Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Outside the Aviary: "A Change is Gonna Come..."

As the Washington Redskins proved that I was a genius for doubting them all week, I wondered what the hell Clinton Portis has to be thinking right now. I mean, after watching Ladell Betts saddle up the Redskins on his damn haunches and bust first down run after first down run, doesn’t he seem like he is the typical Gibbs power back? He even has the double consonant that Gibbs owns and loves—Timmy Smith, Riggins, etc. I know Portis is a machine, and believe me, I love watching him, but Betts is impressive, fearless and form-fitting for the stubborn yet incisive coach of Redskins lore.

In thinking further, the change was an invited respite. The resurgence I witnessed last week is not wholly on the shoulders of Mr. Betts, but instead probably the product of Mr. Gibbs threatening the lifespan of players and coaches. Still, Betts’ running is inspirational. The O-Line seems to be more motivated now than when they still had a shot at the playoffs (after accidentally beating Dallas, even). Campbell seems to love checking down to Betts. Confidence springs from the kids arm when he knows Betts is nearby. The defense knows they aren’t going straight back onto the field after three downs EVERY series, and this all but justifies my move on Madden 2005 to trade Portis for picks and run with the less flashy but exceedingly hard running Betts. I won five straight super bowls on his shoulders (and a plucky young quarterback with my exact name—who knew?).

Could such an unfathomable trade be in the future? Doubtful. Washington fans love having Portis (or at east the ones I interact with here in NYC), and I don’t know that I want his antics in some other locker room. Can you see him getting any attention in Denver (again)? Oakland? New York? Anywhere that needs a considerable running talent and is willing to PAY for it? I certainly can’t. Of course, speculation is pointless. The ‘Skins will hold on to Portis and Betts. I just wonder if somehow a marriage of styles could result from Betts’ inspiring play.

Would we pay an astronomical amount to platoon Portis and Betts next year? Betts’ 5 year extension is around $4 million in cap money and Portis’ is around 6.5 (I think—I’m no mathematician). For two quality backs they’re paying $10.5 million. It’s more than we pay Adam Archuleta to flip imaginary pancakes on the C-Squad, I guess. It’s more than we paid Deion Sanders (in sharp suits—I’m not sure we actually gave him money, but flame retardant flashy suits). It’s more than we paid Bruce Smith to break records and for being a better story than the biggest coaching disaster in fifty years (until the ‘Art Shell 2: Silent Stare’ era began). It’s more than we paid for Brandon Lloyd (more double consonants!) to stand around and look thuggish or Antwaan Randle-El (do double vowels count?) to run fifty yards for every five yards gained. It’s also more than Santana Moss’ (double… nevermind) contract which allows him to be one of the two spark plugs (with Portis) that revived Mark Brunell (this is getting ridiculous) during last year’s improbable playoff run.

In effect, letting any talent leave gives us more room to sign exorbitant free agents and have them ruin more reputations. Hopefully, I will get the distinct pleasure of seeing both men display their considerable talents (a la my beloved partner’s Broncos, only with, you know, good RBs).

The only problem is, Gibbs and Al Saunders may see the opportunity to get affordable young ta… what am I saying? Portis will probably stay, and we’ll trade for a third highly paid RB and jettison him to the practice squad—that way Archuleta will have a super rich practice buddy. I love you, Dan Snyder. Perhaps your love of excessive contracts will actually work to the Redskins’ advantage this time.

The supposed “shake-up” that is invariably linked to any off-season Snyder has his hands in doesn’t seem all that drastic compared to some. Seems like a couple of underachievers will fall and a couple of contracts will be re-negotiated. Maybe the Archuleta/Randle El/Fauria/Lloyd signings have re-taught the lesson he should have learned in the Smith/Sanders days. For every major class of free agents, only one has pulled through: the 2004 class (Phillip Daniels, Portis, et al). Portis remains a big reason why I get excited about this team. Betts and Campbell are fast becoming new reasons. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched the ‘Skins and looked for reasons to win. Betts and Campbell may have induced this, but without Portis I wouldn’t have been so likely to care. Of the new class of free agents, I’ve been impressed with exactly none of them—Randle El having the most potential (in all fairness, you can’t be upset with Fauria’s IR stint—these things happen).

When Portis returns, and of course he will, there will be a sense of continuity and a pair of fresh legs awaiting their chance. That’s exciting. Here’s to next year—something I haven’t been able to say in awhile—so long as the “shake-up” stays conservative.

1 comment:

Phony Gwynn said...

"only with, you know, good RBs."

Fuck you, Laughlin.