Bailey / Portis Revisited: 1st Quarter
When the news was announced that Joe Gibbs was returning as head coach of Washington Redskins, his harshest critics said that the game had passed him by. They cited free agency and the salary cap as the main reasons Gibbs wouldn't be as successful in his second stint as a head coach in the NFL. Gibbs was forced to deal with both issues immediately. Redskin cornerback Champ Bailey had played out his rookie contract, was unhappy with the teams offer and wanted to test the free agent market. Gibbs countered by slapping the franchise tag on Bailey, making it costly for any team to sign him. When teams balked at the high asking price for the cornerback, instead of making Bailey play under a one-year franchise tag contract, Gibbs did something very unusual in today's NFL, he granted Bailey the permission to seek a trade. Gibbs found a taker in Denver as Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan didn't want to renegotiate running back Clinton Portis' contract. Portis coming off back-to-back 1500-yard seasons wanted to be the highest paid running back in football. In a move that is sure to shape his second tenure with the Redskins, Gibbs offered Shanahan, Bailey for Portis and threw in the Redskins (2004) second round pick, which the Broncos used to select running back Tatum Bell.
Both Broncos and Redskins fans alike have followed this trade through the first four games of the season. Portis electrified Redskins fan on his first carry of the year, going 64 yards for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However Portis has been non- existent since averaging 3.3 yards a carry (304 yards on 91 carries). Portis has only scored twice and has double that amount when it comes to fumbles. Portis only lost one fumble last year, but did fumble 3 times last year and 5 times during his rookie season. Portis now has 12 fumbles in his short career.
In Denver, Champ Bailey has 16 tackles, 1 pick and 3 pass defenses. Bailey has also line up at wide receiver and has recorded 1 reception for 11 yards. Clinton Portis' replacement Quentin Griffin has done nothing to make Bronco fans forget about Portis. After a great opening game against the Chiefs (156 yards) he has only managed 139 yards and has fumbled twice in the last 3 games.
Champ Bailey's replacement, Shawn Springs, has performed well in his place amassing 16 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and has 1 pass defense.
Portis' slow start and four fumbles have contributed to the Redskins dismal 1-3 start. Many point to two reasons for Portis' struggles in Washington. First are the blocking schemes which call for linemen to pull more than what Portis was use to in Denver. Second is the lack of a vertical passing game, the Redskins first four opponents have stacked 8 men in the box and challenged quarterback Mark Brunell to beat them. The offense is ranked 17th in the league. On defense the Skins have faired much better, Champ Bailey's replacement Shawn Springs has held down the corner spot for Greg Williams's defense that is ranked 1st in the league against the run and 4th overall.
The notion that Mike Shanahan can put anyone in the Bronco backfield and have them put up a 1000 yard season is in serious jeopardy this year. The offense has struggled after putting up 34 points in the opener against the Chiefs; they have only managed 15 points a game since. Champ Bailey has had a big impact on the defensive side of the ball. Bailey's presence has allowed defensive coordinator Larry Coyer to do more with the front seven. The Broncos defense has only given up 11 points a game and has carried the team to a 3-1 start alone atop the AFC West.
Any coach at any level will tell you that football is about winning. While both Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan will tell you that their respective teams are better because of the trade, the truth is, after the first quarter of the season Bailey has had a bigger impact for his team. The Broncos are in first place and the Redskins are bringing up the rear in the NFC East.
Editor's note: This is the first in a four-part series chronicling the effectiveness of the Portis / Bailey trade.
This article was released on 2004-10-09.
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