Instead, Albert Haynesworth saw the New England portion of his strange career end Tuesday, as the Patriots decided they'd had enough with the 350-pound tackle after only eight games. It was an ending so surprising, and yet, so easily predictable.
Since being acquired in a trade in late July, Haynesworth had made an impact only in the headlines. He had had his conditioning called into question due to missed days in camp and practices. He had made a home on the injury report. He had expressed his deep respect for the Patriots franchise, only to apparently get into an argument with New England coaches weeks later.
Meanwhile, he was busy doing nothing in games. Three tackles. No sacks. Complete, utter, incredible failure.
Why? How? Dillon's arrival meant a 1,600-yard season and Super Bowl title. Moss' meant the most incredible season for a receiver in league history. How did Haynesworth's translate into nothing more than a three-and-a-half-month train wreck?
The blame belongs on this particular player, and on the man calling the shots.
The Patriots strategy to get the best out of Haynesworth failed because, in the end, he couldn't not be Albert Haynesworth. He couldn't shake the laziness, the selfishness, the attitude, the lack of ambition.
The "Patriot Way" failed with him because no approach can succeed with him. Haynesworth gets motivated by himself and himself alone. The idea of winning doesn't inspire him. The idea of money doesn't inspire him.
It's hard to tell what, if anything, inspires him. Because he had every reason to bust his butt for this team, and he couldn't even get himself started.
He started out of shape, missing the first training camp practices after his acquisition. He never got back into shape, saying as late as last week that he still had to knock the rust off, and he kept missing practices and landing on the injury report. In his final game Sunday, he played a measly nine snaps, including one in the second half.
The "Patriot Way" is based on the assumption that a positive, winning environment is the most important thing for a player. Haynesworth doesn't fit that mold. Even with a hacked-down contract, an ability to restore his reputation and a Super Bowl contender to play on, Haynesworth never mentally checked in.
The blame goes on Haynesworth, but it also goes on Belichick for bringing him in. Belichick looked at the chance to get the talented two-time All-Pro for little money and no risk, and didn't think twice. Confident that that "Patriot Way" could work again, he pulled the trigger. He was so enthralled with what he was getting that he never considered who he was getting.
The "Patriot Way" didn't mess this up. Haynesworth, with no impulse to change his ways, messed it up. Belichick, by choosing to bring on a red flag-laden troublemaker, messed it up. There was no risk, except for the black eye on Belichick's reputation as an evaluator of talent and attitude.
Belichick has seen what a sound locker room and competitive personalities can do. He has three Super Bowl rings that way. His team was in position for a fourth this offseason. And he brought in, of all people, Albert Haynesworth to be the missing ingredient.
There's nothing wrong with the "Patriot Way." The Patriots are a professional organization, and Belichick's influence and the code he's established are big reasons why. But there has to be something to work with with the player. And the coach has to be able to know the difference.
When that doesn't happen, you get the Albert Haynesworth project, an experiment flawed from the start that ends before it ever really begins.