Portis and the 2008 Redskins raced out to a 6-2 start while “staying medium” under a quirky and, it would soon become clear, unqualified first-year coach. Jim Zorn’s eccentricities were amusing and endearing when Washington was winning, as was the chant Zorn led after the Redskins improved to 3-1 with a victory at Dallas. “Hip Hip Hooray!” became the team’s rallying cry, and players seemed to embrace it.
“That’s what he does,” Santana Moss said at the time. “Not weird at all. Everybody has their own little thing, and that’s his thing, and I’m down for it. If you’re hip, hip, hooraying, you’ve got something to hip, hip, hooray about. So I’m down for it.”
“I thought, you know, ‘This is very old school, really old school,’” Zorn said of the cheer, a favorite of former Redskins Coach George Allen. “Like, hip, hip, hooray? But it kind of fired me up. And when I was a player, I thought when we were doing this, ‘What’s wrong with old school?’ Yeah, let’s go. HIP, HIP, HOORAY! . . . It’s kind of a special cheer for special games, anyway, in my mind.”
Portis, for one, was neither down for nor fired up by Zorn’s cheer, which was the subject of a Kenny Mayne “SportsCenter” feature that year.
“I don’t think I ever participated,” Portis said Monday. “That may have been part of his beef with me.”
Portis averaged 118 yards per game and eclipsed 100 yards in five games during Washington’s 6-2 start. He averaged only 68 yards per game and eclipsed the century mark one time in the second half of the season, as the Redskins lost six of eight to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
“He was trying to hold me back,” Portis said of Zorn. “His thing was, ‘I want to see you practice more.' That’s what he said to me.”
“Here’s the difference,” Portis said. “Jay Gruden has a team that believes in him, that’s playing for him. Jim Zorn had a team that shut down on him.”
Portis despised “Hip, Hip, Hooray,” and suggested it did more to tear the team apart than bring them together in corny harmony.
“What the hell we doing this for?” Portis recalled Monday. “What is that going to do for you? Does that make you say, ‘Ahhh, I’m about to go jump through this window. Ahhh, I’m about to give it to them today.’ I’m like, what the? I’m grown. I don’t even play that kind of game with my child . . . That’s how the locker room got divided. Because those dudes that was doing it, as a grown man, you’re sitting up here talking about ‘hip, hip’ and throwing it up, like, are you kidding me?"
Portis hasn’t been shy about criticizing Zorn in recent years. In 2015, he suggested Zorn divided the locker room between Christians and ballplayers.
“If you weren’t Antwaan Randle El, if you weren’t the guys who sat and prayed with him and did everything the way they thought your life should be, you kind of got, ‘Well, you’re not doing right’ speeches directed toward you,” Portis told The Team 980. “I’m grown. I can do what I want to do. I don’t have a police record. If I don’t get in no trouble, don’t assume the way that I live my life, don’t preach to me about what’s right. Because you’re not right, you’re phony, you’re sitting here in my face telling me one thing and then you go behind my back and say something else.”
Earlier this season, Portis took a shot at Zorn’s motivational skills.
“Coach Gibbs could’ve talked me into jumping off the Empire State Building and I just felt like I was going to land,” Portis said. “What was the other coach we had? Coach Zorn? He couldn’t have talked me into walking into Redskins Park."
Nor, apparently, shouting “Hooray.”
“Three cheers for CP’s segment,” Paulsen said at the end of Monday’s interview. “Hip, hip . . . "
“The hell with y’all,” Portis said.
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