Ashburn World Turns – An NFL Soap Opera

Pic Credit: Daniel Shirey/USA Today

 

From The Hive of @lbizzy

 

To understand how we got here, we have to review from whence we came.

 

The lead role: An All-American boy. Military brat. Son of two decorated U.S. Army sergeants that served their country with honor. Smart as a whip. High school class president with aspirations of attending law school. Graduates in the top ten of his class, and finishes a semester early. Track star. Quarterback of the football team. In Texas.

 

Oh, yeah… we can’t forget that last part. He happens to be a pretty good quarterback as well. In fact, he’s really good.  Rocket armed. Lightning fast.  Gets offered a full athletic scholarship to many traditional football universities but only considers the really elite academic schools. Spurns Stanford when fellow highly recruited Texan quarterback accepts offer from somewhat neurotic coach. Attends Baylor, another academic powerhouse, with no established football tradition. In fact, the last time the school finished in the Top-25 was four years before he was born.

 

Excels in the classroom. Makes the Dean’s list on numerous occasions. Graduates early (again) with a 3.67 G.P.A., earning a degree in political science. Seems to enjoy doing everything fast, including his play on the football field. Puts up video game numbers with his arm and his legs. Propels Baylor to national football prominence. Wins the Heisman Trophy, beating out aforementioned nemesis from Stanford. As the 2012 NFL Draft approaches, the speculation about where he will go in the process is hinged on one final number: 74, as in inches. Once his height is in fact determined to be 6’2”, he is a lock to be selected in the top three.

 

Nemesis is assured of being the number one overall pick; thus, several teams are jockeying to move into the second slot, lining up for his services. One team, the Washington Redskins, an old guard, blueblood franchise that is going through a rough spell as of late, successfully brokers a deal, surrendering three first round picks to move to the second position in the draft. Their rabid fan base is in a state of sheer ecstasy. The golden boy with cornrows and charisma of a politician is packing his crazy socks and headed to D.C. Has his image imposed over iconic poster of President Obama with one word in capital letters at the bottom: HOPE. He is hailed as the franchise savior. An added bonus is that he also gets to play for a coach that he admired as a youth.

 

Side note: Lost in the euphoria is the drafting of a second quarterback, quietly taken in the fourth round.

 

The savior gets off to a bit of a rough start. Patience is preached. Team is 3-6, completely dead in the water, with five more divisional games on the schedule. Archrival Philadelphia Eagles are coming to town, and suddenly, the ship gets righted. Quarterback has a nearly perfect game and is named captain after leading team to victory. Redskins shock the football world, closing out the season winning the last six games. Our hero leads team to first division crown in the 21st century. Owner adores him. He has become more popular in the District than the iconic president that was just elected to his second term. Team hosts it’s first playoff game since the Clinton administration was in power and takes an early 14-0 lead.

 

Like any Greek tragedy, we know what happens next.

 

Quarterback gets hurt, and for reasons unknown, head coach doesn’t pull him until it is too late. The savior is completely injured and will require surgery. In the days to come, trouble begins a-brewing in the Nations Capital as controversy swirls about whether world renowned orthopedic surgeon did or didn’t clear him to play in December.

 

Unbeknown at the time to the spectators, the curtain has come down on Camelot.

 

The following season, the savior rushes to return. He isn’t ready.  He and the coach that he once admired appear to be at odds. Whispers about him not being a great teammate begin to surface. Also seen is All-Pro left tackle, walking past quarterback on the sidelines like ships in the night. He also never helps quarterback up after he’s been knocked down.

 

Savior now allegedly doesn’t take his job as seriously. He is accused of being more interested in social media, his personal brand, and becoming an A-list celebrity than an NFL quarterback. Savior gets benched. Confidence is in tatters. Coach is fired at the end of the season.

 

In comes a new head coach who promises to get the best out of the young savior quarterback. That too, proves to go sideways, and fast. Savior quarterback gets called out in public by new head coach. Head coach plays two other quarterbacks. Team finishes 4-12, and new general manager commits to bringing in better linemen to protect the once promising face of the franchise.

 

The following preseason, All-Pro left tackle doesn’t suit up for a game vs. Detroit. Savior quarterback is repeatedly thrown to the ground. Fourth rounder comes in and plays well, if not spectacular. Franchise savior is ultimately scratched for the the next game against Baltimore…or isn’t…or is. Who knows? The scriptwriters have difficulty keeping their stories straight.
About five seconds after savior quarterback is scratched for the Baltimore contest, All Pro left tackle becomes the wealthiest offensive lineman with largest guaranteed amount of money in the history of the NFL at that position. With one stroke of the pen, All Pro left tackle now has 66 million reasons to be closer to the decision makers in the front office. Maybe the timing of the extension is pure coincidence. Then again, maybe not.

 

Game three against Baltimore begins, and savior quarterback is seen in street clothes. Fourth rounder again plays well, if not spectacular. Right before halftime, All Pro left tackle is seen jubilantly chest bumping the fourth rounder, looking very happy that he got his guy, as though things went as he might have orchestrated them. Even says after the game that fourth rounder “has always been assertive. I think any time he’s gotten into a game he’s always been in full command of the huddle. He’s a very detailed guy — just all the things you would want in a quarterback.”

 

Read between the lines here: Full command of the huddle. All the things you would want in a quarterback. Let that marinade for just a second. It’s not what was said, it’s that it was never said about the guy who was once considered the franchise savior.

 

Fourth rounder is named starter. In a tranquil, unruffled tone, All Pro left tackle sounds eerily like a mob boss on the stand, coldly telling a reporter that he “didn’t have a reaction” to the quarterback change. Did he have some inside information that cause him to have virtually no reaction? Perhaps some influence on the savior getting whacked? Things that make you go hmm…
In a manner normally reserved for quarterbacks, All Pro left tackle goes on to tell the Washington Post that “my job is to listen to the voice of the team and with that being said, whatever the case may be, whether it’s guys not agreeing with it or what have you, it’s my job as a captain to get everybody going the same way in accordance with the coach and feeling the same way. It’s already like that.”

 

Already like that? It’s is now abundantly clear who is the Don in the locker room.

 

Star wide receiver says about fourth rounder: “He commands the huddle, he has a lot of faith in us, that we can help him do well. He is a natural-born leader, he’s definitely been planning for that for a long time. You can tell from what kind of person he is that he’s a leader, he’s been doing it for a long time and he’s excited about the opportunity. We definitely want to keep him excited and never want to, you know, have him lose that faith in himself. He’s definitely ready and eager to get the season started to prove to everybody what he can do.”

 

The pile on continues. Fourth rounder is now a made man, beloved by teammates. Meanwhile, former franchise savior might as well be sleeping with the fishes. The scuttlebutt is that he can be had for a bag of chips and a one-way ticket.

 

Ousting the quarterback by his henchmen isn’t unprecedented in this city. A former Redskins quarterback (who ironically wore the same number) was run out of town by a group of Hogs in favor of a team-oriented leader. Team oriented leader would go on to win the franchise’s second Super Bowl, lighting up the Denver Broncos for 35 points in a record-breaking second quarter that we may never see the likes of again, even in the pass happy, offense-oriented game of today. Today, he is as celebrated now as he was on that warm January afternoon in San Diego. Meanwhile, the ousted one never quite got it, and continued to alienate teammates along the way as he bounced around the league.

 

There is plenty of accountability to go around in this soap opera. It doesn’t matter whether you love or hate the lead in this fiasco…whether you refer to him as the franchise savior or a prima donna egomaniac: this has not been handled well at all by the front office. If the former franchise savior is not the guy, trade him… but don’t publicly humiliate him.

 

 

The owner deserves some scorn as well. He coddled the savior, giving him special parking at the stadium among the other perks, and appears to have not learned about fraternizing with his employees. He once did the same thing with a star linebacker, only to have that star linebacker buy his way out of town. Don’t think the other 52 men on the roster don’t take note.

 

The two head coaches have done nothing to diplomatically put out fires in the media. In fact, each of them have fanned the flames, if anything.

 

Finally, our franchise savior is not without fault. He has not played well, had recent social media snafus, and whether or not the statement was taken out of context, stated that he was the best quarterback in the league. It’s hard to make that case without jewelry. He has also allegedly blown off counsel from two such former quarterbacks of the franchise that have told him he needed to spend more time studying film and mechanics. People will remember one for his big arm and obvious historical achievement, while the other was more elusive and known for his hubris. They also each took the classroom part of quarterbacking very seriously and led their teams to the promised land. When two guys that are in your corner have something on their ring finger that you spend your life trying to earn, you probably should pay heed.

 

What happens next?

 

Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Ashburn World Turns.

Larry Bisagni
About Larry Bisagni 12 Articles
Larry started his career with WTEM (ESPN Radio) in D.C., produced “Virginia Tech Sports Today” and is currently a producer/director in San Francisco. He is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of San Francisco, and holds an MBA from Babson College with an emphasis in Entrepreneurial Marketing.
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