Last Friday, Sports Illustrated writer Don Banks posted an article discussing some of the more important questions facing a few NFL teams heading into the 2010 season.
Banks’ only question for the Bears; Will Julius Peppers elevate the Bears defense more than Jay Cutler did for the offense last year?
A very fair question. He goes on to state how Jay Cutler’s first season as a Bear resulted in two fewer wins than the year before. Again, fair enough. We might have let Cutler Mania get the best of us, but so did his colleague Peter King.
We are more prepared for big news this offseason; we will not get ahead of ourselves.
However, Cutler did set the Bears franchise records for most completions (336) and attempts (555). He also threw for the second most yards (3,666) and third most touchdowns (27) ever by a Bears quarterback. Not too shabby.
If Peppers goes on to break two Bears franchise records and challenge for two more, I think we did all right.
But then Banks takes a confusing turn in his answer to his own question. He compares the Bears signing of Peppers to that of the Washington Redskins signing of Albert Haynesworth last off season. Banks continues to call out the play on the field, and more notably, compares Peppers’ character to that of Haynesworth.
Banks' original question was fair, but is the comparison to Haynesworth’s character as so?
Albert Haynesworth may be a head case to some, but do not underestimate what his presence meant to the Redskins defense last year. The ‘Skins defense finished the 2009 season in the top 10 in overall defense and passing defense. Rookie linebacker Brain Orakpo finished the season with 11 sacks and a Pro Bowl invite; I can’t help but think that huge #92 in the middle had something to do with that.
Haynesworth, though dominant on the field at times, has had a few off the field incidents. Let me correct that, Haynesworth’s incidents actually happened on the field.
Though he plays defensive tackle, it appears as if Haynesworth wanted to try out for the kicker position a few years back. In a 2003 training camp incident, the 6’6" 350 lb. behemoth got into an altercation with teammate, center Justin Hartwig, and kicked Hartwig in the chest. Haynesworth then had to be restrained by teammates. Now, we all know how testy it can get during camp in 100 degree weather. Fighting amongst teammates is very common and even welcomed by some coaches. However, isn’t there an unwritten ‘Bro Code’ against kicking, hair pulling, and eye gouging? He might as well have kicked the guy in the nuts and run away.
OK, OK, I guess training camp fights aren’t that bad. But Haynesworth’s next attack, ironically against another center, crossed the line.
In a 2006 game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Cowboys’ Andre Gurode lay on the ground after a Cowboys' touchdown. Haynesworth then proceeds to knock the helmet off of Gurode and tries to stomp on his head. After a failed first attempt, our model citizen does not give up easily and takes a second stomp at the head of the defenseless Gurode. This time, the cowardly act finds it mark.
Gurode is inflicted with a severe cut near his right eye; he would require 30 stitches to close the gash. Haynesworth was given a 15 yard personal foul penalty, which he did not agree with as he threw his helmet to the ground in disgust. Really, Big Guy? Seriously?!
This bizarre, foolish behavior would result in another 15 yard penalty and ejection. He would then serve a five game suspension for his actions.
Haynesworth seemed to clean up his image over the next couple of years and parlayed his good behavior into a staggering $100 million contact with the Washington Redskins. Well, the honeymoon in Washington has come to an abrupt halt.
Upset over a new 3-4 defensive scheme, Haynesworth has skipped all mandatory Redskins activities and has adamantly requested a trade. All of this after banking in close to $40 million guaranteed from the team. Good luck with that, D.C.
On top of everything else, Haynesworth has never started all 16 games in a season in his eight year NFL career.
Now, on to Peppers; this won’t take long.
After starting the first 12 games of his rookie year, Peppers was caught using a banned dietary supplement. He would be suspended for the last four games of the season but would still tally 12 sacks and earn Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors.
He would go on to start every game for the Carolina Panthers over the following four seasons, recording 41.5 sacks over that span and leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003.
Amid a contract dispute and a lack of a supporting cast, Peppers showed his frustrations by playing below expectations in 2007. Though he only missed two games that year, he finished the season with a career low 2.5 sacks.
This is where all of the character questions stem from. One. Bad. Season.
The follow up to the 2007 season should put any character concerns to rest. Peppers entered ’08 with a new sense of purpose and a chip on his shoulder. He started all 16 games that season, finishing the year fifth in the NFL in sacks with 14.5 and helping Carolina to a division title. In his last year with the Panthers, 2009, Peppers recorded a team high 10.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. How’s that for silencing the naysayers?
As far as I can tell, the only similarities between Peppers and Haynesworth is that they were both taken in the 2002 draft and over the last two years both have signed lucrative free agent contracts.
Looking over the rap sheet for these two defensive linemen; I see that Albert Haynesworth has at least two assaults and an attempted grand larceny by trying to steal 40 million big ones from the Redskins. Julius Peppers had cloudy piss and one unproductive season.
I rest my case. Your move Banks...