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Outgoing Redskins coach says Portis 'could've worked harder'

Stump Mitchell says he regrets not being able to get Clinton Portis, above, to reach his potential.
Stump Mitchell says he regrets not being able to get Clinton Portis, above, to reach his potential. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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Parting ways with Portis could be a costly proposition. He has a contract for next season set to pay him $7.2 million, most of which is guaranteed. He is also due roster and workout bonuses totaling about $507,000. If the Redskins were to release Portis and another team signed him, the amount the Redskins owe him would be reduced. But if they released him before June, the team could still face a cap hit of as much as $14.8 million.

Portis was the biggest disappointment for the team's sputtering ground game this season. The Redskins had to place their top two running backs on injured reserve and cycled through four starters. For the season, the Redskins' rushing attack was ranked No. 27 in the league, averaging just 94.4 yards per game. Their eight rushing touchdowns tied for 25th in the NFL.

Though the offensive line changed on almost a weekly basis, Mitchell blamed himself -- not his running backs -- for the lack of production.

"I didn't coach as well, and they didn't play as well. As a result, the season is the way it is. The blocking, in my opinion, was better than the production that we got from my position," Mitchell said. "I just feel that way."

Mitchell was offered the head coaching job at Southern, which fired Pete Richardson on Dec. 31. The school's athletic director, Greg LaFleur, was a teammate of Mitchell's with the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals.

Mitchell initially told school officials he wanted to wait and see what Shanahan intended to do with his new coaching staff. But Mitchell spoke with Shanahan on Sunday and the two met Monday morning. Mitchell said he turned in his report on the 2009 running backs and decided he couldn't wait any longer.

"I could've waited just like all the other coaches. But Southern can't wait," said Mitchell, one of just a handful of coaches hired by Zorn. "They're already behind in the recruiting process."

Shanahan has not yet fired any coaches from Jim Zorn's staff, nor has he hired any replacements. He began interviewing Zorn's staff last Thursday, left town for the weekend and continued interviews Monday.

"I'm confident that Bruce Allen and Coach Shanahan are going to make a great combination," Mitchell said. "I'm confident the Washington Redskins are in great hands, and I would've enjoyed joining them. But I have an opportunity at Southern."

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