Albert Haynewsowrth and Mike Shanahan never did make nice, and Haynesworth did virtually nothing for the Washington Redskins this season even when he saw the field. Maybe that is what lent the air of inevitability to the news Tuesday that Washington has suspended Haynesworth without pay for the final four games of the season.
Haynesworth felt as though he fit poorly into the team's new 3-4 scheme when Shanahan arrived. Shanahan, perhaps wondering where the overweight Haynesworth ever would fit, stood firm. The two got into an ill-advised spitting contest, each trying to outlast the other. Haynesworth needed a week and a half to pass the Redskins' conditioning test and practice with the team, but it hardly mattered: He refused to play in certain packages and seemed half-hearted on the rare occasions when Shanahan let him see action.
This is not the kind of estrangement from which a marriage like this bounces back: Haynesworth will be gone before next season begins in the nation's capital. The only question now is who would want him. He can certainly impact the game along the defensive line, especially in a 4-3 system, but he has a long climb back to the kind of physical and mental preparedness that made him a unanimous first-team All-Pro at defensive tackle in both 2007 and 2008. Read on for five teams that could be takers, if the price is right.
Lovie Smith has a reputation for being a player's coach, essentially the diametric opposite of Shanahan's "my way or the highway" approach. That has served him well with troubled players in the past, though he sometimes loses patience when their production dwindles.
Tommie Harris is no longer an impact tackle, and the Bears' 4-3 front could surely use Haynesworth's added muscles as a pass rusher. If Harris is gone after this season, Haynesworth could fill the void.
The Giants' entire defensive scheme is predicated on getting to the opposing quarterback early and often, and Haynesworth could work alongside Barry Cofield on the interior of the line to make that even more possible. It isn't a perfect fit—the Giants have enough depth already at those spots and need another off-field distraction like a hole in a wide receiver's leg—but the idea is tantalizing.
Haynesworth would not get much leeway from head coach Sean Payton in New Orleans, but the Saints run a 4-3 that needs more beef inside, so maybe he would not need much. The perfect place for guys to revive images and careers used to be New England: It may now be New Orleans, where the Saints are on a roll and could add Haynesworth in 2011 to help defend another title if this keeps up.
One thing about Haynesworth: For all his moodiness, he seems like he really just wants to have a good time. It is perhaps his own misfortune that he has labored under two of the NFL's more dour coaches in Shanahan and Tennessee's Jeff Fisher for most of his career.
Pete Carroll is the antidote to those blues. He always gets his players in the mood to work hard and have fun, and his teams notoriously enjoy themselves precisely the way Haynesworth wants to enjoy himself. The scheme and the environment fit well.
Raheem Morris wouldn't take any of Haynesworth's crap, and it wouldn't seem out of character for him to take the gargantuan Haynesworth down like an overgrown sack of potatoes. The Bucs are a young and rising team with the potential to contend in a serious way next season, and Haynesworth fits their needs on the defensive side of the ball to a tee.