Thursday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora will be online Thursday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions about the Redskins, the controversy between Clinton Portis and Jim Zorn and their game against the Bengals this weekend.

The transcript follows.

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Jason La Canfora: Sorry I'm late, and I'll jump right in. This should be fun. Forgot the ipod this week, so no musical soundtrack to spur me on.


Shawn Springs: Why is it I can't get healthy and get on the field without even having a sprain?? Should I just give my number to Deangelo now?

"Pretty in Pink" -- Psychedelic Furs

Jason La Canfora: Dang dude. Don't beat yourself up like that. You're seeing specialists in Toronto and going all over the place and getting in hyperbaric chambers trying to get right. It stinks that you got kicked in the calf in practice taking extra reps with other guys hurt, which set this thing off again.

I got a feeling you end up finding a way to gut it out this week. They need you for sure: 4-2 with you in the lineup; 3-4 without.


Columbus, Ohio: About this weird obsession with Leigh Torrence. Do you have any data (you know actual facts) that show that the Redskins are so much worse without him? And that it is attributable to him not playing in D.C.? Not your opinion or your "NFL executive's" opinion, but actual facts?

Jason La Canfora:

When a team cuts a useful player for no good reason - with so many others begging to be let go, but somehow not for mysterious reasons. Yeah, Erasmus James was getting in done in November, and contributing a whole lot more than a special teams ace who was quickly snapped up by multiple teams with waiver claims and had overtures from at least 5 other clubs had he cleared waivers. We'll see if James is claimed. Don't hold your breath.

Do you think this team is good and deep and talented enough to give away useful, young, improving players? Maybe they are.

I's' also go back and see how many punts have been downed inside the 10 since he left. It's on film. How many missed tackles on teams? How's that punt protection looked the past 4-5 weeks.

He's now making plays for New Orleans, and as one scout said, is one of the 3-4 best gunners in the NFL. Football's not always about stats and Pro Bowls, much as a shock as that might be.

Yeah, the Skins score so many points that special teams doesn't matter at all. They're 1-3 since he got cut, too, if you're all about numbers.


Baltimore: Is switching from right tackle to left tackle that much of an adjustment? I guess I don't understand because I am just a fan and have never played football.

However, I have played futbol, and I know you did too. I have played fullback and striker, left and right and while I had to make a minor adjustment when switching sides, it wasn't that big, even if I could hardly kick with my left leg. How different is this for the Off tackle position and why is it a big deal. Is there really a huge adjustment in technique or more adjustment on chemistry with the guards?

Jason La Canfora: It's fairly big in that schematically you are now thinking through the plays and assignments in the opposite way you normally would. It's not the biggest hurdle in the world, especially with some practice and rep time, but to make the switch in-game is not super-easy for sure.

At least that's what the big uglies tell me. Lord knows I was never playing at the line of scrimmage for anyone.


Arlington, Va.: I'm sure different players have different takes on Portis vs. Zorn, but do you have a sense that there's a majority opinion one way or the other? Seems to me it's the coach's prerogative to sit a player, especially a banged-up RB who you don't want to ask to do a lot of late-game pass protection, though it might be better for morale if the coach were a little more careful about talking to the media about it afterward.

Jason La Canfora: I've had several veterans express essentially the same thing about what Portis said:

As we've been writing, the "execution" talk and praising of the scheme was starting to grate on guys.

But the timing and tone of it all was pure Clinton, something they perceive to be a guy putting himself above the good of the team at a crisis point in the season and the type of attention grabbing antics that many have long bristled at.


Ashburn, Va.: Vinnie Cerrato's decisions this year have gone swimmingly well! Do you think he will have less of a role in selecting talent for next season?

Jason La Canfora: If it ain't broke, don't fix it right? Look at all the wins and home playoff games and division titles and long playoff drives and bang for the buck the Redskins have managed under Snyder/Cerrato regime.

Why even think about breaking up that dynamic duo?


Alexandria, Va.: Is it true that all the head coaches interviewed had to agree to start Jason Campbell? John Riggins recently said that was one of reasons Fassel didn't get the job -- that he watched film on JC and wouldn't promise Snyder he would start him. And it's been documented before that Greg Williams wanted an open QB competition. Same goes for Gibbs had he come back.

I like Campbell, but this worries me for two reasons. One, I hate the idea of Snyder and Vinny telling a coach who they have to play. And two, it seems like coaches who saw JC in practice every day weren't exactly sold on him.

What do you know about this?

Thanks. Love these chats.


Jason La Canfora: Snyder and Cerrato wanted a coach who could groom JC as a franchise QB. That is very much true and a big part of the job.

But the Fassel part from Riggo is pure BS. He liked what he saw out of Collins,but was eager to work with JC. He was very eager to take the job, was very willing to have JC as QB and Zorn as OC (he interviewed Zorn on the phone a few times when the Skins were just about to hire him, and still thinks very highly of Dan Snyder.

He would have taken the job under most any condition.


Fairfax, Va.: Boswell's column was dead on. Gibbs would have never thrown a player under the bus like Zorn did.

I'm not a fan of Clinton's antics, his dressing up, his quotes about the o-line. But the bottom line is the guy is a high level consistent performer who plays his heart out every Sunday and takes pride in his work. He is a warrior. You don't do what Zorn did to that kind of player. Big, big rookie mistake. Truth, Consequences (Post, Dec. 10)

Jason La Canfora: Thrown a player under the bus? By explaining a coaching decision? I don't buy it.

Gibbs and Snyder created this mess by allowing Portis to do anything he wanted, making him bigger than the team, giving his special treatment, constant new contracts ... and where has that gotten them? Where's the payoff?

Gibbs walks. Portis continues to get paid and act out however he likes without the owner or Cerrato daring to say a word about his actions and other people, like his coaches and teammates, are faced with sideshows and distractions and to answer questions about silly stuff like this when the season is slipping away.

Yeah, that's tremendous team building. Hip, hip horay. This is Gibbs's monster, and his actions with Portis ran counter to the rhetoric he sold the fans for four years. We're all in it together ... except Portis can do no wrong.


Hatchet job: Jason, I saw the hatchet job that Sally Jenkins did on the 'Skins in this morning's paper. May I point out that this is only Jim Zorn's first year as a head coach , and without even having prior experience as a coordinator? And it's also Jason Campbell's first year in yet another new offense.

For the team to still have a winning record after 13 games is indeed commendable. Sure, the Giants are an excellent team now, but I would like to remind you that Tom Coughlin was only 6-10 in his first year coaching the Giants, and Jim Zorn has already surpassed that.

So things aren't nearly as gloomy as Jenkins made them out to be. If Washington sticks with Zorn and Campbell the way New York stood by Coughlin and Eli Manning, the Redskins will reap similar rewards. To quote Guns 'n Roses, "... all we need is just a little patience." Who Is In Charge Here? (Post, Dec. 11)

Jason La Canfora: I agree with you that you need to make a 2-3 commitment at the least in order to even think you know what you have with such an novice coach and QB.

I don't remember anyone clammoring for Cerrato and Snyder to hire Zorn, begging for him to come to town. By all of their accounts, he was their guy, and going 7-6 despite a massively flawed roster and with precisious little support from the personnel side is hardly a failure.

This was constructed, to me, as a 5-8 win team as I wrote over the summer. And any moves made by Cerrato to bolster that - draft picks, Jason Taylor, Erasmus James, Shaun Alexander - haven't changed a thing. DeAngelo Hall is making plays on defense, for sure, and we'll see what the future holds with him, but Zorn inherited a team with huge issues at O Line, D Line and WR, for starters, and you tell me what's improve personnel wise at those positions.


NY, NY: Joe Bugel was one of the best OL coaches in the history of the game. Have things changed so much since the Hogs? Or is there too much focus on Run blocking?

Jason La Canfora: I think Buges actually did some of his best work last season and by all accounts is one of the very best ever to do what he does. The fatal flaw with him, dating back to the early Gibbs days, is that he sometimes become too loyal to certain warriors and ignores some flaws. I've heard it from many guys who worked with him recently and in the past.

And I think that's part of the reason for the lack of change on this O Line and the commitment to the old guard. I don't think he has the spry, dynamic guys with age and injury taking hold, and this group sputtering to a standstill in the second half of the season.


West Falls Church: What is Zorn saving Moss and D.Hall for? We don't need any more evidence that both Randle El and Cartwright can't take it to the house. Put the dudes in that can!

Jason La Canfora: I wouldn't use Moss - he's just too important - but heck yeah, whether it's Hall, Devin Thomas, Justin Tryon, whomever.

Assuming the guy can catch the ball - and isn't a big fumbling risk - give anyone else a try. I'd even go back to James Thrash. Anything for a spark.


Cabin John, Md.: I know you often make the case that the defensive line and more specifically their ability to rush the passer are one of the 'Skins most glaring needs. While I agree with you that the defensive line is a major area of need I think the fallacy that pass rush is the problem is what has led us to our real problem of run d/control of the line.

As your stats this morning on RI note, this year's top 10 D is very similar in all major categories except sacks to last year's team, which leads me to believe the sacks are not as critical factor in points, yards and TOs that they are made to be.

If you take it a step further the number of sacks in a game have nothing to do with this teams wins and losses while the number of rush yards allowed almost dictates wins and losses.

Don't we need to stop worrying, writing and asking about sacks and the Jason Taylor/Andre Carter's of the world and focus on the down and dirty run stuffing line play? It almost seems the criticism of this team mirrors the missteps of the front office focus on the big sexy highlight reel stuff instead of the base boring fundamental problems.

Jason La Canfora: I believe that QB pressure is absolutely vital to any defense being great. It's imperative. It's how you make a great QB average, and how you make an average QB implode and give you the game.

Take sacks out of it. Forget the numbers. Look at the film and count how many "Mississippis" you get to before an opposing passer is flustered, forced to move, forced to get off a route, forced to make an error or mistake. It doesn't happen.

Look at what QB pressure did to the Skins last week, and then compare it to the ridiculous amount of time a rookie having a very shaky night, Joe Flacco, had on the opposite end. If the Skins get even a fraction of the pressure on Flacco than Baltimore puts on JC, they win that game. The kids was good for 2-3 more picks the way he was sailing balls and out of tempo, but he never had to pay for it.

Baltimore's offense was inept save for that last drive, and the Redskins D was one more big play from possibly stealing that game for their own inept offense.

You find me one truly elite team in recent memory that could not consistently win third down with pressure at critical junctures. To me it's a huge part of the equation.


Praise JLC: Jason La Canfora: Thrown a player under the bus? By explaining a coaching decision? I don't buy it.

Gibbs and Snyder created this mess by allowing Portis to do anything he wanted, making him bigger than the team, giving his special treatment, constant new contracts ... and where has that gotten them? Where's the payoff?

About time! Portis does play hurt, but so do 99% of the players. I am sick of everyone acting like he is the second coming of Walter Payton. How many runs of over 20 does he have? What is his cap number? He is old for his position and the Redskins will be eating his cap hit for the next 5-7 years.

Jason La Canfora: He has carried the ball 266 times this season, and has 1 run over 30 yards (31). The only other RB in the top 20 without a run of at least 32 yards is beefy and rundown Jama Lewis.

His longest TD run is 9 yards; 13 of the top 26 rushing leaders in the NFL has TD runs of at least 39 yards.

Portis is paid and coddled to be a game-changer, a home run hitter, not a guy who grinds it out between the 20s but gets in the end zone once every other game.

How often does he carve a backfield, make a safety miss, alter field position with one run? They are dying for a TD, and you tell me when their highest paid player shoots through a hole and scores from 20 yards out? How huge would one of those plays have been over the past 5-6 weeks?

He is having an excellent season, don't get me wrong, but it's not like Tomlinson of 2006 for crying out loud. Let's keep it in perspective. Since the time the Redskisn acquired him in 2004, Thomas Jones's stats are virtually identical. The myth outshines reality because of all the outlandish stuff that goes on.

And you are right, guys like Fletcher play and practice hurt all the time. That dude has played what 177 straight games at MLB totally undersized? Do you see these antics from him?


Re: Shawn Springs: Hey -- speaking of Shawn, how is his father doing?

Jason La Canfora: Unfortunately, that situation, barring a miracle, is not going to change. Ron Springs remains in a coma state in the hospital with no medical hope of a recovery.


Long Island, N.Y.: I like that Sellers has been used more -- is there a way all three backs can be a kinda Earth, Wind and Fire even though Sellers is a great blocker he can make catches and do more. Betts, too.

Is Fabini playing right tackle Sunday?

Jason La Canfora: Looks like Fabini at RT with Janesn unlikely to be able to play.

I think they can adopt a bit more of that three-back look you see from the Giants and Ravens, for sure.


C'ville, Va.: I am NOT saying he should start any time in the next few weeks (let alone next season), but I'm curious how Colt Brennan has looked in practice. Anybody in the org have anything to say about him one way or the other? I read one report that said somebody said he was "regressing."

Jason La Canfora: He doesn't do anything other than run some scout team stuff. Not much to evaluate. It's all meetings and classwork and studying and learning the play book.

The on-field stuff for the No. 3 QB wont really pick up until OTAs.


Urbana, Md.: Have you seen the Yahoo Sports report about "The honeymoon is definitely over..." between Zorn and the Redskins? According to the report, Snyder may be looking at bringing in former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher to replace Zorn...

What are your thoughts on this...?

Thanks. Redskins coach Zorn could be fighting to keep job (Yahoo! Sports, Dec. 10)

Jason La Canfora: Baloney.

Snyder may very well sour on Zorn quickly - that's been his MO - but he had his shot at Cowher last year and the guy didnt want to come here and would not come here unless he and not Cerrato was controling personnel.

Snyder just gave Vinny his big promotion 11 months ago and hired Zorn 10 months ago. His problems run much deeper than coaching.

None of the big name candidates wanted the job under these circumstances, I dont see that changing now, and guys like Spagnuolo didnt want to take the job without getting to pick his own coordinators.

Zorn was unwilling to eat all these contracts and blow out his staff last year, and with the economy worse than before I don't see that changing. Zorn said today he doubts getting a practice bubble is in the immediate future; I don't see Snyder eating $10 million or more on this staff and then spending $15 million or more on a whole new one.

And to give a guy 13 games, with a weak roster in a very tough division and for him to have a winning record, and to even think about whacking him ... Even for Snyder that would be new terrain.


Lorton, Va.: J-La, how goes it bro?

Is it just me, or do you get the feeling that amidst all the questions regarding the offense, Zorn vs Portis, and Zorn's future, that the Skins are gonna come out with a fire and put up, like, 40? I get that feeling. But maybe that's the utter optimist in me.

Jason La Canfora: I think they will win this game and rise to the occasion. I don't fancy them in the final two, and I'm not it's going to be a blowout, either, but I think they win the game.


Bethesda, Md.: The poster from Alexandria raises an interesting question regarding coaching candidates being told Campbell had to be the starter. I wonder, is there some kind of mandate from Vinny and Danny that Zorn can't bench JC under any circumstances?

I'm no hater, but JC's inabilty to read defenses pre-snap and make quick decisions, combined with the terrible line... well, we've all seen the ugly results. And there have been times recently -- even during the Ravens games -- where JC did have time and made terrible decisions, forcing the ball to Moss, etc... The kid seems all out of whack at times -- a view from the sidelines might actually help him.

So, I guess my question is this: if the line is giving JC enough time and he still can't get it going against a terrible Cinncy team, does Zorn go to Collins in the second half? Is he even allowed to?

Jason La Canfora: There is no mandate on the QB either way, and also no dissent or doubt within the organization about who the best QB is and who should be playing.


Nostradamus: Jasno,

Give me the score of this week's game.

Jason La Canfora: Redskins 24 - Bengals 13


Salt Lake City: Generally, kickers without a solid body of work to fall back on live and die by their ability to come through in the clutch. After Suisham missed that crucial (short) field goal in the playoff game against Seattle, why was he retained? Nothing against the guy but why was there no competition in training camp? And do you think it's possible that his frequent misses have had a demoralizing effect on this offense?

Jason La Canfora: I wouldnt have whacked him based off the Seattle playoff miss, and they wanted more competition for sure, but with the limits on the training camp roster tight, and them drafting a punte (so they had 2 of those in camp) they werent getting another extra specialist.

Next year they may be back in the same boat, and I'd want Suisham and Plackemeier to be pushed in camp, but they may not have that luxury.


West Palm Beach, Fla.: Jason,

If the 'Skins can somehow pull off these last three wins, do you see them sneaking them into the playoffs?

Jason La Canfora: They would be right there ... it's just very hard for me to honestly imagine them taking all three right now.


Vincente Cerratostein: Any idea about the two offensive linemen the team picked up? Anybody know a thing about them? I sure don't.

Jason La Canfora: To be honest, I haven't even called around on them. There's been so much going on, and these guys arent going to be in the mix this week anyway, so it's on the backburner.

I'm more pumped to see how Chad "The Rhino" Rinehart fares should he get a chance to get on the field.


Jim Zorn: Do I have to run the table and win all 3 remaining games to save my job?

Jason La Canfora: No


Charlotte, N.C.: Does everyone not remember how horrible Collins was last year against Seattle? Seriously?

Jason La Canfora: I certainly seem to recall that as being the biggest game of the year and, against a team that got after the passer, I seem to remember him having a problem or two and perhaps even throwing multiple INTs, no?


Colt Brennan : When will I get a chance to play - or do I have to wait for two QB injuries?

Jason La Canfora: Unless you go Tanya Harding/Jeff Galooley (probably spelling that wrong but you get the idea) on TC or JC, you're holding thaty clipboard, son.


Tampa, Fla.: I'm sorry to have to ask this question but I have not heard aobut the outcome of Stan Hixon's son. How/what is he doing now?

Jason La Canfora: The last I heard Drew was thriving and working in a bank and surrounded by family and loved ones.


Hampton: Jason, here's math problem for you: Vinny has given away three draft picks in 2009, leaving the Skins with picks in rounds 1, 3, 5, and 6. That's four draft picks.

But they need three offensive linemen and two defensive linemen right away. That's five holes.

I'm not familiar with Danny and Vinny math, so I must be missing something. They've neglected drafting linemen for a decade, so they must have a plan to fill all those holes this year. How is 4 bigger than 5?

Jason La Canfora: Don't you remember - they're building through the draft, right? That's what they were selling a few months ago. They were getting younger and faster ... and then they kept trading first day picks for 34-year olds.


Laurel, Md.: I always felt that Coach Gibbs spoiled Clinton Portis. A Post columnist yesterday called him (Portis) a "flamboyant prima donna" who nevertheless has to be treated gingerly for the good of the team. Others seem to be solidly on Portis's side, saying he's the hardest worker on the team and should be treated with more respect. Where do you fall on this spectrum? If I were not a 'Skins fan, I would think this is pretty funny; but I actually think it's pretty sad.

Jason La Canfora: Someone actually called him the hardest worker on the team? Seriously? And it wasn't Clinton speaking about himself?

First I've heard of that. That's a new one to everyone around here.


Rockville, Md.:Jason, If the Washington Redskins organization were a song, what would that song be? I'd have to say "Glory Days" because that seems to be all the fans have to revel in. My buddy says "Highway to Hell"...I'm not there, yet! A couple more coaching changes and loses though and I may be inclined to agree...

Jason La Canfora: If I'm a Redskins fan I'm going to be everynight with sorted images of Boy George running through my head.

"Do you really want to hurt me? Do you really want to make me cry?"


laurel, md: New terrain? Didn't Norv Turner get axed at 7-6?

Jason La Canfora: Yeah, but Norv had what, a 6 year body of work in Washington alone?

And Dan didn't hire Norv. And Dan loves to talk about how much he's grown and changed as an owner and all the mistakes he's learned from.

Whacking a first year coach walking into this situation at 8-8 or even 7-9 would be pretty stunning.


Washington, D.C.: A team is a family and Clinton Portis is the best we have on offense. Overall, if Coach Zorn come out of this with the courtesy and respect from the players, I feel as though this blow up is temporary.

The key issue is the offensive line and need to be addressed for Z-Man to run his offense, Clinton to run, Jason Campbell to have good pass protection.

Jason La Canfora: They've got to find a way to remedy that line for sure.


Virginia Beach, Va.: I can't believe the thought is out there about getting rid of Zorn! It seems to me like he is doing what he can with an average team. NFL teams win with consistency and developing players. The Redskins don't develop a lot of players and burn through coaches pretty quickly. They tend to acquire all players through trades or free agency. Of course, when you have business people in charge and not people with in depth football knowledge, what does one expect?

Jason La Canfora: I'm with you dude. This strikes as totally nuts, even for this place.


Jason La Canfora: Alright guys, my time is up. Figured this would be lively.

Thanks as always for the great questions and hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the game. Sorry for the ones I did not get to, and as always, you can get to my via email ( or on the blog, Redskins Insider.



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