In choosing to blast Zorn on the John Thompson show (boy, Snyder owning that station really has stifled criticism of the team, hasn't it?), Portis created a distraction at exactly the time that the team did not need it. After sitting out most of the second half of last Sunday's game against the Ravens, Portis had two full days to figure out what he was going to say about it on his weekly radio appearance on ESPN980 with the former Georgetown basketball coach.
He chose to be still angry about the fact that he sat out the last 30 minutes of the team's 24-10 loss and to express that anger in a mix of sarcastic comments and resignation.
In other words, he chose to show his spoiled, selfish, high-maintenance diva side.
Appearing on the same radio station later in the day, Zorn reiterated what he said on Sunday and Monday, that Portis sat out the half because he hadn't been able to practice all week. The Ravens were bringing a lot of different looks and blitzes ("exotic" blitzes as John Madden said about 1,000 times). Zorn felt it was important to have a back who actually had executed the protection schemes on the practice field in the game. That was Ladell Betts.
The problem is that Zorn had a few opportunities to talk to Portis about his line of reasoning, to explain his logic and to soothe the player's rather substantial ego. He thought that it was important enough to talk to the press about on Sunday night and Monday afternoon, but he didn't find the time to sit down with Portis and set things straight.
In other words, he chose to display his inexperience as a head coach.
Portis protested that he knew the schemes, that he had been at the meetings and had paid attention at practice. This seems to be the heart of his complaint.
"If I can run through the week, I'd practice. If I can't, then I ain't. And I'm not gonna force myself to go onto a field and do something crazy and then all of the sudden I'm out. What I need to be around for is Sundays, and that's what I try to be around for. So I mean, if you've got a problem with me not practicing and can't do it that way, maybe you feel like you need to sever ties, split ties with me? Split ties with me. But don't sit here and throw me out like I don't pay attention, like I don't know what's going on, like I'm making mistakes, I'm the problem.
If Zorn had explained to Portis that he understood why he couldn't practice during the week and that he simply had to do what he thought was best for the team, this whole issue could have been avoided. Portis could have spoken his mind behind closed doors and, while it's unlikely that he would have been happy about it, he would have had the chance to get it off his chest. Since he wasn't given the chance to do so, he decided to go nuclear and speak his mind to the world.
That doesn't mean that Portis had to do it. The part where he talks about severing ties is particularly galling. He just got a bunch of guaranteed money in the offseason and in doing so he made it virtually impossible for the Redskins to sever ties. Portis has had plenty of opportunity to shine under Zorn this year but when the road gets a little bumpy he starts to talk about bailing out.
It remains to be seen how much effect Portis' comments will have on the locker room. He's not exactly a leader on the team. His comments earlier in the year about his offensive line and about how the team didn't seem to be focused going into the game against the Rams have created a "Clinton is Clinton" mentality among his teammates. Some may grate privately at what he says but to a man they admire his attitude and production between the lines.
In other words, the ripple effects are likely to be minimal.
If Zorn continues to speak to his players though the press rather than taking his issues up with them in private, things could begin to get sticky.
Rich Tandler blogs about the Skins at RealRedskins.com and he is the author of the upcoming book The Redskins Chronicle. You can reach Rich by email at firstname.lastname@example.org