Posted: Wednesday March 8, 2006 1:40PM; Updated: Wednesday March 8, 2006 5:33PM
Under the agreement, if Arrington made the Pro Bowl in two of the next four years, he could become a free agent unless Washington paid $3.25 million -- half the disputed money. So at the very least, this official seemed to indicate the team would let Arrington depart, regardless of whether he flourished. At the most, something beyond X's was occurring at Redskins Park. Why would someone close to Snyder not want his star player to succeed? And how brash -- or reckless -- was it to e-mail a reporter, even if there was an understanding that the sender wouldn't be quoted?
So when Arrington went from being Mr. Redskin to Mr. Irrelevant last season, the e-mail stuck in my mind.
It was only last March that Snyder threatened to give star receiver Laveranues Coles a flat-screen TV to watch games at home if he nixed a Jets trade. ("'We'll bench you for two years, then we'll cut you,'" Coles said Snyder told him. "'If you come back, we'll torture you.'")
I'm not saying that such sinister instructions came from up top regarding Arrington. But you don't have to be Oliver Stone to realize that the fallout played a part in the humiliating treatment of the once-favored star.
Things changed dramatically after Arrington -- the second overall pick in 2000 -- was no longer Snyder's favorite player. They used to play chess on the team plane during flights to road games. Snyder and Arrington had lengthy phone discussions on wide-ranging subjects, including personnel moves. But last season, a few teammates told me that the club was trying to break Arrington's spirit and shake his confidence.
How else do you explain the linebacker being benched on third-and-long situations, when only reckless abandon -- something he didn't lack -- is required
Gregg Williams is a defensive mastermind who requires players adhere to a regimented system. He deserves to be a head coach again. But Arrington's weaknesses were exaggerated as the Redskins seemed to take pride in showing he was replaceable. Safety Sean Taylor also blew assignments, yet the talented safety was coddled. Of course, Arrington's saga was complicated by personalities: Linebackers coach Dale Lindsey, a curmudgeon with an expletive-filled vocabulary, never meshed with his sensitive star. (When Lindsey was on NorvTurner's staff in 1997, he lambasted a rookie linebacker so much that the player cried.)
Arrington wasn't blameless in the turn of events. After Williams joined Washington in 2004, Arrington and Taylor were the only two players who skipped voluntary workouts, instantly creating tension. And Arrington displayed curious timing by blasting the organization when he felt neglected. (According to one team official, one part of Washington's settlement proposal included a stipulation barring Arrington from publicly criticizing the team.)
I realized how much Arrington loved being a Redskin after I visited him at his home in Fairfax, Va., in 2004 for his first public comments on the dispute. Arrington was in the middle of moving to Annapolis, Md., and the last room to be emptied was decorated with Redskins memorabilia.
I thought it was a tad creepy that a few fans would mill outside his front lawn at night to catch a glimpse of their favorite player, but he didn't mind.
The Redskins actually preferred that their erstwhile star restructure his contract to remain with the club, saving an extra four million or so under the cap. But Arrington would have had to remain in Washington another two years, delaying the inevitable ending of a drama in which personal matters too often mixed with business.