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Of Labor and LaVar

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Old 03-09-2006, 02:22 PM   #1
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Of Labor and LaVar

By Trevor Walters:

Of Labor and LaVar

If one were so inclined as to view LaVar Arrington as the face of the Washington Redskins franchise for the last six seasons, then the recent news that he has negotiated his release with the club would be a facelift of Jerry Jones proportions. By agreeing to forfeit over $4 million that was soon due him according to the record $68 million contract he signed in 2003, Arrington essentially purchased the right to offer his potentially considerable sources to the highest bidder once free agency begins.

The saga that was LaVar Arrington’s time in Washington was nothing if not noteworthy. From his three-time Pro Bowl performances on the field, to his sporadic use in 2005, LaVar has run the gamut of highs and lows with the franchise that made him the 2nd overall selection in the 2000 NFL draft. Truth be told, Arrington was never quite as good as his reputation made him seem. There just always seemed to be that one last step towards greatness that Arrington couldn’t seem to take.

Perhaps he never lived up to his hype because no one would have been capable of such a feat. The very fact that a 27 year old physical marvel that earned trips to three Pro Bowls in six seasons could even be considered an underachiever illustrates just how lofty the expectations of Arrington were coming out of Penn State. There are doubtless times that Redskins fans expected far too much out of Arrington just as there were certainly times that he delivered far too little.

LaVar’s off-field storyline is also ripe with a similarly striking polarity. One could look far and wide without finding a player more connected with his community than was Arrington. He seemed to love the area as much as his scores of fans loved him. However, public disputes over money – most notably his ill-timed outburst during the playoff run of this past season – have somewhat overshadowed what was an otherwise impeccable record off the field. Arrington never quite seemed to grasp that the average work-a-day Joe, the very ones who nearly made his jersey more popular that beer at Redskin home game, has very little sympathy for twenty-something athletes squabbling over more money than they would make in 10 lifetimes.

He may have never achieved the Everest-like heights that Redskins fans had unrealistically placed on him, but he also wasn’t entirely the helpless martyr that some (me, for example) portrayed him as during his tenure in D.C. Most teams and most cities have high profile players that carry their disputes into the public realm, and just as many locales have those who are just as notable, yet chose to conduct their business behind closed doors. LaVar’s faults and exploits were highlighted because everything he did was squarely in front of the 20/20 vision of the public eye.

Let me now make a prediction for Arrington’s 2006 season. He’ll wind up with a team (my guess is the Giants or Cleveland) that won’t shy away from giving him the lucrative deal he feels he’s worth. He’ll experience a career resurgence of sorts; perhaps even regain his Pro-Bowl status. About midway through the season, one of the Sunday morning pre-game shows will do a piece on LaVar and the reclamation of his stardom. The interviewer, Fox’s Pam Oliver for example, will ask him questions about his last two seasons in Washington, while simultaneously video footage of him standing injured on the sideline in 2004 and planted on the bench in 2005 will be shown. The camera will then pan to LaVar, who will smile a smile of relief, and then make some disingenuous remark about how he loved the fans but felt it was best to leave. The interview will then close with a veiled reference to how relieved he is to be out of the Redskins organization, after which they’ll “kick” it back to the studio, where the host will wonder aloud how Gregg Williams could have ever not incorporated an athlete of this magnitude into his scheme.

Look for it. It’s going to happen.

In this case, parting really isn’t such sweet sorrow. Think of LaVar in the same light as you do that girlfriend from a time long past. You knew she was hot, and you knew that as soon as she hit the market everyone would flock to her like politicians to a photo-op. But you also knew that you couldn’t go on with her. For as hard as it might be to watch her shine on the arm of another man, it just wasn’t working out. So goes the story of LaVar Arrington.

Of course, there is another storyline or two floating around the NFL these days. On Tuesday, the 32 NFL owners gathered in good ole Plastic Jerry’s backyard for one last gasp effort to convince at least 75% of its constituents to accept the latest, and presumably last, proposal from the player’s union. The division among the owners was primarily centered on the rift between the high profit teams (Redskins, Cowboys, and Patriots among others) and the teams with a lower profit margin (looking your way Arizona). In the early evening hours of the day of the deadline, the owners emerged with a 30-2 acceptance of the proposal, thus furthering the labor peace in the league.

When you really get right down to it, it all comes down to management. The Indianapolis Colts have had a string of successful seasons despite playing in a small market because the business aspect of the franchise is run so well. The Houston Texans by contrast, though admittedly still an expansion team, have yet to show significant improvement despite nearly bursting at the seams with cash.

The NFL could allow the Arizona to spend an amount rivaling the GDP of China while subsidizing the cost and Dennis Green and crew would still find a way to lose 10 games. Why? The franchise operates poorly from the highest Bidwell to the lowest equipment guy. To be a successful NFL franchise, the management must be either very good at conducting football operations, or very good at conducting business operations. If you have neither, then you’ve got a team with fewer fans than the Olympics have actual sports (or viewers).

The new labor accord has supplied the Redskins with enough cap space to address a few of the glaring needs on the roster through free agency. Washington may now have enough room to be a player in the Antwaan Randle El sweepstakes, or to lure the likes of a veteran like Eric Moulds or Isaac Bruce to D.C. The seemingly annual chatter among the Redskins faithful that surrounds Darren Howard may actually come into being this off-season since the Saints have opted not to retain the Howard’s services.

Despite the more generous cap, veterans Walt Harris, Cory Raymer, Matt Bowen, and injured tackle Brandon Noble have still been told that their release is forthcoming. Patrick Ramsey’s name has been on the trading block for days now with little more than rumor as a result. Regardless of when it actually happens, Ramsey will also have a new home in 2006, and the Redskins will have an additional draft pick with which to address a lack of depth that has come about due to cap constraints that, while now less restrictive, are still present.

For those who may be wondering, Phase Three of my Comprehensive Redskins Off-Season Plan has not been forgotten and is still soon to be released. The recent news both concerning the Redskins and the league as a whole preempted its debut somewhat, but it hasn’t been discarded.

Keep checking back in as the final installment of The Plan will surface soon, and for your Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!

Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at skins.fan@comcast.net

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