The Trent Richardson trade is only looking better and better …
CLEVELAND - Has an NFL team ever so boldly waved the white flag two weeks into a season?
Sure, the Browns planned to give them away as a promotional item last season but even that wasn’t until week 12.
Wednesday, they traded Trent Richardson, after a season and change in brown and orange, to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick. The third overall pick in the 2012 draft, a guy the Browns traded up to choose, got just 17 games to prove himself in Cleveland.
To put that in perspective, Ryan Leaf, one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, was given 18 starts as the San Diego Chargers’ quarterback. The New York Jets held onto Vernon Gholston, the Ohio State workout wonder who didn’t work out, for 45 games before cutting the cord.
Again, the Browns pin their hopes on the draft, the solution for salvation that has proven an abyss for 14 years.
The draft is a place where the Browns, a team desperate for offense, have in just the past three years: traded out of a pick that could have landed wide receiver Julio Jones, failed to do enough to move up for quarterback Robert Griffin III and moved up in the top 5 to select a running back they traded after only one full season of action.
Missing out on both Jones and Griffin III may have been the biggest blows, in hindsight setting into action this entire situation. Still needing a playmaker, the Browns took Richardson, who appeared to be a building block for the future. Again, members of the old regime wanted him badly enough to jump up a pick to ensure his selection.
When the Browns’ second first round pick came around at No. 22, they would have selected receiver Kendall Wright had he not been taken a pick before by the Tennessee Titans, at least according to a report by ESPN insider Adam Schefter. Instead, still in need of a quarterback with shaky Colt McCoy the incumbent, they seemed to panic and selected Brandon Weeden.
Now, Weeden’s future is uncertain and Richardson is a goner.
For Cleveland, the Richardson trade is like quitting a job because you just bought 55 Powerball tickets and are sure you’re going to win the jackpot with so many tickets. You just have that sixth sense.
It’s a move a disgruntled gamer might make after losing their first two games in a franchise mode in Madden.
Maybe worst of all, it again leaves fans of this team without a face of the franchise. For years and years, the Browns failed to field a signature player who you could proudly look toward as “your guy.”
Richardson was that, if only for one year.
Whether he would prove to be any more long-term a “face” for Cleveland than Peyton Hillis or Braylon Edwards or Brady Quinn, a player whose jersey you could sport at a sports bar for more than a year or two, was up for debate. The Alabama back did break Jim Brown’s team record for rookie rushing touchdowns in his first season though.
Did he really get a fair shake? Didn’t he deserve better than this outcome?
Richardson was not a locker room cancer or even distraction. He hasn’t violated traffic rules or league policies. He came off as a classy pro who only campaigned for more carries in the most diplomatic manner possible.
Why did it have to come to this so soon, two weeks into his second season?
“To have made some real progress with the team this offseason, to be in very good cap shape going into next season, and accumulated those picks, I think we’re positioning ourselves to build a team that is good and sustainable,” Browns chief executive officer Joe Banner said.
Maybe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi know something deeper about Richardson or how to mastermind this year’s draft or a reason why the Colts’ first round pick won’t be in the mid 20s.
But reading tea leaves is nearly impossible in sports, especially when it comes to drafting. That’s why the experts couldn’t predict Leaf as a bust and Tom Brady to be the best.
What will come out of this trade is still to be determined and will undoubtedly be dissected with immense scrutiny. Trades have rarely worked in the Browns’ favor of late, from trading down so the Falcons could add Jones to their explosive mix to the Redskins trading up ahead of them to select Griffin III.
Now though, for the Browns’ week 3 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, a healthy backup quarterback was passed up for the third-stringer to take the helm and a running back who was third on the depth chart before an injury and trade could be the starter pending WIllis McGahee's physical.
Sept. 18 had to feel a whole lot like April 1, Browns fans.
The best hope may be that May 8, 2014, the date of the next NFL Draft, will feel like December 25. Because Wednesday, the Grinch came to Cleveland early and stole the face of the franchise.
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