Trent Williams and the Redskins paired up on April 22, 2010, when Washington took the Oklahoma tackle fourth overall in the NFL Draft. Almost exactly a decade later, the two have split, with the franchise sending the perennial Pro Bowler to the 49ers.
The trade thankfully ends a year-long saga that could, on its best days, be described as bitter, and on its worst, be labeled as a total (word not allowed on this website) mess.
Everyone associated with the team knows the story by now. The Burgundy and Gold's medical staff, per Williams, badly mishandled what turned out to be a cancerous growth on his head for quite some time, which led to him losing all trust in them as well as former president Bruce Allen.
That dispute angered him enough that he sat out all 16 games in 2019, and while Allen and the staff are out and Ron Rivera is in, the 31-year-old still wanted to be gone. Well, he's gone, though not before a hectic few days that involved a near-swap with Minnesota and another confusing statement from his agent. One final spurt of chaos felt appropriate.
But even with how awful last season and the start of 2020 was for everyone involved — for Williams, who was forced to take a stand after he was wronged; for the Redskins, who struggled without a guy who covered up so much for them for so long; and for fans, who simply had to watch and squirm as it all unfolded — Williams' overall impact on the organization should not be forgotten.
For the past decade, so much about football in Washington has been uncertain. Potential answers at quarterback have faltered. Coaches have arrived, struggled and departed. Injuries have marred promising starts. Often, there were no promising starts at all.
Yet, throughout that unpredictability, Williams remained. At the start of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 campaigns, there was no debate about who'd be starting at left tackle for the Redskins offense. It'd be the wildly powerful and impressively nimble man with No. 71 on his back.
Of course, Williams wasn't flawless. He was suspended twice, with each punishment costing him four contests. Then, as he aged, the injuries mounted, with his last full year coming in 2013.
His toughness and skill? Unassailable. His decision making and durability? Legitimate issues. Those matters, combined with his showdown with the Redskins, do stain his legacy quite a bit in the minds of plenty.
When Williams was dressed for kickoff, though, there was no questioning what he'd bring. He'd open up holes for running backs, keep passers safe, maul people on screens and take opposing stars on and erase them. In D.C., he generated countless absurd highlights and replays.
Now, Redskins supporters haven't seen Williams do any of that for them since Dec. 30, 2018, yet that gap shouldn't make them forget this simple truth: Williams was a legend for the team and held down the most crucial spot on the offensive line starting as soon as he was drafted.
Unfortunately, Williams won't be able be able to end his legendary career where it commenced. Instead, he's off to San Fran, and his former employer will go on without a clear replacement. In Saahdiq Charles, they at least have a candidate, but he's closer to a Williams fan than a Williams fill-in.
Had things been handled more competently early on, then this transaction likely wouldn't have happened. It's been obvious for a while, however, that this kind of move would be the only solution.
Still, the inevitability doesn't make it sting any less overall, despite the accompanying immediate relief that the turmoil is over and both sides are allowed to proceed into their respective futures.
For the FedEx Field side, that short-term future includes major doubt without Williams. But hopefully, the long-term future consists largely of gratitude for him. There hasn't been much worth celebrating over the past 10 years when it comes to the Redskins, but Williams and his rare talent were.
He still is, in fact, and always will be. Don't allow the conclusion to spoil all that preceeded it.
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