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Richardson Trade an Insult to Browns Fans

UPublish story by Chris Ferdinand

No one is arguing against the value obtained for Trent Richardson Wednesday when he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week. Rarely does a team receive a first round pick for a running back, especially one with as many injuries as Richardson. In fact, The Akron Beacon Journal’s Marla Ridenour wrote an entire article on the basis of the trade being “a steal.”

Fans aren’t upset about the lack of compensation acquired by the organization for the star running back. The motive behind the trade and what it does, at present, to the Cleveland Browns has the fans, myself included, livid.

By trading Trent Richardson, a running back who amassed 950 yards over 15 games in a Pat Shurmur offense last season, they’ve severely limited the running attack which is now manned, in some form or fashion, by Chris Ogbonnaya, Bobby Rainey (0 regular season carries in his career), and the newly signed Willis McGahee, now 31 years old.

To the fans, this appears to be an unapologetic attempt to severely limit a team in hopes of getting a high pick, if not the number one pick, in the 2014 Draft. Couple the Richardson trade with the fact that they’re starting their third string quarterback (Brian Hoyer) over their backup quarterback (Jason Campbell) further solidifies, in the minds of the fans, that this team is punting on first down for the rest of the season (on the depth chart, Campbell is listed after Brandon Weeden and Hoyer is listed as third string).

Sure, the organization insists they’re going to continue to compete each and every week. CEO Joe Banner said, “We’re going to continue to play hard and do everything we can to win every week.” Even more frustrating, local sports talk-radio (advocates of the Richardson draft 15 months ago) continues to, hypocritically, justify the trade.

The most common validation: “This is a player that this regime didn’t want and wouldn’t have drafted.” Really? In a pre-draft post in 2012, current Browns general manager Michael Lombardi gushes over Richardson saying, “I believe the safest pick in the draft -- beyond Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III -- is Alabama running back Trent Richardson. He's a blue-chip player and has all the skills to quickly establish himself as a top-five player at his position. Forget the nonsense about not taking backs early -- everyone would love the chance to get this guy.”

One can accurately assume that, if he were in position of power in April 2012, Mr. Lombardi would have very much pursued Trent Richardson if Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were not available like they weren’t.

Bottom line: this organization willingly made this team worse in the present. This team this weekend is a worse one, less equipped and less versatile, than it was last Sunday, prior to Richardson’s jettison.

I have a ticket to the Buffalo game in two weeks. A game that higher ups in this organization seemingly wants its team to lose (the more losses, the better the pick!!!). I am upset about one game. I can not imagine the ire of the typical season ticket holder who has already paid for the seven remaining home games.

Hard earned money is paid for an overpriced NFL ticket to see football on Sundays. No one pays with the intension of seeing their team lose. Unfortunately, the deck is now stacked (by organization’s leadership, as sick as it seems) against those very ticket holders looking for a victory. If they were going to throw away the season, they should have done so long before tickets went on sale. Only then would ticket sales directly reflect how the fan base feels.

Many are angry about not having Trent Richardson, a fan favorite on the team. Most are irate about an organization that has given up on its team two games into the season.

This is not the NBA where you can only win championships by building around a player that once was selected first overall.

Sure, draft-wise, going 5-11 is not as good as going 2-14. You’re in a “worse” position. Unfortunately, many fail to realize that several (the majority) teams are built, improved, maintained and sustained with picks outside of the top ten and anywhere in the draft. Furthermore, most teams in the league live and thrive outside of the top ten.

Since the Browns returned in 1999, the New England Patriots have only selected twice in the top ten (2001, 2008). Likewise, the Baltimore Ravens have only selected twice in the top ten (1999, 2003). Most startling, the consistently competitive Pittsburgh Steelers last selected in the top ten in 2000, a stark contrast to the 9 top ten picks the Browns have had from 1999 to 2013. Surprisingly, a premium is still obviously being placed on a high pick by the organization.

While the Browns organization may want to see their team descend to a point where they get first dibs on the next crop of talent, plenty of teams fight each week because they know that, no matter where they draft, they’ll be able to improve upon their team with selections anywhere in the draft. That’s confidence and competence. Two things, to the average fan, this regime heading Browns seems to lack.

The Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers have won 50% of the Super Bowls since the browns have returned to the NFL.

The second most common argument spewed on the radio is that “this team doesn’t have a franchise quarterback.” Can those only be attained with the number one pick after throwing away an entire season? Tom Brady (199th overall, 2000), Joe Flacco (18th overall, 2008), Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall, 2004) were all obtained outside of the top ten, and, more than likely, immediately succeeded because they came to already established teams with plenty of strengths and weapons.

How did the above teams become “established” so that a rookie quarterback could come in and succeed? Clearly, by drafting, wherever they fell, and building elsewhere until they were ready to put a green quarterback in place to succeed. I’m not saying that Brandon Weeden is as good as Tom Brady, Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger, but he’d have been much better off starting his career with the 2000 New England Patriots, 2008 Baltimore Ravens, and 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers.

A dismal, depressing realization came over the Cleveland fan base Wednesday. We’d become conscious of the fact that we had previously paid to see a team compete that actively just made themselves less competitive. Furthermore, it’s being done for a reason as obtuse as “getting the number one pick”, which this team has proven to be unsuccessful with in the first place.

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