Column: Redskins’ Williams saga highlights need for changes

July 30, 2019

Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams (71) takes the field for warms up before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Washington Redskins are preparing for an all-important season that could spell the end of the line for their sixth-year head coach if the development of their rookie quarterback and the progression of their young, up-and-coming defense doesn’t go as planned.

Yet that’s not the talk of training camp in Richmond. Seven-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Williams’ absence looms over everything, and though few facts are available yet, it feels a lot different from the run-of-the-mill power move to get paid — and that seems lost on the organization.

Sunday, a new report used the word “fractured” to describe Williams’ relationship with the organization and reiterated the initial report’s sentiment that he refuses to play for the team again in the wake of a pretty serious health scare. The organization denied any truth to those reports, an act that demonstrates its usual breathtaking lack of awareness.

While Sunday’s report didn’t really offer an update from the initial reports of Williams’ unhappiness, it is a reminder of the stakes. Williams hasn’t yet come out and said exactly why he’s holding out, but there aren’t any reports that he’s saying, “I want more money” or “I’m tired of losing, get me out of here.” This sounds more like “you potentially screwed with my livelihood and maybe even my life.” That’s not something easily remedied by a PR spin or simply throwing money at it.

It’s hard to say exactly what the Redskins should do because they’re operating at such a moral deficit. Everyone except Dan Snyder knows Bruce Allen should be long gone from the front office, and there was an exodus out of Ashburn, Virginia, after the latest example of Allen’s ego getting someone in the organization canned. So any remedy that involves Allen is like putting a band aid over a gunshot wound. It should be telling that Allen was specifically named as one of the reasons Williams no longer trusts the organization.

At a minimum, the Redskins need to further examine their medical staff. The team has consistently been among the league’s most injured teams in recent years, having placed a league-high 28 players on injured reserve last season and 85 over the last four seasons. Some of that is fluky, some of that is the usual attrition over the course of an NFL season — but there’s an obvious breakdown there (well defined and outlined here) and it needs to be addressed.

In addition to restoring faith in the medical staff, throwing some money Williams’ way wouldn’t hurt. Williams is the sixth-highest paid left tackle in the NFL, so his seven straight Pro Bowl appearances does suggest he deserves a slight raise. But he hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013 and at age 31, realistically has only a couple of quality years left so the team isn’t wrong for wanting to play out the final two years of his contract as-is. That’s starting to seem unlikely, so something’s got to give.

But what the Redskins can’t do is let Williams sit at home stewing while they act like everything’s cool. It’s not. And much like the Kirk Cousins situation, their inaction will — one way or the other — cost them dearly in the end.

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