The Folsom Point: Do We Actually Want This?

A strange motivation has overcome injured tailback Clinton Portis, now suddenly he is talking not about his critics or about helping his teammates or about how hard he runs and blocks on every down.  Now he is talking openly about individual career achievements and his personal quest to become the Redskins all time leading ball carrier.

Setting aside the propriety of a football player placing himself and his performance ahead of the team's, is this something Redskins fans want to see?  Are you ready to embrace Clinton Portis as the the Redskins all time leading rusher?  Is it time for Redskins fans to move on?

Or is The Diesel still the guy?

Clinton Portis came to the Redskins with a splash, in the first class of new players under boomerang head coach Joe Gibbs, in March of 2004 the Redskins traded dissatisfied cornerback Champ Bailey and a second round pick in that year's draft for Clinton.  Immediately Clinton made an impact, in his first carry as a Redskin in the opening drive of the first game of his first season in Washington Clinton busted open a 64 yard touchdown run against the Buccaneers.  Clinton would go on to rack up 1315 yards on a 3.8 yards per carry in 2004 as the Redskins finished a disappointing 6-10 in what is remembered as the quote max protect unquote season.

In 2005 Clinton picked up where he left off and then some, finishing the season with a single season franchise record 1516 yards on a 4.3 yards per carry average, breaking Stephen Davis' 2001 record of 1432 yards who broke his own 1999 record of 1405 yards who broke Terry Allen's 1996 record of 1353 who broke John Riggins' 1983 record of 1347, there I knew I could get far enough back to link Clinton to Riggo for that mark.

That year was also the high gear year for Clinton's alter egos, the dress up characters Clinton became in his Thursday press availabilities, including Dollah Bill, Dr. I Don't Know, Southeast Jerome, Sheriff Gonna Getcha and my personal favorite, Coach Janky Spanky.  The Redskins finished 2005 10-6 and earned a wild card playoff spot, winning one game and losing the second.  That was the high point of Clinton Portis' Redskins tenure.

The next year, riding high expectations into 2006, Clinton dislocated his right shoulder making a tackle off a Mark Brunell interception in the first preseason game against the Bengals, in the aftermath of the injury Clinton would break bad on head coach Joe Gibbs, essentially blaming coach Gibbs for the injury because shit man Clinton only plays at one speed and if you do not want Clinton Portis making perfect form tackles in a preseason football game, do not play him.  Clinton limped along through nine games before breaking his hand and ending 2006 on injured reserve, finishing with 523 yards on 4.1 yards per carry as the Redskins managed a 5-11 record.

Coach Gibbs must have gotten the memo going into 2007 as Clinton complained openly to the media about practicing and preseason games and had a total meltdown about his fan and media treatment and his place in the 2007 Sports Illustrated Top 500 NFL players, he was number 202, the seventeenth tailback on the list, then did not have a carry in the preseason.  On his way to 1262 yards on a 3.9 yards per carry average and a playoff berth for the 9-7 Redskins, Clinton was benched once by coach Gibbs and loudly tried to settle old scores on the radio with former Redskins returner and tailback Brian Mitchell.

By 2008 with Joe Gibbs gone and Jim Zorn as the Redskins new head coach, it was clear that Clinton Portis had a straight connection to team owner Dan Snyder, and at the expense of his teammates and new coaching staff.  That did not matter for the first half of the season as Clinton rushed for 120 yards or more four times in a row, winning two weekly NFC awards and the NFC Offensive Player of the Month award for October.  By December though as the team was fading it fell apart with Clinton blasting head coach Jim Zorn again and again and again in a radio interview in December.  Clinton finished with 1487 yards on 4.3 yards per carry as the Redskins ended a dismal 8-8.

As the 2009 season dawned there was a funereal tone to everything about the team, Clinton's position next to the owner was still undisputed though Clinton had dialed back criticism of head coach Jim Zorn, with the team 0-1 Clinton went back on the radio and declined repeated opportunities to critique coach Zorn or team leadership.  A month into the season Clinton attempted to have his lead blocker, fullback Mike Sellers removed from a game, the two later argued in front of teammates.  Eight games into the season on a solid pace Clinton suffered a concussion in a brutal hit at Atlanta, the team waited around a month for the neuros then moved their star tailback to injured reserve for the second time in four seasons, Clinton finished 2009 with 494 yards on 4.0 yards per carry, the Redskins finished 4-12, and Jim Zorn was fired the second Redskins One hit the runway after the final game.

When the whole Mike Shanahan is coaching your team no really this is actually happening thing actually happened, many Clinton Portis watchers wondered if Clinton would play in Washington in 2010, Clinton surprised all of us with his unequivocal buy in of the program, working out, dropping his playing weight, we may never see if it paid off as the Redskins never made a solid commitment to the run before Clinton suffered a grade three pull of the groin, it is off the bone and there is no grade four.  He promises to be back, it all sounds like happy talk.  Short of John Riggins franchise record by 696 yards, Clinton may not carry the ball again for the Redskins, even if he does it is not likely he can break that record this season.

My sense is, after everything Clinton has done in Washington, for better or for worse, many Redskins fans would like to see Clinton fall short of Riggo's number and move on, that Clinton did some great things in Washington but never matched John Riggins' team success, never bonded with the fans and put himself ahead of the team too often to sit in the pantheon with The Diesel.

No there is no John Riggins counterpoint here, go find that on your own, John's career performance speaks for itself.

**

It is perhaps worthy of mention that Champ went on to sign the biggest contract ever for an NFL cornerback, at seven years, 63 million dollars with an eighteen million dollar signing bonus, the Broncos then used that second round pick from the Redskins in April of 2004 to select tailback Tatum Bell out of Oklahoma State.  While no tailback in Denver has since achieved Clinton Portis' 2003 tally of 1591 yards and a 5.5 yards per carry average, Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan plugged in a different players in each of the next three seasons, including Tatum Bell in 2006, each of whom had a thousand plus yards rushing.

Mike Shanahan is the father of the tailbacks are fungible strategy of team building.

=====

Ben Folsom thought upgrading his Mac would be easier and is the editor of The Curly R, a blog covering the Redskins and the NFL since 2006.  The Folsom Point (usually) appears Tuesday on Hogs Haven.

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