After three seasons in and out of the lineup, linebacker Antonio Pierce had a breakout season in 2004, nearly making the Pro Bowl with the Redskins. Pierce’s timing was excellent, as he became an unrestricted free agent after the season. After considering a competitive offer from the Redskins, the team he broke into the league with as an undrafted rookie in 2001, he decided to sign with the New York Giants.
The Redskins were sorry to lose him and said so at the time. "It's one of those things that you don't want to have happen," Joe Gibbs said when asked about Pierce leaving Washington. "Antonio played great for us last year. We would have loved to have gotten him re-signed. We went as far as we could go, but it just didn't work out. I hate [losing Pierce].”
The other coaches and many of the players expressed similar sentiments. And that was that—from the Redskins end of things. Pierce, however, has yet to put the whole thing behind him. At the time of his signing, he said that he was “shocked” that the Redskins didn’t step up their offer to match the one the Giants’ gave him. Apparently, the Giants thought that linebacker with on year of starting experience—a very good year, no doubt—was worth $6.5 million in guaranteed money and the Redskins, apparently to Pierce’s chagrin, did not.
Players often use such perceived slights as motivation and, certainly, there is nothing wrong with that. Pierce, however, has taken his grudge to another level. It’s one thing to take your issues with our old team out on that team as Pierce did in the Giants’ 36-0 rout of Washington last October. It’s another to take them to the press.
In comments in an article from the Star-Ledger in New Jersey, Pierce took the occasion of talking to reporters about his trumpeting of LaVar Arrington’s virtues to the Giants organization to take a few shots at the Redskins
"This organization's not the same as the Redskins," Pierce said. "It's not (about) the entertainment and the marketing side of it. It's all about football. It's about winning, and it's a family atmosphere around here. He's not going to wake up tomorrow and the whole staff and everybody in this organization is going to be gone. I think he felt good about that.
Let’s start from the ending first. Uh, Antonio, I hate to tell you this, but the Giants fire coaches, too. Many of the guys you now play with woke up one morning and found out that Jim Fassel had been fired. The fact that you went through that twice does not make you unique among NFL players. And, hate to tell you this too, but the odds are that before the remaining five years on your contract are done there is a pretty good chance that there will be another coaching change on the team you play for.
And is change always such a negative thing? A fair-minded person would have to say that the last coaching change in Washington was one for the better. Under Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams, Pierce got the opportunity to earn his $6.5 million payday a year ago. Perhaps Pierce would rather the Redskins had stuck with Steve Spurrier and George Edwards. Had that happened, the odds are that he would have hit the free agent market hoping for as much as a six-figure signing bonus.
And yes, the Redskins used to be more concerned about “the entertainment and marketing side of it.” Pierce used to be a player who nobody though enough of to draft. He used to be a rookie who had no clue where to line up or where you should drop to in zone coverage.
The key words, of course, are “used to be”. Daniel Snyder, in hiring Gibbs to run the organization, has demonstrated that he has the Redskins on track to be an NFL organization committed to winning. Pierce has now demonstrated that he is a very competent NFL player. Nobody mentions the mistakes in the early days and his inability to first crack the ranks of college players who were drafted and then his inability to hold down a starting job on a mediocre defensive team for three years. All’s well that ends well except, apparently, in Pierce’s view when it comes to the Redskins.
If Pierce would check the ledger, he’d find that the Redskins won just as many games as the Giants did last year, and went a round further in the playoffs. Guess it was all that marketing that did it, Antonio? Have to say, though, that it was pretty entertaining.
When Pierce was with the Redskins, he was noted for his chatter on the field. In those circumstances such talk was positive, directing the defense and encouraging his teammates. The chatter he’s spouting out now, however, directed at the team that gave him his chance in the NFL to begin with and was responsible for putting him in a position to burst onto the scene and command a big payday, is beneath someone who plays for a class organization and who wants to be considered among the elite players in the game.
If Pierce holds a grudge against the Redskins, that’s fine. But he needs to shut up and let his play twice a year do the talking.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book chronicles every game the Redskins played from when they arrived in Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. To get more details, visit http://www.RedskinsGames.com