Our highly respected General Manager on the Washington Redskins, when recently asked about losing running back Alfred Morris to the hated Dallas Cowboys, could only summon up a very lackadaisical response–something like “good luck to him” and “it is what it is” which of course covers every sports move under the universe right?
And I listened to the sports talk radio pundits all explain how, from an economical salary cap standpoint, it was a reasonable move, since running backs get used up quickly in today’s NFL and besides, Morris had less net yardage the past several seasons anyway.
And sure, I know all the cold blooded logic of the dollars and sense—especially given the shaky standing of the longevity of running backs in today’s NFL. And if we manage to have a great draft and get younger and more talented, WHO will even remember this right?
All of this did nothing to dissuade my original gut feeling as a fan that losing Alfred Morris to the Dallas Cowboys is a TERRIBLE, indeed possibly devastating move.
For a team that hired Bruce Allen in the hopes of rekindling the heritage of the team’s vaunted history while resuscitating and resurrecting a winning culture for our once proud franchise, this is the very WORST move to make.
Losing him is bad enough. You don’t just replace a high class all star player like Alfred Morris. But then allowing him to get picked up by your most hated rivals in the same division, is just too discordant and jarring. It’s like Johnny Damon going from the Red Sox to the Yankees in just one years’ time. It hurts fans and it hurts the sport.
And this is regardless of whether he rushes for a 1,000 yards next season with the Cowboys or not.
But Alfred Morris was a marketers dream with so many other locker room and leadership intangibles. He truly was the perfect heart and soul of a team that has been pretty lost these past few, roller coaster decades. And best of all, none of it was made up.
He made headlines right away for arriving at training camp in a beat up used, 1991 Mazda. Even after he made his first million, Alfred still stood by that same car, only splurging to refurbish it. He is widely known for his humility and willingness to hang around later and talk to fans.
In fact Alfred Morris had made a great tradition out of arriving early before home games to chit chat with familiar stadium employees and always looked comfortably ensconced.
Morris really WAS and IS a great role model in the best traditions of underdogs—always maintaining a healthy perspective on how lucky and privileged NFL players are to be paid to play a sport they love to play.
In a cynical era in which home team fans wince when highly paid, newly acquired free agents sack Quarterback’s or score touchdowns; all the while trying to rectify in their minds that this same athlete beat up his wife or was arrested for multiple offenses; Alfred Morris stands as a hard nose running back who lives with the same lunch pail work ethic.
“My goal is to make sure I have a smile on my face every day I come out here,” Morris told the Post’s Dan Steinberg once. “I’m a down to earth, hard-working, average Joe.”
And speaking of Joe, it reminds me of the mixed bag that our vaunted Coach Joe Gibbs had in the early days of free agency. Gibbs wanted so badly to promote the Redskins organization as a family so as to perpetrate an idealistic view of camaraderie for outsiders and insiders of the organization (maybe that’s finally why NASCAR ownership with his sons seemed more desirable). This of course became a much harder claim to make with a straight face eventually when market forces began reshuffling rosters at lightning pace and BIG BUSINESS swooped in even more ruthlessly.
They say pro sports is a cruel microcosm for the finality and mortality of life. And sports talk show experts love to point out, rightly or wrongly, that ANY off field or off court issue can be forgiven when a player plays great and the team WINS. Winning solves everything.
It’s nothing personal. It’s just business. Sorry Joe Gibbs.
But losing Alfred Morris in the manner in which we did, feels especially disconcerting as he was an exemplary player and citizen to represent the Washington Redskins when so many others have failed and taken the money and run. It feels almost as counterfeit as watching hordes of visiting fans from OTHER teams scoop up our tickets and cheer LOUDER than our own fans at home. Sadly, it makes Washington D.C. feel like it has fatally returned to the bad luck moniker of being a transient city with a fickle beating sports heart.