The Washington Times - January 8, 2009, 03:44PM

Have a conversation with someone for a half-hour, and a lot of the time you’ll only remember a few bits and pieces in another six months.

That’s just how it is. I’m sure I’ve heard Ralph Friedgen talk about consistency about 759 times over the years. Couldn’t necessarily tell you exactly when.

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But there was one tidbit from a midsummer discussion with Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin that really stood out to me. Of everything he said that day, it was this segment that gave me a much better look at how the guy thinks than anything else.

A lot of people get caught up in things that aren’t important like potential. That’s a really interesting word that people get excited about. All that matters in this world, especially in the United States where it’s based on competition, is ‘Are you productive or are you not?’ Not how much potential you have. There are a lot of guys with a lot of potential who should be playing in the NFL that are pumping gas somewhere. Production is all that matters, in football, in Fortune 500 companies, in any business. That’s what matters. People get a little bit too focused on that when what really matters is the guy who’s out on the field making plays. That’s what matters.

I made sure to safely tucked away that gem – which fans, media folk and, yes, some coaches should re-read a few times – mainly because it matches the way I often think. It’s always nice when someone validates your line of reasoning.

But it’s also appropriate to mention now that Josh Portishas exited stage right to think about the never-ending struggle between potential and production.

Indeed, “potential” is a staple in the Big Bag of Sportswriters’ Cliches, and it is the reason some fans would rather win on Signing Day than on Saturdays. But so much of what potential really brings is disappointment.

Did the genial Portis possess plenty of potential? Sure. But after four years in major-college programs he has the following line to show for his trouble:

7-for-14, 85 yards, 1 INT; 55 carries, 349 yards, 1 TD

Regardless of whether he was underutilized (possibly) or overhyped (definitely), or was capable of making good decisions on the field (who knows?) and off it (that XF wasn’t very smart, but to his credit he did walk at graduation in December), Portis’ on-field contributions can be summed up in those pixels (or in ink, if you deigned to print this out).

The assumption in so many quarters was Portis would simply sweep through and emerge as a dominant quarterback in a league that has produced so few. It didn’t happen, and the people who said it would are the ones who should really review what happened in CP in the last few years.

There’s a lesson here, but it’s a safe bet it will be taught many more times in the years to come (not to mention was imparted several times before).

So many people banked on potential in this case, and so many are left scratching their heads over whether it was all worth it now that the final production is nowhere near the original expectations.

Patrick Stevens