No one in Washington has been a bigger Clinton Portis fan than me.
I own two Clinton Portis jerseys, one of which I spent a lot of money to buy signed. I have a Clinton Portis Fathead in my basement. I had enough blind faith in him to draft him in fantasy football for the last four years because I couldn't bear to root against him on Sundays. My password to my networks in college has involved the numbers "26" for years. (Seriously, last year it was Port1s26.)
Why? In addition to being an elite player, because Clinton Portis became the Redskins' unofficial spokesman after the death of my all-time favorite Redskin, Sean Taylor. He and Santana Moss elevated their games in 21's memory. He wears Sean Taylor shirts to practice (when he practices) even now. He sacrificed his body and soul for the team -- Portis developed as a blocking back despite his small frame and took countless brutal hits in order to give the Redskins a chance to win games over the years. He will pay the price later in life, and he knows it. For his efforts over the years, I thank him sincerely and pray for his health.
In short, after that first touchdown against Tampa Bay in '04 until the end of the 2008 season, Clinton Portis was officially a Redskin. Not a Redskin. A Redskin. How Jeter is a Yankee; how Lewis is a Raven; how Kobe is a Laker; how Chris Samuels, London Fletcher, Rock Cartwright are Redskins.
But last season, Clinton Portis didn't show up. Speculation raged that he was not in game-ready condition during training camp, that he felt he didn't need to practice during the week. In the brief time we were able to use Ladell Betts, he clearly played better than Portis did.
Portis was only the beginning of the Redskins' problems last year. The Redskins were a bad football team last year. I love them to death, take the daily berating from friends and associates, and still stick with them, like you all do. And we know, as fans, simply as people with eyes and ears, that there is something wrong with the organization that extends beyond the product on the field.
And now, Clinton Portis still embodies the organization. Except now, he embodies everything wrong with it. A lack of discipline. Selfishness. A constant desire for the spotlight with below acceptable results on the field.
After calling out Jason Campbell, Mike Sellers, the offensive line, Jim Zorn, and various members of the media, only one thing is clear about Clinton Portis.
That he needs to go.
Exhibit A: This season, against the Lions, Clinton Portis asked for coaches to bench Mike Sellers (the NFC's reigning Pro Bowl fullback) when the offense couldn't get the job done. Not only that, but it was so ugly it got leaked to the media. Now, this is a product of a dysfunctional team. Sometimes this stuff happens. But then, during the Super Bowl, Clinton Portis is asked about it again... and brings it up!
Mike Sellers is not the best fullback in the league. But he is damned good. And blaming your blocker when you can't get the ball moving -- but Ladell Betts can -- is not only ludicrous, it is cancerous. And, my man, let it go! Why are we talking about that this much after the incident? Move forward!
Exhibit B: After the season -- in which Portis did jacksquat and quarterback Jason Campbell, by all accounts, put it all on the field for his team (which tried to rid themselves of him very publicly) -- Portis made the unforgivable miscue of calling out his quarterback.
Portis was asked why he isn't a team captain, and Portis took that ball and ran with it, ultimately laying a few shots on Campbell, the man whom teammates elected offensive captain before the season. So, why Campbell and not Portis?
"I wonder the same thing," Portis said. "And no disrespect to Jason, but everybody in that locker room can tell you, you'll never see Jason mad, you'll never see Jason's tempo change, you'll never see Jason get mad.
"He going to get up, dust himself off, he going to give you everything he got. But as a leader, you never heard -- it was always, 'Jason couldn't take control of the huddle,' or he didn't do this or he didn't do that. That wasn't Jason's character.
"I think Jason, you can't place so much on somebody who's not ready for that situation. I think Jason has enough trouble in getting the plays in and worrying about this, compared to controlling the huddle and making sure, 'Oh, we do this and we do that.' But you go and vote Jason Campbell [as captain] -- you know Jason Campbell ain't go and tell the coach, 'Well, we need to do this or we need to do that,' or 'This is how the players want it.' The only person I think would do it is London Fletcher."
So, Clinton, are you that voice of reason? Are you that player who can lead the team? Or are you simply bringing down the entire organization by mouthing off about a player who did infinitely more for the team this season than you did?
How can he say Campbell isn't a good leader when he uses the media to air his complaints, which are toxic in nature and completely selfish and immature? Do you think London Fletcher would do that? Do you think Ladell Betts would do that? What about his boy Santana Moss? What about Sean Taylor, may he rest in peace? THEY WOULD NEVER DO THAT!
Exhibit C: After the Redskins continued their free-fall last season during the massacre against the Ravens, Portis got benched. He proceeded to call then-coach Jim Zorn a "genius" sarcastically and suggested that because he didn't want to practice during the week, the Redskins should consider "severing ties" with him.
Now, I happen to agree that Zorn didn't know what he was doing. But calling out your coach in the middle of a season when you're still in the playoff hunt, you cannot do.
If Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall talks about his coaches making mistakes, then performs the way Owens did in the Super Bowl against the Pats or Marshall did this season, that's one thing. But when you are a middle-of-the-road running back on the downside of your career, making more money than almost anyone on the team and most players at your position in the league, when your colleagues at your position, Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright, are model citizens (and possibly better players by now), YOU DON'T OPEN YOUR MOUTH. You prove yourself. If you don't want to, retire.
If you want to use your celebrity status to talk sh*t to LaVar Arrington, be what he is -- a former player now in the media. Why does he constantly need to have beef with the media -- Arrington, Brian Mitchell, John Riggins? Who does he think he is? This public drama with LaVar Arrington -- completely unprovoked -- is just more proof of how Portis is dragging people down with him, desperate to be in the spotlight. How does Portis jawing with Arrington help the team? How does it help anyone? It hurts the Redskins public image even more than it already is.
Clinton Portis is making more news than any player not in the Super Bowl this offseason and he hasn't played a game since accumulating a whopping four yards against Atlanta in Week 9 of the regular season. How is he worth it?
The Redskins would have been a better team this season if they had a superstar runner who was effective. But they will NEVER be effective down the road if they tolerate players who expect special treatment, use the media to pit themselves against their teams, disparage quarterbacks, Pro Bowl teammates and coaches in public, and start fights in their own locker room. How do you pick a fight with Jason Campbell, for goodness sakes? The guy is so level-headed he put up with near-abuse from the front office for two seasons and still kept it in perspective!
Listen, keeping (and paying) Portis this season is a risk in and of itself. From strictly a football standpoint, I would argue it's better to cut him loose than to keep him, barring salary cap ramifications that I am admittedly unaware of. May as well use Betts while he has legs and draft another running back along with Cartwright (maybe even Quinton Ganther should stay on?).
But Portis's inability to be a member of the Redskins without drawing unnecessary, toxic attention to himself makes the decision to cut him even easier than it should be. Mike Shanahan, if anyone, know how easy it is to find a running back in the draft. He is expendable. Just ask LaDanian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, or Edgerrin James (even Emmitt Smith!) how fast they can be replaced after years of hard work.
I loved you, Clinton, and I wish you all the best. I'll never forget your contributions, when healthy, over the years. And I thank you, Clinton, for your leadership and perseverance during the loss of your boy Sean Taylor, who we all loved. You put the Redskins on your back for the rest of that season ('07) and the beginning of the 2008 season. I won't soon forget that.
But now, you're bigger than the team. And I'd rather have a bad team that stayed out of the spotlight than one that gave exceptions to players with big contracts, or a team with someone who can't seem to help but fracture a locker room. And who drags his colleagues under the bus every week, despite not having played a game since October.
He said it himself after the Ravens game in the '08 season: "If you've got a problem with me not practicing, maybe you need to sever ties."
You've made it infinitely easier on us, 26. Enjoy being the next Shaun Alexander. We've got a team to rebuild.