(photo by Brian Murphy)
Thanks to a fantasy football minded front office, the careers of quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Mark Sanchez will forever be linked in the minds of Washington Redskins fans. That’s what happens when Vinny Cerrato and Daniel Snyder try to dump Campbell for a chance to select the rookie out of USC.
But it occurred to us this past weekend while watching the New York Jets take on the Cincinnati Bengals that there is a better comparison to make than Campbell and Sanchez. And truth be told, it might surprise you.
Since his arrival in the NFL, Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis has been viewed as one of the league’s elite players. Conversely, Thomas Jones has not. While Portis has spent the better part of the last decade stealing headlines on and off the field, Jones has resided further away from the spotlight. However, if you take the time to break down their statistics, what you’ll find is that they’re essentially the same player.
In six seasons with the Redskins, Portis has 1,613 carries for 6,597 yards with 44 touchdowns in 79 games played, which averages out to 4.08 yards per carry and 83 yards per game. ‘Skins fans should remember that Portis missed half of the 2006 and 2009 seasons due to injury.
Over the last five seasons, Jones has played 79 regular season games. Splitting time between the Chicago Bears and the Jets, Jones has 1,541 carries for 6,378 yards with 43 touchdowns, which averages out to 4.13 yards per carry and 80 yards per game.
Portis has rushed for at least 100 yards 26 times during his time in Washington. And it should be noted that the Redskins are 37-42 with him in the lineup.
Jones has reached the century mark 25 times over the last five seasons, with his teams going 45-34 with him in the lineup. While it would be shortsighted to suggest that Portis and Jones were the only two players responsible for the success of their individual teams, we figured it was worth pointing out the wins and losses (you know, since that’s the point of the games in the first place).
Now, remember that upon his arrival before the 2004 season, Portis immediately penned his name to an eight-year, $50.5 million contract, which, at the time, made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. The deal contained roughly $17 million in bonuses.
Jones, on the other hand, signed a much more reasonable contract in 2007 – a four-year, $20 million deal with $12 million guaranteed.
And because the Redskins are routinely near the salary cap ceiling, the team has restructured Portis’ deal on multiple occasions. Most recently, the team redid his contract in 2008 to free up wiggle room for free agency. In the process, the Redskins guaranteed his salary for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, which is roughly $15 million.
Jones received a base salary of $900,000 in 2009 (along with a $100,000 workout bonus), and is scheduled to take home $2.8 million (with another $100,000 workout and a $3 million roster bonus) in the final year of his contract.
Portis heads into the 2010 season hoping to bounce back from the first serious concussion of his career. It should also be noted that within the last week he’s been the target of criticism from his teammates, as well as his coaches, who are tired of him running his mouth and not giving his best effort.
After hearing Portis take shots at him on his weekly radio segment, Campbell fired back at his running back. Other Redskins players then came to Campbell’s defense, also questioning Portis’ practice habits and wondering aloud whether or not the rumors are true in regards to Portis going over the head of Jim Zorn and running to the owner when he doesn’t get his way. And then yesterday, former running backs coach Stump Mitchell had this to say of Portis:
“He’s a headstrong individual,” Mitchell said. “He can go out and get it done and sometimes he will, but he wasn’t getting the most out of his ability this past season because he did not prepare as well as I think he should have.”
Mitchell, who is moving on to become the head coach of Southern University, went on to say that Portis “isn’t the guy he used to be.”
Okay, let’s see if we’ve got this straight. Portis has lost a step and is no longer the player he used to be, has questionable practice habits, regularly says something dumb and/or throws his teammates under the bus on a weekly radio show. Did we leave anything out?
Jones, meanwhile, has finished in the top five in rushing yards and touchdowns each of the last two seasons. His two-year totals are 2,714 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns over that span. In fact, over the last five years, he’s finished third, fifth, 10th, 11th and ninth in the NFL in rushing. He might not get much attention, but he’s as reliable as they come.
Even though he’s three years older than Portis, Jones at 31 years old has still only missed one game in the last five seasons – and that was back in 2005. And most importantly, you don’t hear his teammates and coaches saying anything negative about him.
In summary, Portis has exactly one more rushing touchdown and has averaged just three more yards per game than Jones over the last 79 games. Ignore the fact that Jones played his 79 games in just five seasons, as opposed to Portis, who took six years.
Forget that anyone at Redskins Park who is willing to go public about Portis these days seemingly has nothing positive to say about the man. No, just look at how much the team continues to overpay the diva running back ($15 million guaranteed for this season and next). For half the cost and a fraction of the drama, the team could have a guy like Jones, who simply shows up for work and does whatever is needed to help his team win.
The hiring of Mike Shanahan represents a chance for a fresh start in Ashburn. If they’re wise, the Redskins’ front office will take a good, hard look at whether or not Portis is worth the money and distractions, and in the end, head into the 2010 season with someone else lined up in the backfield on opening day.