With New Sheriff Mike Shanahan in Town, Clinton Portis Should Go

K. D. JamesCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08:  Clinton Portis #26 of the Washington Redskins watches from the sidelines after suffering a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As the Washington Redskins’ 25th new head coach (and Executive Vice President of Football Operations), Mike Shanahan has been pretty busy since he signed a five-year contract last week worth even more money than I have toes and fingers combined.

Though known during his days with the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers more as a great offensive innovator than as a great evaluator of talent, he continues to quickly assemble his staff, including his chip-off-the-block, 29-year-old son Kyle as his offensive coordinator and longtime NFL coach Jim Haslett to (possibly) install a 3-4 scheme on the defensive side.

Even if the team ends up with a similar record in 2010 as it did in 2009 (four wins and 12 losses), at least the coaching staff will resemble a cohesive unit that will all be on the same chapter, same page from early January of this year.

With that said, the truest sign of how influential Shanahan and his staff will be on the fundamentally bad Washington squad is on the field, most notably against rival NFC East division opponents—the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, all of whom “Sunday Night Football” play-by-play commentator Al Michaels described as having “their way” with the Redskins in six regular-season games in 2009.

Being an AFC West head coach for a while, Shanahan’s earlier success in directing an efficient NFL offense predicated on the run game, as well as a solid offensive line athletic enough to get running backs behind on the ball rolling.

However, Shanahan and the presumably new-looking Redskins won’t get far from next September to January if he retains Clinton Portis.

Portis, due a guaranteed $6.4 million of a $7.2 million base salary in 2010, has had great rushing seasons with both the Broncos (when Shanahan was still in Denver) and the Redskins. But his work habits, diva-like status, and ability to bad-mouth other members of the team, are just some of several reasons as to why he should be traded or released.

I know, I know: In his career, the 28-year-old (which is considered middle-age for a running back in the league) Portis has gained close to 10,000 yards (9,696) rushing, and when healthy and given daylight from paths created by the offensive line, he has been a bull of a runner who was vital in the Redskins’ recent playoff berths last decade.

Besides, the NFL is a business, and Shanahan and his assistant Bobby Turner have produced 1,000-yard seasons from halfbacks other than Clinton Portis in the past.

Still, Portis tends to run his mouth and reflect the side of “me” guy instead of a “we”, team-oriented guy, one who happened to throw his offensive line under the bus in a Washington Post article in 2008.

Here are some other unfavorable Clinton moments to note:

· This same young and immature man from Da U (The University of Miami) labeled his now-defected head coach Jim Zorn a “genius” in a mocking manner after Zorn had benched Portis in Detroit two years ago, not to Portis’ liking. This verbal abuse probably led to Zorn’s firing a season before it actually happened.

· Portis has continued to bristle a lot of his teammates by refusing to practice during the week before Sunday games and doesn’t seem inclined to stick to the same standards held for others, feeling comfortable to override the coaches by siding with team owner Daniel Snyder. According to sources, Portis claims again and again that, “Mr. Snyder love me” (sic)—a sort of a trump card or bond of immunity to ward off criticism or threat to cut him.

· Perhaps the biggest (and most recent) knock on Portis came at season's end, weeks after he suffered a concussion that placed him on injured reserve. Portis questioned the Redskins’ beleaguered quarterback Jason Campbell’s capability of leading an offense and being the team captain by which his peers awarded him in a sports radio interview.

Those incendiary remarks blew the normally collected Campbell’s top (a no-brainer), leading to an unprecedented he-said, he-said diss match between quarterback and running back, in which, among other things, Campbell countered the low blow by mentioning Portis’ selfishness and loath to practice.

Shanahan addressed the matter of lazy, unfocused players in his introductory press conference last week. He hinted that they would not make it for long during his regime with the Redskins—even Portis.

Shanahan said that, “I think for all players as they get older, the key is how they work in the offseason program and what they do to make themselves better. I’ve been around some veterans who have been very successful and all of a sudden they quit working out, and a running back [who does that] can fall off a cliff.”

Whether Shanahan re-evaluates Portis before or after the NFL Draft in April, there’s no guarantee that No. 26 will be welcomed to stay. With the personnel power to override even Snyder (uncertain, really), Shanahan, due to the divisive nature of his former pet running back, may be forced to push the pricey Portis over the proverbial cliff.

And start anew.