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Portis vs Zorn a lose-lose situation

Dec 10, 2008, 12:06 PM EDT

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Clinton Portis needs to shut up.

Jim Zorn needed to speak up.

In choosing to blast Zorn on the John Thompson show (boy, Snyder owning that station really has stifled criticism of the team, hasn’t it?), Portis created a distraction at exactly the time that the team did not need it. After sitting out most of the second half of last Sunday’s game against the Ravens, Portis had two full days to figure out what he was going to say about it on his weekly radio appearance on ESPN980 with the former Georgetown basketball coach.

He chose to be still angry about the fact that he sat out the last 30 minutes of the team’s 24-10 loss and to express that anger in a mix of sarcastic comments and resignation.

In other words, he chose to show his spoiled, selfish, high-maintenance diva side.

Appearing on the same radio station later in the day, Zorn reiterated what he said on Sunday and Monday, that Portis sat out the half because he hadn’t been able to practice all week. The Ravens were bringing a lot of different looks and blitzes (“exotic” blitzes as John Madden said about 1,000 times). Zorn felt it was important to have a back who actually had executed the protection schemes on the practice field in the game. That was Ladell Betts.

The problem is that Zorn had a few opportunities to talk to Portis about his line of reasoning, to explain his logic and to soothe the player’s rather substantial ego. He thought that it was important enough to talk to the press about on Sunday night and Monday afternoon, but he didn’t find the time to sit down with Portis and set things straight.

In other words, he chose to display his inexperience as a head coach.

Portis protested that he knew the schemes, that he had been at the meetings and had paid attention at practice. This seems to be the heart of his complaint.

“If I can run through the week, I’d practice. If I can’t, then I ain’t. And I’m not gonna force myself to go onto a field and do something crazy and then all of the sudden I’m out. What I need to be around for is Sundays, and that’s what I try to be around for. So I mean, if you’ve got a problem with me not practicing and can’t do it that way, maybe you feel like you need to sever ties, split ties with me? Split ties with me. But don’t sit here and throw me out like I don’t pay attention, like I don’t know what’s going on, like I’m making mistakes, I’m the problem.

If Zorn had explained to Portis that he understood why he couldn’t practice during the week and that he simply had to do what he thought was best for the team, this whole issue could have been avoided. Portis could have spoken his mind behind closed doors and, while it’s unlikely that he would have been happy about it, he would have had the chance to get it off his chest. Since he wasn’t given the chance to do so, he decided to go nuclear and speak his mind to the world.

That doesn’t mean that Portis had to do it. The part where he talks about severing ties is particularly galling. He just got a bunch of guaranteed money in the offseason and in doing so he made it virtually impossible for the Redskins to sever ties. Portis has had plenty of opportunity to shine under Zorn this year but when the road gets a little bumpy he starts to talk about bailing out.

It remains to be seen how much effect Portis’ comments will have on the locker room. He’s not exactly a leader on the team. His comments earlier in the year about his offensive line and about how the team didn’t seem to be focused going into the game against the Rams have created a “Clinton is Clinton” mentality among his teammates. Some may grate privately at what he says but to a man they admire his attitude and production between the lines.

In other words, the ripple effects are likely to be minimal.

This time.

If Zorn continues to speak to his players though the press rather than taking his issues up with them in private, things could begin to get sticky.

  1. allen - Dec 10, 2008 at 2:02 PM

    I think this is the first nail in the Zorn coffin. Are we really to believe that Portis needs to be out on the field running through blocking schemes at quarter speed to understand where he needs to be on Sunday? Portis might be the best blocker on the team, period (I realize that is not saying much). Show me the game film of Portis missing blocking assignments – and by the way, I’ll show you a coach that puts a back-up center in at left tackle to go against a great defensive end with no help! I don’t know what Zorn’s problem is, but he better realize who on his team gives 100% on Sundays. So far, I’ll take Portis’ efforts over Zorn’s.

  2. Phil - Dec 10, 2008 at 3:00 PM

    I think Zorn’s getting a little bland on offense, that little run in the beginning of the year was great but when Samuels got injured and Jansen wasn’t pissed about getting demoted the OLine started to crumble. When I see the plays I do not see much change (it’s TV so I can only see quick Passes and Running plays). Where is the Roll-out plays, maybe even a toss play with a lead tackle. If we can get the D moving a bit maybe we can have a little more time before JC gets sacked. With all the overloaded blitzes that we have seen we should be able to make them pay. As for CP, I understand that he has a huge ego but really and I hate to say this but he reminds me a lot of Emmit Smith with the amt of heart he puts in the game so he gets a pass from me on his comments.

  3. Jeff - Dec 10, 2008 at 4:21 PM

    Zorn is entitled to rookie mistakes. You’re going to get those with ANY rookie, and I’m sure Portis made his fair share in his first season or two.

    So Zorn screwed up by not talking to Portis.

    But Portis has Zorn’s number too. He knows where the coach’s office is. If he had something to say, he could have said it to the coach in private, or he could simply have chosen not to say it on the radio.

    In my opinion, talking on the radio after he’d had time to cool down was selfish and detrimental to the team. And Portis is no rookie. He ought to know better. Especially after the fallout from the offensive line comments earlier in the season.

    The fact is, Zorn is right. Portis was largely ineffective – especially down by 14. There’s no sense in getting him beat up if Betts is running as well AND can catch passes a little better AND practiced the schemes. Portis has been banged up and could use a week of lesser punishment. It all makes perfect sense.

    But you have a primadonna feeding his own ego at the expense of the new coach. I admire what Portis does on the field, but this garbage makes me lose a lot of respect for him as a man.

    As for Zorn, this is no nail in his coffin. He needs to be given at least three years, I’d think. We’re STILL overachieving, given where EVERYONE thought we’d be coming into this season. We’re STILL hunting a playoff spot in a division where everyone has a substantial winning record and every team beats the snot out of their opponents.

    Zorn is flattening, but you can’t expect him to have come in with an extensive playbook, and you can’t expect these players to know it all backwards and forwards. I sense that they’re not executing his plays quite correctly even yet. Yes, that’s coaching too, but it’s all part of the same learning process. There are hints of great things, minus a few specific questions.

    Maybe it doesn’t pan out. Fine. But Clinton Portis having a temper tantrum on the radio doesn’t help anything at all. If this team loses on Sunday, he’ll have to wonder what part his divisive BS played in it.

  4. Dave - Dec 10, 2008 at 5:12 PM

    Both guys are wrong. Portis should have done his complaining behind closed doors and Zorn needs to get past his practce philosophy. This isn’t high school or college where most coaches have a “you must practice to play” rule. Portis is a warrior and goes out there every Sunday to carry the ball 30 times and lay the wood on blitz pick-up. Portis is not pulling an Iverson and just not going to practice because he hates it. The guy is legitimately beat up. I remember when I was younger John Riggins wouldn’t practice during the week, but always was a workhorse on Sunday. Zorn needs to do the same thing with the newly appointed “face of the franchise”

  5. Wendy - Dec 10, 2008 at 5:50 PM

    Zorn needs to gain control of his star player(s)! Seems to be a bit of a push over with Portis!! Snyder as well!! Whatever Portis wants, Portis gets! Boo hoo hoo! Stop your crying Portis and be a team player! I take Portis’s comments as a diss to Ladell Betts and the O-Line and the coaching staff!! Yeah, Portis is a good player. He is fast! A great blocker! And all around good player for who??? Clinton Portis that’s who! Not the redskins! If Portis is so great and considered one of the leaders on the team, he needs to act like one.. Instead of crying about Jim Zorn’s tactics, help him by supporting him and give feedback with out getting your jock straps in a bunch! Remember Portis…players with bad attitudes get traded!! And then go into downward spirals!! Just ask Lavar Arrington!! So get rid of your Terrell Owens disease and play like a real NFL player outta!!

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