January 8, 2009

Should Clinton Stay On For Another Term?

Clinton Portis has been an absolute workhorse since he arrived in DC, but as old man time continues to wear down his body, the Redskins organization needs to seriously evaluate the running back position in the next offseason or two.

Portis is fast approaching the typical declining age for running backs. Skills begin to erode as back approach their thirties and Portis, often carrying the ball over 300 times a season, should see a drop in drop in his production as early as next year.

Portis bring a lot of heart to the offense. In fact, he's the only offensive player that really seems to bring a spark week in and week out. But let's face it, this team is going nowhere in the next few years. The best years of Portis' career are behind him, and soon he'll become a mediocre back on a team that has been mediocre since 1991.

There is no quick way to success for this team because the players are old and the salary cap woes prevent a mass overhaul in one offseason. So the question begs, does Portis want to stay here?

Portis was on the John Thompson show on ESPN 980 on Tuesday. He sounded frustrated and ready to win or leave. Thompson asked him if he felt any hope for the team. Portis dodged the question saying something about how he wanted to feel hope, but it was hard to have any. Not a good reply. Even worse, Portis made a backhanded jab at either the front office or the coaching staff, it was hard to tell which.

He blamed the fall after the 6-2 start on an overload of input from someone in the organization. He said that that person or group of persons changed the team philosophy when such a change was clearly not needed. In essence, he accused the team of being unorganized and leaderless with differing viewpoints everywhere.

Portis wants to win. The Skins won't be a contender next year. So will the Skins force Portis to languish in DC or trade him?

I honestly believe Portis will stay until at least the end of his contract. A trade would be difficult at this point in his career even if he wants out, and I doubt his discontent will ever rise to such a level that he would become a cancer to the team. However, I don't really think his presence will make a difference on the field unless the Skins regroup along the offensive line and finally receive solid quarterbacking play.

Portis has carried the ball 1489 times for the Skins. For his career he has carried it 2052 times. He has suffered various injuries and has taken a beating week in and week out. He has lost his breakaway speed and become more of a battering ram rather then a finesse back.

Portis doesn't particularly like the style of back he has become, but if he figures to play a prominent role in the Redskins offense in the coming years, he will continue to play as such.

I would look to see Portis' numbers decrease over the coming seasons, and the Skins will most likely address it in the 2010 offseason once they have attempted take care of several other more pressing needs this offseason. The Skins might not acquire a new feature back for another two or three years, but they will definitely add a change of pace type of back who can keep Portis as healthy as possible.

Ladell Betts might also be an option, but I don't see him as feature back. He is a great pass catcher, but he is fumble prone and is also at the midpoint of his career. Marcus Mason might finally get an opportunity this season. He has always played very well in the preseason, showing great vision and a nice burst.

The Portis years are drawing to a close. He has been a pleasure to watch and hopefully before his time is done in DC, he will experience some much deserved success. However, as time goes on, that seems unlikely.

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