Clinton Portis Was Successful in Washington

Kevin JonesContributor IFebruary 28, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 03: Clinton Portis #26 of the Washington Redskins against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 3, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Redskins defeated the Eagles 17-12.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Clinton Portis—who I would argue is the best Redskins running back of all time and certainly their most valuable offensive player in the 2000s—has been released. Portis was to be owed 8.3 million dollars for this upcoming (hopefully) 2011 season.

This move was 100 percent expected from Portis and the team's rabid fanbase, who have been teased with free-agent splashes for the better part of 15 years. He’s played in 13 games the past two seasons and has hardly practiced. The team needs to get younger at its skill positions.

I’ve always been a Portis guy, and here’s why: What have experts and Redskins fans consistently moaned about the past 10 years? Shaky offensive line play.

Clinton Portis, 29, destroyed his body for this franchise. Joe Gibbs demanded he put on 15 pounds and become a John Riggins-like power running back in 2004. But an inconsistent group of interior linemen made Gibbs’ running-based system a flawed one from the start. And Portis (as you will see from the video below) was meant to be an 18-carry home run-hitting back—not one who would grind out tough yards.

But CP did what was asked of him.

Portis finishes his Redskin career as the second-leading rusher with 6,824 yards and scored 46 touchdowns in seven seasons with the team. Imagine what he could have done with an offensive line like the Redskins' infamous group of "Hogs" who were able to win three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks and running backs.

Most fans are going to remember the last two seasons of Portis’ career—marred with injuries, disputes with coaches and the irate sound bytes he produced on local Washington DC radio.

That’s a damn shame.

Portis needs 77 more yards for 10,000 total in his career and was a measly 628 yards away from breaking John Riggins' record. He was close to breaking Redskins “glory days” records while in the midst of the franchise's darkest era.

Portis was the best player on the 2005 and 2007 teams—the last two years the Redskins were lucky enough to make the playoffs. In ’05, Portis tallied up 1,516 yards, 11 touchdowns and a 4.3 yard per carry average. In the full four seasons where Portis started at every game, the running back had at least 1,200 yards.

Portis simply got lost in the NFL shuffle. First, the league evolved to where an aerial passing attack was needed to win—something the Redskins severely lacked. Portis was relied on too heavily by Joe Gibbs, who thought his 1980s-style of Countre-Trey football could still work.

Secondly, Portis often wore down late in games because the Redskins never fully employed the two-running back system, which has been tremendously successful for teams in the NFL.

RB is a position where you're lucky to have back-to-back successful seasons, let alone half a decade full of highlights. The tailback position requires more durability than any other position in sports.  

Portis ranks 26th all-time in career rushing yards ahead of the following list: Shaun Alexander, Earl Campbell (Hall of Famer), Herschel Walker, Roger Craig, Larry Csonka, Terrell Davis, Brian Westbrook and Deuce McAlister. Click here for the complete list.

And as far as the whole Clinton Portis-Champ Bailey trade story goes: People need to remember that Champ Bailey was an impending free agent who had no intentions of signing a deal with owner Dan Snyder. The Redskins realized they would be losing a lockdown corner for nothing, so instead they upgraded from Trung Candidate to Clinton Portis.

So, was Clinton Portis a successful Redskin? Absolutely. Portis floated right around the top seven in the running back discussion until very recently.

Will he have his jersey retired into the ring of fame? Not immediately.

But when we look back at all the bruising he did for this team, a time will come when the majority of Redskins fans forgive him for not lifting Washington to greater heights. I don’t think his career is over yet either.

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