He was, when right, a phenomenal football player, and ultimately that's why the Eagles held on to Shawn Andrews for as long as they did. His talent trumped his trouble. Until yesterday.
After a bizarre two years during which the Eagles, in retrospect, held on longer than they should have, the team released Andrews yesterday, sending the 27-year-old former all-pro guard on his way to more back rehabilitation or to the recording studio or to see his son. Who knows for sure where Andrews will go? Maybe to another team? Maybe to another career? Maybe to get his Michael Phelps on?
But the Eagles' terse announcement yesterday was a jarring admission that the patience and the money and the support they had given Andrews simply wasn't worth it. The Eagles did what they could. They stuck by Andrews through so much - his weight gain and dramatic weight loss, the death of a friend, the birth of his son, his admission that he suffered from depression, and the various serious injuries, including a broken leg as a rookie and this nagging back problem that apparently led to Andrews' release. They even brought in his brother, Stacy, to play alongside him.
The Eagles weren't doing it from the bottom of their heart.
They had invested a lot in Andrews, including a first-round draft pick, a truckload of money and a lot of time. It was in their best interest to get Andrews well. They were going to move him to right tackle last year. He was, in their estimation, that good.
And now Andrews is gone because the team finally became sick of the unknown. It wasn't that Andrews' surgically repaired back had gotten worse, or had not gotten better. It was just that it was finally time to clean house and remove the Shawn Andrews drama.
The Eagles did it so that they could start fresh. The voluntary part of their off-season program begins in earnest later this month. They didn't want Andrews to be a distraction. They didn't want him to be a part of the team, singing his way through the locker room with a brightly colored Mohawk. They didn't want to be bothered, not any more, not when they could cut Andrews and save roughly $22.5 million in future salary - and not absorb a cap hit because of the uncapped year.
This wasn't about Andrews' back. It was about his behavior. The Tweeting, and the singing, and the videos, and the simple unpredictability of what he might do next.
Did he want to play football? Did he want to be a comedian? Did he want to sing? In the end, nobody who mattered at the NovaCare Complex knew for sure, so now a two-time Pro Bowl guard, one of the best players at his position just a few years ago, is on the street.
"Bye, bye, Birds," Andrews wrote on his Twitter page.
It's unfortunate for the franchise. It's sad and worrisome for the player.
Andrews had such promise. He worked hard to retool his body after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds before his rookie season, and then again after breaking his leg as a rookie. He had size and quickness, great feet and even better technique. And early on in his career, Andrews really worked at it.
I remember one sunny day one off-season when he stood outside of the NovaCare Complex and talked about how the death of a friend had motivated him to lose serious weight. He was so proud of himself for taking control of a troubling aspect of his life and turning it into a positive, and Andrews kept the weight off.
But in 2008, Andrews skipped training camp, and later announced he was suffering from clinical depression. He played in the first two games in 2008, and then hurt his back. He hasn't played since, and there's been speculation, unsubstantiated but there nonetheless, that Andrews hasn't wanted to play.
A year ago, I traveled to Arkansas to visit Andrews' tiny hometown of Camden. It was a simple place, a place where folks go to church and everybody knows everybody. Shawn grew up there with his two brothers, Derrick and Stacy, and their single mother, Linda, who worked the graveyard shift at the International Paper mill until it closed.
Andrews had just been through there, and attended a high school basketball game. Everyone spoke fondly of him, but they were aware of his depression, and of the teasing Andrews absorbed as a big kid who loved to sing.
It's impossible to know for sure what is going on with Andrews, or what has been going on. He's on a slippery slope right now, with no job and no team and no chance of fulfilling what he said was a dream - of playing on the same offensive line as Stacy.
Stacy remains on the team. His contract was restructured last week.
Maybe it really is simply Andrews' back that has failed him, but that's not why the Eagles cut him yesterday. They cut him because he was more trouble than his talent was worth. Given the size of Andrews' talent, that was saying a lot.