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Commentary: Trent Richardson trade sends Browns back to the drawing board

Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson hurdles Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb on a run from scrimmage during the first half of their game on Sunday, September 15, 2013, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Doug Kapustin/MCT). Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson hurdles Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb on a run from scrimmage during the first half of their game on Sunday, September 15, 2013, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Doug Kapustin/MCT).
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

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.

Believe it.

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.

4 comments

  1. Save this for next year, when you’ll be able to put your foot in your mouth. Have you ever heard of “stockpiling” draft picks for a draft that is going to be very good. If you really knew anything about football, you would understand why they did this. Come draft day next year, it will all make sense to you little man. Just wait and see.

  2. It’s an opinion piece, Browns, just because his opinion differs than yours doesn’t make it wrong. Wait until next year? How many years have you been saying that? If anything the author has more ground to stand on then you do with your claims, “little man.”

  3. Thanks for commenting, Browns. You probably didn’t expect a direct comment back from the author, I’m guessing. I understand that setting themselves up for a successful draft next year is a high priority. It’s just that Browns management under both Lerner and Haslam hasn’t given the fan base any substantive reason to believe that there is indeed any method to their apparent madness. I don’t doubt that they have an overarching strategy that may or may not work: my point was that they are more concerned with looking ahead to next year to “reload” yet again after a decade and a half of futility rather than do their jobs and develop the personnel they already have. I do agree that if Richardson didn’t figure to become a franchise player for them as he was portrayed post-draft, then they arguably got more value for him by trading now than if he had a season averaging 4 yards a carry and hurting his marketability to other teams. I would love for you to be correct: but the organization has to prove it can make ends meet with talent when they have it before most fans will buy into the strategy of the move as being in the team’s best interests, because let’s be honest, it is pretty difficult to keep your eye on the big picture when performance in the short- and medium-term memories of the fans has been all disappointment. Instead of always relying on business moves to reload before a new coach has had any time to develop the units he has, I am just concerned that the Browns think they can fix a troubling trend with a solid draft when they don’t take advantage of the good drafts they have had in the past. In other words, I’ll believe it when I see it.

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