but we switched up to a 3-4. 'Ok, Ray, you're gonna have to take on more guards, you're gonna have to do this and that.' Ok, coach, I'll adjust. Do I like it? Hmm, nah. But I'll adjust, so let's do it, you know what I'm saying? And through that process, I won the defensive player of the year in the 4-3 in 2000, and in 2003 I came back and won the defensive player of the year in the 3-4. So it don't matter."
But here's where Ray's not saying what he really thinks. For that, we have to go back to 2005 and S.I.com, when Ray Lewis openly expressed joy over the news that he was going to be featured in then-Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan's 46 Defense, after playing in Mike Nolan's Ravens 3-4 Defense. In 2005, Lewis said:
"That's like telling your premier running back that you're going to make sure he's not going to be touched in a football game. To come into camp and have my defensive coordinator tell me I’m not going to be touched, I’m like a little kid all over again...It's tough, because you have to humble yourself and take coaching and do whatever they tell you to do," Lewis said. "Whether it takes away from your game or helps it, you just deal with it. That's what I did. It didn't alter how I prepared, it didn't alter my passion for the game. But at the same time, it alters how dominant I can be."
The scheme of defensive did matter to Ray Lewis, even though he says otherwise today. From another perspective, one that your more likely to get inside an African American family home (unless you live in Oakland, CA), Albert Haynesworth does not want to be treated like he's a modern day slave; black barber shop talk would place Ray Lewis in just such a category.
To be fair, Ray Lewis is a worker bee, but even he has to question a social system where the choice of football scheme is generally done without the consultation of the players that are to use it.
In an ideal world, Coach Mike Shanahan would have talked with Albert Haynesworth regarding the type of scheme he wants to play in and the two would have come to a meeting of the minds, but in the NFL, even in the 21st Century, there are coaches who can't resist the urges of their own irrational egos, even at the expense of intelligent thinking.