BEREA: Above the door leading from the Browns’ locker room to the practice field, the words “Be Trusted” are mounted in block letters.
It seemed appropriate in the wake of Wednesday night’s trade of Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts.
I think the deal was a steal for the Browns. Even though Richardson was the third overall pick last year, I still can’t believe in a passing league they received a first-round selection in 2014 for a running back with a long injury history. I would have jumped at that, too, especially since the organization has repeatedly tried and failed to find a franchise quarterback since Bernie Kosar was cut 20 years ago.
The Browns’ pick, coupled with the Colts’ selection, should give the Browns ammunition to move up in the draft and get their man.
As good as I feel on that front, I don’t trust anyone in the Browns’ front office to find the quarterback of the future.
The decision will rest with CEO Joe Banner, and he’s never made a choice of this magnitude. Banner was with the Philadelphia Eagles when they selected Donovan McNabb second overall in 1999, but at that time rookie coach Andy Reid had all the power, and eventual president Banner oversaw day-to-day operations.
(As the Browns picked Tim Couch No. 1 that year, I can still hear ex-coach Chris Palmer saying McNabb was the first quarterback they eliminated because he knew people at Syracuse. Now some are speculating McNabb will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Such history might be contributing to my distrust that the Browns will eventually get it right).
It’s not that I don’t like Banner. Of the executives in the Browns’ new regime, he seems the most honest and straightforward. (I would have picked owner Jimmy Haslam before the feds arrived at Pilot Flying J). Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia was Banner’s baby, and it is a spectacular stadium. But with the Browns in full rebuilding mode, I can see Banner finding another trade scenario he likes, even though he said Wednesday, “I don’t think we’re looking” to conduct any more. I’m not sure he’s strong enough in personnel evaluation.
General Manager Mike Lombardi might be taking the blame on sports talk radio, but fans don’t realize Banner is the Browns’ version of the Great and Powerful Oz. A Grantland.com reporter allowed in the Browns’ draft room said Lombardi mainly talked a lot.
That said, longtime beat writers couldn’t remember a Browns trade of this magnitude when the general manager didn’t speak, except for Braylon Edwards (George Kokinis) in 2009. The Browns told the Beacon Journal earlier this month Lombardi won’t do any interviews for the rest of the year. Apparently, they are trying to keep the polarizing figure under wraps.
Surprisingly, before Richardson was drafted, Lombardi liked the former Alabama star. In an April 23, 2012, post Lombardi wrote for NFL.com while an analyst for NFL Network, Lombardi said Richardson was “the safest pick in the draft beyond quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
“He’s a blue-chip player and has all the skills to quickly establish himself as a top-five player at his position,” Lombardi wrote then. “Forget the nonsense about not taking backs early — everyone would love the chance to get this guy.”
Everyone including the Colts.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Richardson excels in Indianapolis, especially with Luck at quarterback. He’ll be running on turf. He’ll be playing for a winner again. Colts owner Jim Irsay considers Richardson the piece they needed to build a “MONSTER” franchise (which he said on Twitter) for “the best fans in the world.” That will anger Browns die-hards on two levels.
What disappoints me most about the trade, just as with the decision to cut Kosar, was the timing. Vinny Testaverde had his arm in a sling when “diminishing skills” and insubordination ended Kosar’s time here. The Browns shipped Richardson to the Colts when they were 0-2, giving up on the season while still cashing fans’ season-ticket checks. They turn to 31-year-old, injury-plagued back Willis McGahee, who hasn’t played since Week 11 last season.
As the Browns travel to Minnesota on Sunday to face the Vikings, Brian Hoyer will be the 19th starting quarterback in the expansion Browns’ 15 seasons. They will start five players from the past three drafts, including supplemental pick Josh Gordon. That kind of failure rate can set a franchise back years, if not a decade.
I don’t need to repeat the names of the previous 18 quarterbacks to refresh anyone’s memory. Some of my concern over those making the Browns’ draft decisions May 8-10 might be rooted in those flops, even though this regime will be picking a quarterback for the first time.
As logical of a business move as the trade was and as well-positioned as the Browns are, I can’t say I trust the front office when it comes time to make it bear fruit.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.