Saturday, February 20, 2010

Washington Politics: Dust-off

When a team goes 4-12, the bad dust clings to everybody. People shake the dust off in a variety of ways. After the 2009 Washington campaign, the owner beat the dusty rugs of his front office until he replaced the GM and entire coaching staff. There hasn't been too much bickering between teammates, aside from some in-season anguish between vocal RB Clinton Portis and FB Sellers.

Portis finished the year on IR. Although he's a Snyder and fan favorite, there is no question that injuries have been mounting in recent years, cutting his production off at the knees. His backup was also on IR, which forced Washington to bring in a series of backs off the street to run behind the slumdog line (also largely signed off the street).

In early February, Portis did a radio interview from Brazil. With no lack of self-regard, Portis had some harsh words for eternally-embattled QB Jason Campbell, taking special aim at Campbell's demonstrated lack of bellyfire:
"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 ... 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."
Perhaps if he hadn't started with "no disrespect" it wouldn't have sounded so disrespectful. It could have come across as another teammate explaining that the QB isn't a rah-rah guy, but tries to lead by his example on the field.

But it provoked some bellyfire in Campbell. In fact, Campbell goes on the attack, and dusts off Portis with a vehemence that I've never heard from Campbell nor heard directed at the quixotic Portis [emphasis is mine]:
"How is he going to say I'm not a leader? I mean, that's just not true. To me, that's somebody who shows that they don't know what a real leader is ... There's a reason guys get selected as captains, and there's a reason guys don't get selected as captains. Obviously, he doesn't have the respect of the locker room to be a captain. For someone to try to take a shot at me at the end of the season, after they haven't even been around, only speaks about their character anyways."

"Not one time have I come out and made any excuses about anything with my situation. I never do anything to try to hurt my teammates. Some people need to stop being 'me' guys and start being 'we' guys. And another thing, and I want you to write this, too, how does he even know what's going on with our team?"

"How's he question anything when for those four or five weeks before he was on IR , he never even came around. He wasn't with us. He was never at practice. Who does he think was holding the offense together? He should go ask the coaches and the players if he wants to know. But he wasn't around to do that. He doesn't know anything about leadership."

"You've got guys out there working their butts off, guys out there practicing and doing everything they need to do to prepare for Sundays, and you see him over there getting special treatment. What does that say about him? I go out, I get beat down on Sundays, and I still have to go out and practice and get ready for games. And that's what your supposed to do."
Now on the one hand, I'm glad that Campbell rose up to crush Portis, who many feel receives special treatment as an owner's favorite. On the other hand, it's February and we have a brand new organization. Although both of these players are under contract, neither is assured of a place with the team next year. This dust-up could clear the air for a productive backfield next year, or it could light a fuse of season-long disgruntlement.

How Coach Shanahan handles the poison in the locker room, as well as CB Westbrook's DUI (the first Washington player arrested since before Gibbs returned), may offer an early window into his administrative style. Shanahan drafted Portis. But he also traded him.

I have a feeling there might be some more dusting before the season begins. Something to keep an eye on, since Olympic luge isn't very entertaining on the radio.

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