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Cerrato doesn't regret Haynesworth signing

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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There are a lot of adjectives I've heard to describe defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth during his short tenure in Washington, but "effective" isn't one of them.

Only it is now because we're talking to the guy who brought Haynesworth to the Redskins when the former All-Pro was the top free-agent catch on the market. I'm speaking of Vinny Cerrato, the team's former executive vice president of football operations.

I know what you're thinking before we even get started: Cerrato is trying to cover his hide because he's responsible for hiring one of the most disgraced figures in the recent history of Redskins' football. Haynesworth is part of his legacy, and you do what you can to polish it, right?

Maybe. But Cerrato recognizes Haynesworth's shortcomings and acknowledges that he behaved and reacted as he shouldn't when the club last season changed coaching staffs and Haynesworth engaged head coach Mike Shanahan in a staredown that shredded the Redskins.

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He also recognizes the facts, and the facts are these: When Albert Haynesworth was part of the Washington defense in 2009, he started, he was productive and, yes, he was effective.

"Albert helped get Brian Orakpo to the Pro Bowl," said Cerrato, now working with a Baltimore radio station (105.7 The Fan), "and [defensive end] Andre Carter had his best year with 11 sacks. That happened because opponents had to double-team some guy, and that guy was Albert.

"The Redskins were coming off a season where they couldn't get to the quarterback, and they didn't produce turnovers. But that changed when Albert was there. So, in his first year, he did what he was supposed to do."

Cerrato has a point. Look at the Redskins' defense in 2008, and you find it tied at 28th in sacks, with Andre Carter the team leader in that department. He had four. They were tied for 28th in turnovers, too, with their 18 turnovers better than only Denver (13) and Jacksonville (17).

Now fast-forward to 2009, and the Redskins vaulted to eighth in sacks with 40 – with Carter and Orakpo each producing 11 -- and Orakpo the first Redskins' rookie chosen to the Pro Bowl since running back/kick returner Tony Green in 1978.

Granted, takeaways didn't go up; in fact, they decreased by one. But defense wasn't the problem in Washington that season. The Redskins couldn't find the end zone with a sherpa. They ranked 22nd yards, 26th in scoring, 27th in rushing and five times failed to produce 14 points in a game.

Things got so bad that midway through the season they hired Sherman Lewis as an offensive consultant and took the play-calling away from then-head coach Jim Zorn ... which is another way of saying don't blame what happened that season on Albert Haynesworth.

After that? Fire away, folks. When Mike Shanahan took over as head coach in 2010 a lot changed, including the responsibilities for Haynesworth, and that's when trouble began. Shanahan challenged Haynesworth to respond, and he refused ... and the more he refused the worse the situation became, with Haynesworth and his head coach locked in a battle of wills Haynesworth could not win.

The results were predictable. Haynesworth did next to nothing last season, was suspended by the club in December for "conduct detrimental" and eventually became so unwelcome at Redskins Park that neither coaches nor teammates wanted him back -- with former linebacker LaVar Arrington calling Haynesworth "the worst free-agent headache ever in Redskins' history" in the Washington Post Thursday.

Now that headache is off to New England, and the question is: Will a change of scenery produce a change in Albert Haynesworth?

"My guess is that it would," said Cerrato, "but it's up to Albert. Does he want to act like a man and go out there and do his job? It depends on how he'll handle the situation. I guess we'll see how he performs, but that defense is more in line with what he's happy with."

While the Patriots officially are one of the 3-4 clubs, they flex so many four-man fronts that they should find a place where Haynesworth is more comfortable and more productive. Heck, he couldn't be less productive than he was last season. The rest, of course, is -- as Cerrato said -- up to Albert.

But that's not what intrigues me now. Nope, what I want to know is after all that's gone down in Washington, if Cerrato has buyer's remorse. You know what I mean. After the body blows he absorbed ... and continues to absorb ... for signing Haynesworth, would he sign him again if the situation were the same?

Cerrato didn't flinch.

"If the Redskins were still playing a 4-3 I would," he said. "Under the circumstances, it made sense. But if I was running a strict 3-4, absolutely not."

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