BEREA: Thursday on ESPN radio, Browns legend Jim Brown called Alabama’s Trent Richardson “ordinary.”
A few hours later, the Browns proved they believe Richardson is extraordinary.
It won’t be the first time this regime and the greatest running back of all time didn’t see eye to eye.
To his credit, Richardson didn’t take Brown’s criticism the wrong way, especially since he played at the same high school in Pensacola, Fla., as another hall of fame back, Emmitt Smith.
“I don’t have a reaction to that because I have a lot to play for, with his shoes, the stuff he did in life and even with Emmitt Smith coming from the same town, I’ve got a lot to prove,” Richardson said during a conference call. “What he said, I take it in with a lot of courage. I don’t listen to anything negative about it, but I’m going to prove him wrong. He said ordinary; I’m an ordinary human. But as a back, I’m going to be that special guy.”
The Browns traded fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks to the Minnesota Vikings to move up one spot from fourth to make sure they landed Richardson. The fourth-rounder, No. 118, came in last year’s draft day trade with the Atlanta Falcons.
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly interested in Richardson and the Browns fearing someone might leapfrog them, the price to move up seemed cheap. Especially when the Browns went into this draft with 13 picks.
In selecting Richardson, the Browns served notice to foes in the AFC North that they’re tired of being bullied and ready to inflict some punishment. Richardson doesn’t run around foes, he runs over them. He said at the NFL Scouting Combine he wouldn’t be intimidated in his first meeting with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. That date, Sept. 27, is now likely circled on his calendar.
In nabbing Richardson, the Browns went for the safe, logical choice, a welcome respite for those still seething over the likes of Gerard Warren and William Green.
The Browns picked up a reliable running back who doesn’t fumble and who played in a pro style offense for coach Nick Saban, their former defensive coordinator and Browns coach Pat Shurmur’s boss at Michigan State for three years.
They placated their fans, who would have revolted if they hadn’t selected an offensive player.
They put aside the drama of Peyton Hillis, the unfulfilled promise of Montario Hardesty and the troublesome toe of Brandon Jackson.
They took the pressure off the quarterback — they selected one in Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick of the first round. They found a workhorse in Richardson who can also catch, which should help an offense that ranked 29th last season, 28th rushing.
Initially, I wasn’t jumping up and down over Richardson, believing Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon could make more of an impact this season.
Then former Bengals defensive back Solomon Wilcots, now with the NFL Network and CBS, told me Richardson reminds him of former Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon. I once told Dillon that he had the potential to be the best player I ever covered, and that included hall of famers Ozzie Newsome and Joe DeLamielleure.
When he wanted to be, Dillon was a beast. Richardson is Dillon without baggage.
Browns General Manager Tom Heckert served notice a week ago of the intentions to fix their offense. “It’s not a secret, we need guys that can score points,” Heckert said.
Richardson scored 35 rushing touchdowns at Alabama and seven more receiving.
Heckert saw the result of a powerful running game when Hillis had a breakout season in 2010 under former coach Eric Mangini. The Browns went 5-11, but Hillis rushed for 541 of his 1,177 yards (46 percent) and scored seven of his 11 rushing touchdowns in those five victories, including upsets of the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints.
I’ve hammered the Browns for their lack of creativity on offense, sticking with a West Coast system that might soon be antiquated. New offensive coordinator Brad Childress didn’t take kindly to that observation in February.
“It’s like saying nobody eats cereal any more,” Childress said then. “Well, which cereal are you talking about on the shelf? If you go to the grocery store, that’s a lot of cereal. The West Coast deal … it evolves, it grows, and everybody grows it a little bit differently.”
In selecting Richardson, the Browns seem content to eat cereal instead of thinking outside the box, at least for now. But they picked up a valuable building block who can keep them in games until they get the weapons they need.
Brown did not agree with the Browns’ assessment of Richardson, and I was not on board at first.
But for an offense that has been the dregs of the league for so long, for a team still searching for a franchise quarterback that must move the chains when the wind whips off Lake Erie, playing in a physical division where games sometimes need to be won 13-7, I can’t fault the Browns for wanting to eat their Wheaties.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at https://ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.