With the decision to trade starting running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns’ front office has cemented its reputation as one of the least sensible managerial entities in professional sports.
The unceremonious exit of Richardson, the third player selected in the 2012 draft, all but ensures yet another losing season for the Browns.
Cleveland’s 2013 campaign was already off to a shaky start, losing to the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens in the first two weeks, but whatever spark Richardson provided is now extinguished and rendered moot.
This year was supposed to be the one where the Browns focused on embracing new head coach Rob Chudzinski’s offensive schemes and fresh ideologies to build confidence for the future.
Instead, now, it’s back to the drawing board.
On top of the Richardson trade, the news that third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer will inexplicably start Sunday in place of the injured Brandon Weeden (thumb) over capable veteran Jason Campbell means the Browns’ hopes for success really are fleeting.
The only thing that might offer fans solace is that Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator in 2007 and benched starter Charlie Frye in favor of Derek Anderson, a then-maligned decision. The move gave the team a needed boost, as Anderson led them to their only winning season of the past decade.
Small comfort now.
Since the Browns did not acquire any personnel through the trade that could play now, the player who had been affectionately labeled as the future of the franchise now leaves behind an adoring fanbase that faces disappointment for at least several more years.
To say the Browns have been mired in mediocrity is borderline comedic, notching a subpar record of 73-153 since 1999. Statistically, they win less than one-third of the games they play.
The Richardson trade can thus be described three ways.
It’s devoid of business sense. It’s unfairly dismissive of a star player before he even got a chance to shine with a new coach. But, most of all, it’s unsurprising.
General Manager Michael Lombardi’s horrific track record during his executive tenure with the Oakland Raiders makes this apparent. He evaluated talent poorly and subsequently drafted players who turned out to be busts, notably offensive tackle Robert Gallery and quarterbacks Jamarcus Russell and Andrew Walter.
Lombardi also took a break from NFL management from 2007 to 2013, writing for NFL.com and offering commentary as an NFL Network analyst, making his bad trade decision even less forgivable in light of his recent inexperience.
Browns fans will have to suffer further because Richardson will play immediately and likely accomplish far more in his new uniform. He will enter the Colts’ backfield to join the man Indianapolis took before him in 2012, No. 1 overall pick quarterback Andrew Luck.
What makes the trade worse still? Richardson’s rookie season was statistically better than that of legendary Hall of Fame ball carrier Jim Brown from 1957.
Richardson amassed 950 yards and 11 touchdowns to Jim Brown’s 942 yards and 9 scores.
Only the Browns would ever even entertain a deal this unfavorably one-sided. They may be bringing Willis McGahee for a workout hoping to replace Richardson, but the other backs on the depth chart include relatively unproven players like Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey.
Enjoy it, Colts fans. Your success with Richardson will be ample, such that Browns fans will probably have no option but to try living vicariously through them.
This one could sting for a while.