Clinton Portis Rips Former Redskins Coach Jim Zorn for Pushing Christianity

Jim Zorn Dan Snyder AP

On Tuesday, former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis ripped ex-coach Jim Zorn for proselytizing of his Christian faith when he coached the Redskins in 2008-09.

Portis and ESPN980 host Steve Czaban discussed current coach Jay Gruden and the possible danger of him “losing the locker room,” when Portis suddenly segued to Zorn, saying, “No, no, no, no, no. Now I know who did lose the locker room, and that was Coach Zorn. Coach Zorn lost the locker room here.” Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, a co-host on the show, chimed in, “Coach Zorn might have lost the locker room Week 13 of season one.”

Portis then launched into his tirade:

Coach Zorn lost the locker room because he split the locker room between Christians and ballplayers. So if you didn’t believe in what he believed in, if you weren’t Antwaan Randle El — I’m saying it, I’m going to talk, I’m on the radio — 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. 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.

Cooley then echoed:

He’s not wrong, and this is exactly what I was going to say. He didn’t do it with intent though. Jim Zorn didn’t come in with intent to say “I want Christians.” But he sold his pitch, his sales pitch was “Believe in and have faith in my program.” And it was basically a sales pitch to a Christian team. It wasn’t “We’re going to be smart, we’re going to adapt, we’re going to make sense.” Literally any time there was anything that came up on offense that was “Hmm, this doesn’t make any sense, Jim, why are we doing this?”, it was “This was how Bill Walsh did it.” Much like saying, “Go to the Bible and read it.” It was the West Coast Bible that he sold over and over and over again. Plus, Sherman Smith did come in and give a sermon every single morning.

Cooley compared Zorn to former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, saying, “I’m fine with praying in moments of turmoil. But the way Joe Gibbs sold his team was to football players and guys believing in each other, not believing in a system and a coaching base with it…. [Zorn’s system] was designed around the way a religion is designed: faith.”

In 2008, Zorn must have done something right by Portis; the running back rushed for 1,487 yards. The team went 8-8 that year but dipped to 4-12 the following campaign, which resulted in Zorn’s dismissal

Instead if confronting Zorn with his accusations, Portis attacked him on the radio. Last year, when the media slammed Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Protis had a different take on how to handle things:

Portis left the field in 2010 and Zorn departed the NFL sidelines several seasons later, so perhaps time opening old wounds plays differently than picking at new scabs in real time.