He wasn't a divisive figure, he was just Alfred. He was the humble kid from Florida who drove the same car he bought in college, who hung out with stadium workers before games and stopped to talk to security guards at Redskins Park on his way home.
That's why this one will sting for Washington Redskins fans. Alfred Morris was more than just a running back for them; he was a regular guy who worked hard and succeeded -- and he was theirs. Then he was allowed to leave in free agency; then he signed Tuesday with the Dallas Cowboys.
So, yes, this one will hurt.
Morris was not the same runner last season. It wasn't just that the run blocking was bad -- inconsistent by the linemen and tight ends. It wasn't just the scheme -- Morris ran a lot of power in college. And it wasn't that they didn't run enough of a certain look -- in a two-back set his numbers weren't good, either. It was a combination of everything. The Redskins did not see the same Morris as they had the first two seasons. Maybe they're wrong, but that's how they viewed him for much of the last two years. It's hard to argue.
After averaging 4.8 yards per carry his rookie year, his yards per carry went like this: 4.6, 4.1 and finally 3.7. The Redskins want a back that can create space when the blocking breaks down. It's what they saw other backs do on their long runs, but did not see from any of their own running backs during the 2015 season.
Morris' yards after contact decreased as well -- from 2.00 in 2013 and 2014 to a career-low (by far) 1.45 this past season. At times he didn't look as quick to the hole as in prior years -- maybe a function of a combined 611 regular-season carries his first two years. He wasn't making the first defenders miss like he had in his first two seasons.
That's not to pick on Morris. It's just to show that it wasn't as simple as saying the blocking needed to improve and he'd be fine. It definitely has to improve, with or without Morris. According to ESPN stats & Information, the Redskins ranked 24th in yards before contact per rush over the last two years. Meanwhile, Dallas ranked eighth.
There were moments, however, when the old Alf reappeared: 25 carries for 121 yards versus Miami; 15 carries for 92 yards versus New Orleans; 14 carries for 84 yards versus Buffalo (with a 48-yard run); 19 carries for 100 yards versus Dallas in Week 17. There just weren't enough such games. Did he need more carries? It's hard to give more to a guy who, in eight of his games, averaged less than 2.9 yards per run. In four games it was 2.00 yards or less.
But in Dallas, he'll be running behind one of the best lines in football, though he'll likely share carries with Darren McFadden. Morris can still be a productive two-down back.
As exciting as the Robert Griffin III story was in 2012, Morris' role was equally fresh. He was a smart player, able to communicate well how he'd set up defenders when pressing the hole.
Still, a beloved Redskin now wearing a star? That won't sit well, especially if he rebounds with a good season. One of the biggest games of the last 10 seasons occurred in the 2012 regular season finale. It was Morris, not Griffin III, who starred that night. It was Morris who rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns and did his little home run swat each time.
Morris was the little-known sixth-round pick who quickly rose to prominence, because of his hard runs -- crashing through a Bears linebacker in his first preseason game -- and his humble nature. He seemed frustrated at times this past season, but he didn't let it impact his play or his preparation. He left Washington not as a divisive figure, but as someone the fans will long remember for many reasons.