Mike Shanahan knew he was inheriting a mess when he agreed to become head coach of the Washington Redskins. It got a little messier today when Clinton Portis(notes) and Jason Campbell(notes) got involved in a very contentious, and very public, war of the words.
Portis, as he's known to do, went on The John Thompson Show in D.C. and ran his mouth about how great Clinton Portis is and how everyone else can't keep up with said greatness. Last year, the running back sarcastically called coach Jim Zorn a "genius." Today, he questioned the leadership abilities of his quarterback.
The normally mild-mannered Campbell shot back later in the day with a stunning barrage of insults, including direct shots at Portis' locker room presence, work ethic and overall (lack of) qualities as a teammate. The Portis quotes weren't really surprising. He does stuff like that all the time. But to hear Campbell give it right back? Wow.
Here are some of the highlights, courtesy the Washington Post's Redskins Insider:
"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.
He going to get up, dust himself off, he going to give you everything he got. 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. That wasn't Jason's character.
I think Jason, you can't place so much on somebody who's not ready for that situation. I think Jason has enough trouble in getting the plays in and worrying about this, compared to controlling the huddle and making sure, 'Oh, we do this and we do that.' But you go and vote Jason Campbell [as captain] -- you know Jason Campbell ain't go and tell the coach, 'Well, we need to do this or we need to do that,' or 'This is how the players want it.'"
Campbell on Portis (in a phone interview with the Post's Jason Reid -- read the whole thing, it was nearly impossible to select the best excerpts to include here):
"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. A leader is not someone who leads by the wrong example. A leader is someone who is trying to do the right thing and trying to lead by example, and not just [being] about themselves. 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 ...
How's he [going to] question anything when for those four or five weeks before he was on IR [the season-ending injured-reserve list], 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."
Wonder if Portis still thinks Jason Campbell can't take control? The running back just got a verbal beatdown courtesy a guy he basically called stupid earlier in the day.
If you scrape away the petty name-calling (it would take an industrial size scraper), both sides make legitimate points. I've been a fervent Campbell supporter but there's a lot of truth in the criticism from Portis. Campbell does have trouble getting in the plays and he never seemed to be a "take control" kind of guy.
Campbell has a point too. Portis didn't play those last few weeks and evidently wasn't around the locker room either, presumably because he was living in a glass house from which to throw stones.
But though Campbell may emerge from this verbal feud looking better than Portis, he's the one who's ultimately going to lose. With his contract up and Mike Shanahan coming to town, it's hard to picture a scenario where Campbell is back on the Redskins in 2010. Portis could be out too, but he's already under contract for 2010 and there are much bigger areas of need for Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen to address.
Like, for instance, getting control of the locker room.