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OF: The Clinton Portis Legacy

Washington Taylor beat Panthers

Om

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When the Washington Redskins released running back Clinton Portis on March 1, 2011, the curtain came down on one of the most mercurial, memorable careers in team history.

His was truly a shooting star—sometimes brilliant, often frustrating, never ordinary.

Yes, there have been colorful characters in burgundy and gold before. Troubled defensive end Dexter Manley springs to mind; as does legendary Hall of Fame running back John Riggins. But none have ever outshone Clinton Portis.

Redskins fans will definitely remember his presence on the field; perhaps more so in time, as his career settles slowly into the rear view mirror and historical perspective.

Few running backs of his era have been more adept at finding small seams in defenses arrayed to stop him—the byproduct of an often inept passing game during Portis’ seven years in Washington—and bursting into the defensive secondary.

Few have also been as frustrating once arriving there. In recent years Portis was increasingly, frustratingly, unable to make that one final, open-field move and beat that one remaining defender between him and the goal line. The money move—the move that turns big gains into a game-breaking scoring plays.

Few running backs in league history, let alone Redskins history, have ever been more physical. Portis introduced a generation of local fans to the concept and value of a reliable, sometimes brutish, backfield pass blocker.

Of course, at the end of the day, what history truly measures running backs by are numbers. Cold statistics. In that light, Clinton Portis shines...

More...
 

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Lanky Livingston

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"Few have also been as frustrating once arriving there. In recent years Portis was increasingly, frustratingly, unable to make that one final, open-field move and beat that one remaining defender between him and the goal line. The money move—the move that turns big gains into a game-breaking scoring plays."

Sums up my feelings about CP's time here quite nicely - I've been saying this for YEARS. Always frustrating when he took the wrong angle or ran to the wrong side of a downfield blocker - and also extremely ANNOYING.
 

fansince62

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timing is everything!

and the reality is...few if any RBs into their 5+ seasons make the long runs anymore. CP was beat up in the Gibbs offense....plus his style and body adjusted to the physical approach Gibbs preferred.
 

Om

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If CP had had that one last shake in the open field--that final vision and burst to daylight--he might have ended up one of the great NFL backs of all time, not just one of the best Redskins. There were probably three dozen runs over the course of his career here that could have gone from the "big gain" to "game breaking scoring" column and changed not only his but his his team's history.

But history is what it is. CP won't be remembered as an all-timer, but he should be remembered as one helluva football player.

Al ... explain the timing comment por favor?
 

Lanky Livingston

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I still remember the screen pass against the Broncos (2005) like it happened yesterday. CP had one guy to beat AND Chris Samuels blocking downfield, basically steamrolling the one guy he had to beat out of the way. All CP had to do was go to the right side, but he inexplicably went left, the direction Samuels was blocking the guy towards.

I used to recall a few more, but they've slipped away. They are all pretty innocuous plays, but when you really look at them, you think "why didn't CP just run the other direction?" Maybe he lacked basic understanding of pursuit angles? I'm not sure.
 

Neophyte

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Great writing there, my brother. I have struggled in the months since the Portis release to come up with something of my own about the man but now I'm glad I didn't. It wouldn't have been this good.

In a way, I consider Portis Gibbs greatest failure. During Gibbs I he was legendary for looking at the skills a player brought to the field and putting that player in a position to win. During Gibbs II that talent just wasn't on display much and no player suffered for it more than Portis. Gibbs consistently clung to the ground game that worked so well with Riggins when he had a thoroughbred whose talents were nothing like Riggins.

To be honest, I expected something of a whole sale change in philosophy as to the running game when Gibbs traded for Portis but that never happened and the fault for that certainly falls at the feet of Gibbs. I'm not saying he should have his bust removed from Canton or anything but for a guy who made it there on the strength of 3 Super Bowl wins with 3 very different QBs, he failed to adequately evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his supremely talented RB and adjust his game plans accordingly.

Oh sure, he and Buges decided to use a Zone Blocking scheme some to fit Portis but that was after a year or two of playing straight up Counter Trey ball and asking Portis to change who he was physically to do the job. And even after adding Zone plays to the book, they kept alternating between that and the old calls used with the Hogs.

What might Portis have been if Gibbs had been up to the task of reworking the offense for him like he did in '82 after the 0-5 start showed him that his players just didn't fit the traditional Coryell system? Sadly, we can only guess.
 

Elephant

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Recently I lambasted CP for his comments about wanting to play against us 2 times a year for letting him go. Some have suggested that most players would say that because they want to prove their former team wrong. I softened a bit, but it's tough to think about a Redskins' legend playing against us in the NFC East.

With that said, his legacy as a Redskins's RB will not be forgotten by this fan. The Eagles' game to end the 2005 season, winning 5 straight that launched us into the playoffs was a marvel. He ran for 122 yards that game scoring 2 TD's. Actually, through that 5 games streak it was CP who carried the team to the playoffs rushing for over 100 yards in all 5 of those games, the last 3 against our division foes. It was unfortunate that by the time we reached the playoffs he had run out of gas, but that 5 game stretch was legend.

That clip at the end of your article was fun to watch but they missed one highlight that was perhaps my favorite CP run of all time. Following the block of Mike Sellers on the edge just about the 10 yard line, CP loses his balance. Just as it looks like he might go down he reaches for Sellers jersey and pulls himself out of danger and rumbles in for the TD. That was my single favorite highlight from his Redskins' career.

If only he could have kept his mouth shut off the football field, he could have ranked as an all time favorite of mine, but...
 

Lanky Livingston

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That clip at the end of your article was fun to watch but they missed one highlight that was perhaps my favorite CP run of all time. Following the block of Mike Sellers on the edge just about the 10 yard line, CP loses his balance. Just as it looks like he might go down he reaches for Sellers jersey and pulls himself out of danger and rumbles in for the TD. That was my single favorite highlight from his Redskins' career.
Also probably my favorite CP highlight of all time (it was in the Cardinals game in 05 - he actually grabbed the jersey before falling and just goes along for the ride). Its a toss up between that and his first carry (for emotional reasons, not necessarily the spectacular-ness of the play or anything).

My 3rd favorite: knocking a blitzing Sheldon Quarles unconscious while pass-blocking in the 2005 playoff game against the Bucs.
 
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Lanky Livingston

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him flipping in to the EZ to seal the deal for us to go to the playoffs was a good one.
Sean Taylor dove into the endzone to seal it. One of the iconic images of Gibbs 2.0 was him soaring.
 

fansince62

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Al ... explain the timing comment por favor?
an off the cuff remark on the implied theme that CP cld have accomplished a lot more had he talented teammates on the offense to work with. he went for the bucks....and got stuck with the smucks!!
 

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Also probably my favorite CP highlight of all time (it was in the Cardinals game in 05 - he actually grabbed the jersey before falling and just goes along for the ride). Its a toss up between that and his first carry (for emotional reasons, not necessarily the spectacular-ness of the play or anything).

My 3rd favorite: knocking a blitzing Sheldon Quarles unconscious while pass-blocking in the 2005 playoff game against the Bucs.
Thanks for the clip. I tried to find it but was unsuccessful. At the end of the clip it shows ST stopping them on 4th and 1 when the RB had the hole. He looked like an LB closing in on the RB with the speed of a CB. Don't mean for this to turn away from Om's article and the legacy of CP, but every time I see ST highlights, I get a little verklempt. That guy could have been a Hall of Famer.

I like the Mathias Kiwanuka hit as well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dagF3Xoyq3Q

That friends ia a defensive end being laid out by CP!
 

Om

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an off the cuff remark on the implied theme that CP cld have accomplished a lot more had he talented teammates on the offense to work with. he went for the bucks....and got stuck with the smucks!!
Gotcha ... and concur.

Kills me that we never really got to see CP run behind an offense capable of consistently stretching the field in the passing game. Every year it was the same thing ... throughout the course of the season defenses would compress the field more and more, knowing we couldn't hurt them deep, and CP would face 7, 8, 9-man fronts all stacked to stop him.

He mighta been a diva, and mighta become a bit of a pantload in his last couple seasons ... but the man could play football.
 

Ax

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Count me as one who was hoping we'd re-sign him. Still do.

I wish he talked less. I wish he'd practiced harder. But between the first and last whistle of games, he gave the kind of effort that inspired fan-dom.

I don't look forward to rooting against him.
 

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Sheriff gonna getchu!

LOVED CPo as our RB. I don't think he got the right handling from any of our coarching staff, necessarily. But the $$ to performance ratio isn't worth it & hasn't been for a while.

I'll still wear my 26 Portis Jersey with pride. Love mah 'Canes!!

I'm glad Hankerson is on board now.

btw - Kudos for a VaTech alum to prop out a 'Cane!!
 

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Appreciate the work you did here OM. :)

Portis was the most talented back we've had here since Riggo and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him play.

As for the off field stuff and media gaffes, well, my hero,Riggo, was no saint in that department but it never mattered to me with either of them because you knew come Sunday, they were ready to play.

Sometimes I sit and wonder how Portis does in that '83 offense that Joe Gibbs had....

Where's the Wayback Machine when ya need it Sherman??
 

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Count me as one who was hoping we'd re-sign him. Still do.

I wish he talked less. I wish he'd practiced harder. But between the first and last whistle of games, he gave the kind of effort that inspired fan-dom.

I don't look forward to rooting against him.
I couldn't agree more. Every time I hear his name, Is till think of his first carry for us, and all the goofy characters.

I'd also throw in that he is hands-down the best blocking running back most of us have ever seen. He never seemed to get the credit he deserved for the things he did without the ball, and that always impressed me more than his running ability. He was an all around guy, and he really did love it here, I truly believe that.

I think he got scared and started to take a few dives to avoid losing an entire season again, but I think if he can get over that, he'll have 3 or 4 more solid years left.
 

McD5

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With all due respect to the other members of this board, and most notably, to the author OM, screw Portis.

Average at best. When you take into account the number of carries he had, he was an average NFL player.

He isn't responsible for being the poster child of one of the worst trades in franchise history--others made the decision to bring him here. I don't hold that against him.

And pass blocking? He was our RB. Running first. Catching second. Pass blocking third. That's like people saying that Vince Young was a great runner. Who cares? That's not his primary job.

When you take his cancerous practice attitude into consideration, combined with his ignorant statements--he represents everything this team needs to get away from.

Some here believe he was great at least partially because, in my opinion, the team has blown for so long. And maybe he blew a little bit less. That still isn't a premiere football player. That's akin to Cleveland telling everyone somebody on their team has been a star all these years.

Seriously, it's absurd imho.
 
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Lanky Livingston

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While I think CP's antics and characters probably made him larger than life in the eyes of a lot of Redskins fans, I think you're selling him short by calling him "Average at Best." You're also selling his pass-blocking way short - I think you are underestimating how many RBs in this league are relegated to inactive status or cut because they CAN'T pass-block.
 

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I keep hearing about how our Offensive line sucked while Clinton was here and while the last 3 years has proven to show a poor offensive line, they were damn good his first 4 years here. In fact that line was arguably the best unit on our team for a few seasons. Portis had the luxury of a great offensive line the first season here, but the offense was so vanilla, defenses stacked the box with 8 knowing Coach was going to run the counter trey and try to ram the ball down the throats of opposing teams, yet CP still rushed for 1200. The following year, he rushed for 1500 yards behind a damn good offensive line. The following year he got injured and Ladell Betts ran for 1200 in what....10 games of full time action? Then CP came back and ran for another 1400 with an aging, but still good O-line.

It was because the line was neglected in the draft and the guys like Samuels, Thomas, and Jansen got older and more injury prone that our line deteriorated so fast. Thanks again Vinny Cer****to! But for half his career, CP had a damn good offensive line while he was here.

I disagree with McD5 about CP being average. He was in the upper echelon of the NFL for a few seasons. That is not average. I agree whole-heartedly with McD5 about CP's off the field antics. If he had shut his mouth, practiced hard and focused on football the rest of the week, I believe he could have been and all-time great.
 

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