As any Redskins Fan knows, Clinton Portis is by far a top 10 running back in this league when healthy. But last season, Portis weared down during the second half, and the running game became inefficent, leading to a 2-6 finish. Today, head coach Jim Zorn wanted to avoid a second half collapse and announces that backup Ladell Betts will be the primary 3rd down running back, replacing Portis.
"He has been preparing to play," offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said. "We told him, You need to prepare like a starter would prepare,' because of what we want to do with him. We've already committed to him that he's going to be our third-down guy, so he wants to take ownership of that. And just to be prepared that if something happens to C.P., he's going to go in there and we're not going to miss a beat. He's been great. He's had a great camp." "He's going to deliver; we're not worried about that,"
"Smith said of Betts, who like Portis is considered outstanding in pass protection. "The thing we're doing with this also, for Clinton, is to give him some plays, some breaks, where we can put another guy in. You need two backs to do it today. One guy can't carry the whole load. We have a very good running back in Ladell Betts, and it's just foolish not to use him."
Sure Ladell Betts is a very good No.2 back, and he did rush for over 1,000 yards in 2006 when Portis was injured for that season. However, Jason Reid pointed the risk of this move by Zorn because of Portis relationship with the front office.
"Portis, however, has a uniquely close relationship with owner Daniel Snyder. And Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, recently told my guy, Barry Svrluga, that Portis calls "me a lot before the draft, before free agency, [to] talk about guys. He's into it. He knows who's on the team. He knows who the players are around the league. He likes all that. He likes personnel stuff."
And that's why Zorn's plan is risky. Portis has the ear of the owner and the owner's No. 2 guy, and he has gone public in the past when he feels less than appreciated. If the Redskins win with Betts doing more, well, everything should be cool even if Portis longs for the good old days. But if they struggle and Portis is unhappy, well, that could be problematic, especially for Zorn."
That is why I am not in favor of this move at all. I think Zorn can use betts during first or second downs. But when its 3rd and short, you have to use your best running back available. Zorn has to realize that Portis rush for over 1500 yards with a banged up offensive line last season, and has a great relationship with the front office. Anytime the coach demotes a star player from critcal situations, it creates issues. Yes, I am worried about Portis being bang up this year too, but Zorn should utilize betts on other plays, not just on critical thrid downs. These are the type of moves that could easily cause Zorn's job.
And if this solution fails, and Portis complains about it on the media, it could create an ugly situation for Zorn, and raise further questions about his relationship with Portis.