Haynesworth said multiple times in the last three-plus months that New England would be his last stop. If he couldn't return to form with the Patriots, he said he'd be done with professional football. Now that the Patriots have ended their experiment with Haynesworth, it's time to find out if he meant it.
Haynesworth said a lot of things during his short stint with the Patriots, but he seldom backed up his statements. Despite horror stories from his past, Haynesworth was almost always a pleasure to deal with in the New England locker room. He was engaging, funny, polite and likeable.
Yet, his promises were empty when it came to the field, where it's most important. Countless times, he alluded to knocking off the rust, which built up from two lost years with Washington, where he quit on his team and sent his career into oblivion. The question, though, was how long were the Patriots willing to wait for him to get into shape to be a serviceable player on a more regular basis? They answered it Tuesday.
Haynesworth showed glimpses of dominance, but he was terribly inconsistent, both on the practice field and during games. Maybe he was out of shape. Maybe he wasn't motivated to work diligently outside of his own terms. Either way, both would be his own undoing.
His inconsistencies were as apparent as ever during his final game with the Patriots, when he was on the field for nine snaps (seven official plays due to two that were wiped out with penalties) before getting benched for the final 24 minutes and 25 plays against the Giants. Belichick chalked it up to a rotation, but anyone watching knew it was about performance.
Haynesworth didn't get onto the field until the fourth defensive series (the first series of the second quarter), as he was behind Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and Gerard Warren on the defensive tackle depth chart. Haynesworth was single-teamed on all six snaps (five official plays), which was an indication that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin — a close friend of Belichick's — didn't believe Haynesworth could hurt his team, even with a backup center on the field.
On Haynesworth's first play, right guard Chris Snee allowed him to run freely through the B-gap (between the guard and tackle) to get him out of the play, as the Giants ran a draw through the A-gap (between the center and guard). That's a mixture of good planning by the offense and a poor read by Haynesworth. Wilfork, for instance, has been excellent at staying home on draws and screen passes.
On Haynesworth's second play, he pushed Snee into the backfield but had no effect on quarterback Eli Manning. Haynesworth's third snap was erased due to a false start on linebacker Brandon Spikes. His fourth snap was his best, when he rushed through left guard David Diehl and drew a holding penalty as he closed in on Manning.
After that, it got ugly. Haynesworth was thrown to the ground by Snee on his fifth snap. He was pancaked flat on his back by Snee on his sixth snap, which was a major negative because it happened directly in front of running back D.J. Ware, who was dancing in the backfield before exploding through Haynesworth's zone to gain 10 yards. On his seventh snap, he was easily pushed to the ground after making one move on Diehl.
Haynesworth's eighth snap came on the final play of the following series, a third-down stop, and he had a great showing. He pushed through Diehl while pancaking left tackle Will Beatty with one arm, though Haynesworth's push didn't affect Manning.
Haynesworth's final snap was probably the worst of his Patriots career, and it came on running back Brandon Jacobs' 10-yard touchdown run. Haynesworth was solely responsible for the B-gap on the defensive right side, as linebacker Gary Guyton run blitzed the A-gap. Yet, Diehl blew up Haynesworth and pushed him well out of position and then pinched him into the A-gap, allowing Jacobs to breeze his way into the end zone. The Patriots counted on Haynesworth to solely handle that gap because there was no one in the box behind him.
That also caused an argument on the sideline between Haynesworth and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. Haynesworth never saw the field after that, which was most noticeable on the Patriots' three goal-line sets during the Giants' game-winning drive. New England used four defensive tackles — Wilfork, Love, Warren and Ron Brace — the latter of whom replaced Haynesworth during his first game since December.
The Patriots have depth on the defensive line, and they were probably sick of hearing Haynesworth's empty promises and watching him plod through practice and hang his teammates out to dry on any given play during a game.
Haynesworth showed he's still got the talent and physicality to be successful in the NFL, but his desire didn't appear to be up to standard. He never proved himself on a consistent basis, even though he agreed to a performance-driven contract, which might be the last one he ever signs.
That is, of course, if his word meant anything. In New England, it didn't.