When I first saw Trent Richardson run in person at Alabama’s 2011 season opener against Kent State, my initial reaction was that he was a back to run out the clock, not to break the game open.
I later argued that point during a discussion of whom the Browns should draft on the “Cleveland Browns Daily” radio show. After he was selected, I felt somewhat vindicated when Hall of Famer Jim Brown called Richardson “ordinary.”
On Wednesday, when the Browns traded the third overall pick in the 2012 draft to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-rounder next year, Richardson left Cleveland with only two runs of 20 or more yards.
That surprises even me.
I thought the Browns’ offensive line was the strength of the team and would open more running lanes for Richardson, especially this year, when he was healthy and trained like a demon in the off-season, according to Derrick Boyd, his mentor in Pensacola, Fla. But Richardson’s longest run was 10 yards. He averaged 3.4 yards on 31 carries.
I thought Brown’s return as a special advisor this year would give Richardson more support, especially after his 950 yards rushing in 2012 broke Brown’s rookie record of 942 yards set in 1957. Richardson’s 11 rushing touchdowns also topped Brown’s nine. Richardson’s 12 total scores broke the record of 10 by Brown and Eric Metcalf (1989).
I thought Richardson was better than he looked in the first two games, even on Sunday, when I noted at least twice that he made poor choices and failed to take the proper cutback lane against the Baltimore Ravens.
Even on Monday, when criticism of Richardson started anew, I figured Richardson would turn it up a notch. He talked a good game. He acted like he wanted to be the Browns’ leader. Evidently the Browns decided he was all talk and no action.
Even though he hasn’t looked all that aggressive hitting the holes, I still think Richardson could excel on a team with a true zone-blocking scheme and someone to motivate him. Perhaps he couldn’t handle playing for a loser, and the Colts, who went 11-5 last season and are 1-1 this season, will get the most out of Richardson. Especially when he's running on turf.
The trade shows the follies of the past regime, primarily ex-president Mike Holmgren and ex-general manager Tom Heckert. The Browns have only five of 11 players from the 2012 draft and quarterback Brandon Weeden may be the next to go. Of those five only right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will start this Sunday at Minnesota, with Weeden sidelined with a sprained right thumb. They have six when the supplemental draft is included, which netted starting receiver Josh Gordon.
They have six of eight picks from the 2011 draft, but offensive lineman Jason Pinkston is out for at least the first eight games with a high ankle sprain. Of those six, three (Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Jordan Cameron) are starters.
Only one player from the Class of 2013 – first-round outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo – will make a significant contribution this season. He not starting, but should by the end of the season.
But all that means Sunday at Minnesota, the Browns will start five players from the past three drafts. That kind of draft failure rate can set a franchise back years, if not a decade.
When the Browns return home Sept. 29 against Cincinnati, will fans show their displeasure with the Richardson trade and the front office throwing in the towel for 2013 by staying home? The only way their ire can make an impact is with their absence. Half-empty stadiums against the Bengals, Bills (Oct. 3) and Lions (Oct. 13) will make a statement. My guess is that won’t be the case.
But never more than Wednesday did the name of the new movie about the Browns – “Draft Day” – seem more appropriate.