The Washington Redskins have released safety DJ Swearinger after his post-game criticism of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Swearinger was arguably the Redskins’ best defensive player this season, collecting 53 tackles, four interceptions, three force fumbles, and a sack.
He was named an Pro Bowl alternate, and at one point in the season was the highest-rated safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. However, the Redskins decision led and delivered by head coach Jay Gruden speaks volumes, as the team seemingly chose insubordination is a greater offense than some others like accusations of domestic violence.
There is certainly the argument that releasing Swearinger is the right move. Despite all his talents, Swearinger repeatedly called out the coaching staff after losses. According to both Swearinger and Gruden, he had been called into the head coach’s office previously for his post-game criticism. Saturday’s case following Washington’s 25-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans was the final straw.
However, a decision to release the best defensive player that plays a position that he helped fill a huge void in won’t go over easy with fans. And it won’t go over easy with many others considering the optics, as Redskins super fan Dale Earnhardt Jr. put it.
This is the team that claimed Reuben Foster after he was waived by his former team, the San Francisco 49ers, after being arrested for a domestic violence incident at the team hotel last month. It was not the first time Foster had been accused of domestic violence, although the victim, his ex-girlfriend Elissa Ennis, recanted her story stemming from his first arrest in February 2018. She has since said she only recanted the story so Foster’s NFL career wouldn’t end while detailing he had physically assaulted her at least three times in an interview with ABC News.
Foster has since been placed on the NFL commissioner’s exempt list while the authorities continue to handle the investigation into the latest incident.
Then there is Mason Foster. Mason Foster, the Redskins defensive captain, was at the center of attention earlier this month after his controversial Instagram direct message. Foster told a fan in the DM “F–k this team and this fan base” following fans criticism of his struggling play.
There were also numerous messages from his IG account that were inappropriate and insensitive that he later said his cousin, who was given permission to operate his account, made in frustration. Nonetheless, the “F–k this team and this fan base” comment did not go over well with fans.
In Mason Foster’s case, Gruden defended his defensive captain.
“I know what Mason is, I know what he means to this football team, what he’s meant to this football team, and anything he said in a personal message was personal and I really don’t take anything from it,” Gruden said per Washington Times. “I do, however, disagree with that guy posting a private message out on social media. He broke a code there that I don’t agree with. As far as Mason, I have nothing but respect for him as a person and a player.”
In Reuben Foster’s case, Redskins’ senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams defended the decision to claim the troubled linebacker by calling his domestic violence accusations “small potatoes.”
Williams has since apologized for comments deemed insensitive. However, it shows the optics and thinking of the Redskins and frankly all NFL teams.
In a league that has seemingly blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick after his protests of social injustice, kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 season, practices and priorities in selecting what players to sign or keep are never logical.
Disciplining a player for repeatedly calling out the coaching staff, by releasing him, isn’t wrong, per say. However, picking and choosing what is tolerated and what’s not, has been all wrong especially for the Redskins.
Swearinger being honest with his comments cost him his job in Washington. In an era with anonymous quotes, Swearinger owned his and now he is paying a price for it. Initially, Mason Foster did not owe his comments. Reuben Foster seemingly hasn’t done so with his off-the-field demons. Yet, Swearinger is the one who was cut from the organization.
Priorities in the NFL are muddled into winning and ignores perception and reality. The reality is the Redskins just lost the best safety they’ve had since Sean Taylor was tragically killed in November 2007 over post-game comments, right or wrong.