It’s Complicated

You’re Wrong, Peter: It’s a Clear Browns Win

A SECOND OPINION, BY ROBERT KLEMKO

It was the only move.

If you’re Browns president Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi, you weren’t around when the team drafted a running back with the third overall selection a year ago, but you were willing to give the kid a chance. You found out quickly that this was not the kind of running back who creates extra yards when there are none to be had. You had a solid, somewhat dependable running back—a guy with a history of ankle injuries and a knee that needed to be scoped the summer he was signed—a guy who told me three weeks ago that he sometimes thinks about making the safe play and preserving his health and longevity by going down or scooting out of bounds, but then he wants “that one extra inch.”

Andre Johnson was a No. 3 pick. So were Larry Fitzgerald and Matt Ryan. You were hoping he’d show the potential to be as good as them, or maybe a transcendent talent, an Adrian Peterson. The kind of player who makes it justifiable to draft a running back in the top 10 in a league ever-trending toward the passing game.

But Richardson wasn’t that. He gained 950 yards on a measly 3.6 yards per attempt as a rookie. He could catch, sure, but he struggled in pass protection, and his work ethic, well, it wasn’t Petersonesque. So you were willing to trade him; to cut your losses and move on. And then somebody (the Colts) offered a first-round pick for him. It’s not throwing in the towel on the season to take the deal. It’s an affirmation of what we already know: Quarterback play and defense win games in the NFL, not running backs who miss cutback lanes and do just enough to chalk up 60 yards on Sunday.

It was the only move for the Browns, and it should have never come to this.

For the Browns, the Richardson trade was all about positioning the team to take a franchise-maker such as Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and get in step with today’s game. (David E. Klutho/SI)
For the Browns, the Trent Richardson trade was all about positioning the team to take a franchise-maker such as Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and get in step with today’s game. (David E. Klutho/SI)

Take a look at the top five rushers in the NFL last season after Peterson, who was drafted seventh overall because of durability concerns coming out of Oklahoma. (Ha!). They were Alfred Morris, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, Doug Martin and Arian Foster, drafted, respectively, in rounds 6, 1, 3, 1 and not at all. Morris was considered too slow, Charles too weak, and Foster flat out no good. Discounting the extremes (Peterson and Foster), the top six NFL backs in 2012 were chosen, on average, 72nd overall. So you know you can find a capable rusher in the later rounds. First you need a quarterback and a franchise tackle and an edge rusher.

Now you can make amends for a franchise’s failings. At your disposal: two first-round picks in 2014 and 10 overall selections. You have the ammunition to deal for the No. 1 overall selection to snag Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater and not suffer in the later rounds. Or you have the luxury of choosing with your first selection a sure thing like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and waiting until the mid- to late first round for a quarterback in a class bulging with them (A.J. McCarron, Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd, Braxton Miller). Or you can select a quarterback with your top-five pick and take a pass-catcher with the second choice.

Better that than finishing just better than Jacksonville, trading everything for the right to draft Bridgewater at No. 1, and surrounding him with nothing but an injury-prone running back, a mediocre offensive line and an inexperienced receiving corps. Now you have options, unlike the Colts, who have bet their immediate future on a guy you weren’t sure about—a running back built for power in a league yielding to finesse.

Maybe Richardson works out for Indianapolis. Maybe the Colts run power successfully as a means of protecting franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, and maybe Richardson benefits from having a bona fide passer in the backfield as opposed to Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer. Or maybe they regret it when Richardson isn’t the back they envisioned and Reggie Wayne retires and they could have used that No. 1 pick on Luck’s next great wide receiver.

But if you’re the Browns, you cut your losses and put your priorities and your money in the right place—the passing game—when rebuilding a football team. You win, regardless. —R.K.

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113 comments
EmmittDale
EmmittDale

Total win for the Colts. They get a young, fast, strong running back that was taken 3rd in last years draft with a year of experience instead of rolling the dice on a mid or late first round pick in next years draft. Had they done this on draft day, the price would have doubled.

TomH0513
TomH0513

I'm a Buckeye fan and it's amazing to me out overrated Braxton Miller is as an NFL QB prospect. Braxton is a great athlete and electrifying runner but he's nowhere near the level of passer he needs to be as an NFL QB.

CraigWachs
CraigWachs

clowney and QB for browns next year , well worth it

BryanThomsen
BryanThomsen

This trade will, I believe, add to the Browns misfortunes.

westcoastbias
westcoastbias

This is why there are horse races.  Both teams could win, both could lose (draft picks can bust, eh?).  The 2 teams are in different parts of a championship lifecycle and the trade could be right for both of them.  The open issue for the Colts is: wasn't McGahee or some other surplus back (?LaMichael James in SF, etc.) a cheaper fix with similar risks?  Note that the Colts have to bring a new player up to speed in midseason.

pk_sea
pk_sea

Has Cleveland ever made a good deal?

BrentPhillips
BrentPhillips

Bad deal for Cleveland. They gave up multiple picks to get Richardson and now they have to pay $13 million dollars for him to go to another team. Next year they will trade multiple picks to take a flyer on another unproven/untested and most likely ill prepared QB.

wetmouse
wetmouse

The unbelievable trade was a constantly rebuilding Cleveland team giving up those draft picks unnecessarily to Minnesota to take a guy that never, ever should have been taken in the first 15 picks. They could have traded back and still got this guy. Minnesota probably thought there was no chance Cleveland would be that dumb when they floated a rumor that other teams were interested in the 3rd overall pick, but they did it anyway and had to be LOL'ing for a week after they hoodwinked the Browns. 

As for the pick Indy gave up, this is a playoff team: It will NOT be in the middle of the first round, clown.

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

In this era it is always a mistake to use the #3 pick in the draft on a RB. Their shelf life is simply not long enough to justify that expensive an investment.

Benjamin5
Benjamin5

Who besides ardent Lions' fans can remember who played quarterback for the Lions when Barry Sanders played?  Currently, the same will be said about Vikings' quarterbacks as to Adrian Peterson.  You can't always blame a running back's performance on the quality of the team's quarterback.  Richardson appears to be a nice, classy young man, however, he has not shown to now he is that special running back like a Sanders or a Peterson or for that matter many other top runningbacks currently playing. 

gary41
gary41

For front offices, getting the QB selection right is job ONE.  This is a subspecialty of the highest value.  The last draft seemed to point toward 2014 and now they've moved to correct QB & RB errors over the past 2 years.  This is the right decision, but whether they put the needed resources into job one is not certain.  Brown's fans will have to wait for the 2014 draft.....and beyond  

metalhead65
metalhead65

it is win for the colts why is there even a discussion about this? they now have the 2 of the top 3 picks from last years draft and filed a position of need for years to come at little cost. richardson's numbers may not look that great to stat and metric geeks but when you consider he played the whole year with cracked ribs and defenses knowing he was the browns offense those numbers do not look that bad. what did the browns get out of this? the chance to draft somebody who may may not work out and the right to keep sucking for years more. unless the colts have a complete collapse the draft pick will likely be in the 20-25 range. not exactly the range you find a franchise qb. now they could package that with their other picks like the redskins did to get rg3 but how does that help rebuild the team? you give up everything for a qb but still have a lousy team around him? back where they started again.

Father_Ahab
Father_Ahab

As terrible as the quarterbacks have been for Cleveland 2.0, I have seen far more newsprint wasted on the series of "geniuses" brought in to run the organization. Remember Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark? These 49ers masterminds were going to have Clevelanders forgetting the Ravens within three years. They didn't prove to be all that smart nor did the next in a series of front office and ownership changes.

I'm a lifelong Browns fan, but I don't believe this hype. I think these moves are arrogant and an insult to fans who try and try to support this organization, who invested hard-earned money for season tickets THIS YEAR, not blatherous BS about "the future."  These rocket scientists owe fans an apology and a big refund. . 

Banner and Lombardi may have the press in their back pockets, but Browns fans have seen journalists fawn all over "geniuses" brought in to run things in Cleveland, only to start speculating about the next coach-QB-GM-owner eight months later.


DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Sorry, Peter, you're soft selling the win for the Colts.  This kid was the THIRD pick of the draft (only behind Luck and RGIII) and no one questioned that decision; he played on a horrible offense--bad scheme, bad receivers, truly pathetic QBs in Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden.  So every team was geared to stop only Richardson.  And yet he still almost gained 1,000 yards and he tied a rookie td record.

Now you put him with the best young qb in the game, good receivers and better coaching.  

Trent Richardson should be laughing.

As for Lombardi--he gets a low 1st round pick, and that's a crapshoot.  

This trade wasn't even close....

wtfields1103
wtfields1103

Klemko makes a number of points which simply do not matter.    
This one is simply.....incorrect:   "unlike the Colts, who have bet their immediate future on a guy you weren’t sure about—a running back built for power in a league yielding to finesse."

The Colts have NOT bet their immediate future!    It is ONE pick, which will fall somewhere between 15 to 22.   Richardson does not have to become Adrian Peterson (or  Marshall Faulk, or Marshawn Lynch, or.....) for this to be a solid deal for the Colts.   
The only way this isn't a good deal for the Colts is if Richardson can't stay healthy (a risk with every player who suits up in the NFL), or simply proves to be.....not very good.   

Also:
"But Richardson wasn’t that. He gained 950 yards on a measly 3.6 yards per attempt as a rookie. He could catch, sure, but he struggled in pass protection, and his work ethic, well, it wasn’t Petersonesque. So you were willing to trade him; to cut your losses and move on. "
It is not unreasonable to presume that with Reggie Wayne, Andrew Luck, Robert Mathis, et al as team leaders and examples, that Richardson's work ethic will be just fine.

Can't argue that this deal may make a lot of sense for the Browns.   But it is really inane to spend time and effort to analyze which team got the better of the deal!   If they both came out OK, it really doesn't matter who "got the best" of the deal.


James F
James F

Browns had a strong hand a few years ago when they amassed several extra picks in the Julio Jones deal; but the picks mean nothing if you waste them. Up to the new regime in Cleveland to draft great players like, you know.....Julio Jones.

Krivka
Krivka

It is a win for both teams as well as for Trent Richardson. He could be a very good back but he did lack explosiveness and there never seemed to be a hole big enough for him to attack. I think he COULD help the Colts but I also think that the Colts will lose as many games as they did last year. The Cleveland Browns did get the better part of the deal and as Klemko stated they can pick up a WR, (Mike Evans?) Clowney AND a QB. I don;t think they will lose enough to get Bridgewater but could lose enough for Boyd, Mariotta, Hundley, McCarron, Mettenberger et al.  This is a good move for Cleveland.

RobertSmith
RobertSmith

Richardson goes from a team where the opposing D could concentrate on stopping him knowing the QB was incapable of dominating the game, to a team where the opposing D has to be worried first, second and third at stopping a potential franchise QB.   Definitely should have a significant increase in production.  Was he worth a first round pick?  That remains to be seen.

Richard Long
Richard Long

Peter thinks this is a pick somewhere in the middle of the first round.  Well, if they improve over last year, and with the addition of Richardson, you would think that pick would be well into the 20s.   With a good QB and the threat that a good passing game brings, Richardson should put up better stats than he did in Cleveland. 

dtwin
dtwin

At the end of the day, both teams got what they wanted, so both should be happy.  The point I am not seeing (and I don't know the answer) is how much was Cleveland's offensive line contributing to his lack of yards per carry and will the Colt OL be better?  

Cleveland wasn't going to win this year even if they had AP so they did the move to stock up draft picks.  Indy hopes this solidifies their offense.  I see it as win/win.

carnage_2012
carnage_2012

No matter how you spin it, Cleveland has been and always will be trash. Move this team to another city who deserves a team.

MMoney0021
MMoney0021

Reminds me of a trade that could be a win win for both teams.  Bottom line is the Colts are close to being a contender because they have a franchise QB.  Picking up a RB who could thrive on that team is a good move when your projecting to give up a first round pick in the 20s.  That is exactly where the first back selected in drafts tend to go.  

Cleveland on the other hand is going to be terrible this year.  Why?  Because they do not have a competent QB.  This gives them a chance to be even worse, guaranteeing them a top 2 or 3 pick plus an additional first round pick to draft another need.  They have a lot of holes to fill and will have some cap room as well.  7 picks in the first four rounds is a start.  Additional cap space, even better.

snoqskier
snoqskier

Peter,


does this remind you much of the Marshawn Lynch to Seattle pick up?    Sure Lynch had been in Buffalo for a longer period of time, the Bills had a recognized successor....but in theory- I think Schneider/Carroll's move to get him was based on that confidence you are referring to.   Now Lynch is considered a top 5 back.   In Buffalo he was- at best- part of a committee.  Talent made him a 1st round pic.

Tim G
Tim G

Drafting a QB anymore, is like picking your nose!  You just never know if you're going to get a good one or not.

ypjramer
ypjramer

I don't mind the trade. I like T-Rich but I was quickly getting the feeling they would lose with or without him this year. So they get a first rounder instead of waiting till draft day after an average season at best and only get a 3rd rounder for him. I could see them taking a QB/WR combo similar to the Bengals a few years back. Make Josh Gordon the #2 receiver, get a 6 or 7 round pick for Greg Little (or let him walk), a quick RB with good hands in the middle rounds and this team suddenly feels a little different with a pretty decent defense already in place. Maybe I'm just dreaming but isn't that what we Browns fans do best anyway? :)

ToddFreiline
ToddFreiline

And this article explains  why  ROBERT KLEMKO is writing articles for SI and not a GM of an NFL team. 

LucilleBluth
LucilleBluth

Why does everyone act like this guarantees the Browns a franchise single caller?

This pick at best ends up mid teens and most likely in the 20's. If they are landing a Bridgewater or Boyd it is because of their own pick. I suppose you can make the case that trading T-Rich bolsters their own pick but that is just the low ball play the NFL doesn't want. Teams continue these dirty tactics and we end up with an NBA stile lottery. Shame on you Browns, throwing the season away mid September is probably the most pathetic move I have ever seen in the NFL. 

Tamler
Tamler

I don't get the premise of this debate.   Why can't this just be a trade that helped both teams for different reasons?  It's not like the benefits for the Colts somehow diminishes the trade's value for the Colts.  They're not in the same division, they don't play each other often....  

Ol'Bob
Ol'Bob

This should definitely strengthen Cleveland's hand.  Their offense is currently rated #31 in the NFL - by dumping their only credible run threat they should *easily* be able to make it to #32!  That should give them a shot at Yet Another First Round Pick - so by the time the draft gets here, they should be able to draft more-or-less EVERYONE!  There's only one problem - they can only pick up players in the draft.  They *really* need to draft a new owner, new GM, and new coaches!

BryanThomsen
BryanThomsen

@pk_sea They certainly gave up way too soon, in my estimation, on Richardson and Colt McCoy. They have not had any reasonable success at quarterback ever since they came back into the NFL in 1999. This is more of the same. Too many failed top draft picks have cost them dearly.

BryanThomsen
BryanThomsen

@BrentPhillips They gave up too soon on Colt McCoy just as they did on Trent Richardson. This is nothing new though.

MichaelWallis1
MichaelWallis1

@Benjamin5, Sanders did have a nice offensive line blocking him in 1991, 1993-1998 too with guys like Lomas Brown, Kevin Glover, Eric Andelsec and Jeff Hartings as has Adrian Peterson during his time with the Vikings. I just didn't see that with the Browns outside of Joe Thomas blocking for Richardson. The Lions still had the passing threat when they had Hermon Moore, Brett Periman and Johny Morten and the Vikings did have Percy Harvin in the passing game too. 

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

@gary41 

I'm a little baffled by your logic.  They have a #1 & #2 next year; if they want a QB they have the picks to trade to move up high (that #1 may have been top 3 even with Richardson.  But now they have to find a QB and a RB...makes no sense in terms of value.

They just traded elite talent for a low #1, and whoever is the "Trent Richardson" of the 2014 draft, that kid will not be available when Indy's pick comes up.

MichaelWallis1
MichaelWallis1

@gary41, hopefully they won't draft another Tim Couch with their top pick. I know Jacksonville certainly blew it when they drafted Blane Gabbert. 

wtfields1103
wtfields1103

@RobertSmith    Quite correct, RobertSmith!     Cleveland's opponents could focus on Richardson;  not so w/Colts opponents.   Luck and Richardson will make each other at least somewhat better - how much better will be seen in time.

tonybot3
tonybot3

@dtwin Cleveland's O-line was one of the better ones in the league, and better than Indy's.

dno1977
dno1977

@carnage_2012  Obviously your nothing more than an uneducated Hillbilly Steeler fan, Now you and your sister get back to trying to start a family and stay out of adult conversations!!!

ChrisPickett
ChrisPickett

@carnage_2012 The Browns have one of the best fanbases in the NFL. Know when the last time they had a local blackout? Never. Not in this incarnation of the franchise, anyhow. That's 14 years. How many NFL teams can claim that?  Wanna poke fun and call the management a bunch of bums? I'm there with you. Insulting the fans because the team is bad is just asinine.

Richard Long
Richard Long

@carnage_2012 I'm no Browns fan, but that is pretty harsh.  Not sure what you have against Cleveland, but attacking the entire city is unwarranted.  The Browns franchise has always been mediocre (during the SB era anyway, although for a few years in the 80s they had something) and since 99, they have been awful.  But that's what bad ownership and management results in. 

ThinkerT
ThinkerT

@MMoney0021 Agree, I think this very well could be win-win. RBs can be found outside the first round, so Cleveland now is in a position in 2014 to get a QB with their pick, an RB in the 2nd or later, AND an impact player with Indy's pick. Indy gets a needed skill position player to make a push this season. I like the potential of the deal right now for both teams.

jdbolick
jdbolick

@ToddFreiline Please stop the myth that GMs in professional sports get their jobs based on competence.  Many if not most GMs are no more intelligent or knowledgeable than the average fan, they just have access to more information and were lucky enough to have the connections to get their job.  If those guys knew what they were doing they wouldn't constantly be making comical mistakes that even average fans know are ridiculous.

MichaelWallis1
MichaelWallis1

@LucilleBluth, the Browns did draft Tim Couch with the number one overall pick in 1999 so not even the top pick will guarantee success. They also did follow that number one pick with another one in 2000 by the name of Courtney Brown. 

tonybot3
tonybot3

@LucilleBluth  there are several great QB's in there... Cleveland will likely be getting one of them at #2. They already KNOW what they had in Richardson.

MichaelWallis1
MichaelWallis1

@Ol'Bob, problem is how many more top five draft picks will the Browns need before they can become a credible NFL team. 

tonybot3
tonybot3

@Ol'Bob  you don't know football.. This current regime, including the owner, are all new.

Greg717IL
Greg717IL

@Ol'Bob History suggests pessimism is warranted, but it is way too soon to assess the current regime.  Give them credit for not accepting the status quo.  Usually need 3 years or so to build a mediocre team into a competitive franchise.  Again with the history thing, this is about the 4th time since reincarnation that the Browns fans have been presented with this theme.  You can say "enough already", but they're setting their own plate.

mgranadosv
mgranadosv

@Ol'Bob Knowing the Brownies let's start following the most overhyped QB and WR in this year's draft, the ones who have bust written all over them. And let's watch with joy how they grab them. 

The Browns' way baby!

LucilleBluth
LucilleBluth

@tonybot3 @LucilleBluth The question though isn't wether ditching Richardson is worth getting a franchise QB. The question is wether Richardson is he worth whatever supporting piece in the 16-24 range they get.

Richardson is a 22 year old RB with load of talent. I'm not sure they get a better player in that range. Also don't quote the first year YPC number we all know them. We all also know that LT, Faulk, Payton, Emmitt, etc. all didn't light the league on fire year one.

carnage_2012
carnage_2012

@Greg717IL @Ol'Bob Mediocre is not the word. Trash is. Take a trash team and turn it into even more trash. That has been and always will be the Cleveland way

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