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Saturday, December 27, 2014
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Published: Friday, 9/20/2013

Commentary

Browns must capitalize on bold move

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Browns fans may have trouble believing this, but the Indianapolis Colts are taking heat over the Trent Richardson deal too.

They surrendered a first-round draft pick for a running back, a position that has been devalued so much in the NFL that it’s crowding long snappers on some draft boards. And first-round picks are precious.

Talk radio and message boards have been set ablaze by Cleveland fans who are irate that the Browns traded one of the league’s most talented running backs, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2012 draft.

Only part of that is true. Richardson was the No. 3 overall pick. The part about “talented running back” may be based on what could be or should be, but not on to-date reality.

He has injury issues, something that’s not necessarily his fault, and more to the point he is not aggressive in hitting holes and often is indecisive or wrong in picking cutback lanes. Consider this: In 298 carries over 17 games with the Browns, Richardson had exactly two rushes of 20 or more yards. Two! His average was 3.5 yards per carry.

Richardson Richardson
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

On the flip side, he’s 22 years old, has decent hands, and the blocking in Cleveland was often as lacking as the quarterback play. He got little help and little protection and may well go nuts in Indy on turf and with Andrew Luck keeping defenses honest. And if the Colts become unbeatable because of this deal, dubious but possible, that first-round pick the Browns acquired will be delivered way down the line.

Still, the surprising deal isn’t really what has everybody who has ever munched on a dog biscuit, give or take actual canines, so up in arms. It is that after two games the Browns ran up a white flag on the season before their fans did.

The Richardson trade coupled with the announcement that third-teamer Brian Hoyer would be, until further notice, the starting quarterback gives ample evidence that the Browns are tanking on 2013 in lieu of a better tomorrow. But will tomorrow ever arrive?

With a quarterback-rich draft next spring, the Browns are eyeing the right guy, maybe even the No. 1 guy pending the results of their titanic clash at home with Jacksonville on Dec. 1. That may be all that stands between either franchise and 0-16.

Joe Banner, the Cleveland CEO, and coach Rob Chudzinski, who must be shell-shocked, put the happiest possible faces on these developments and insisted winning is still the top priority, but even the most gullible of Browns fans — and they exist, because 73,200 of them keep buying tickets to watch this Groundhog Day — want to throw a red flag onto the field to protest the white flag.

“I don’t expect [fans] to trust until we prove that the trust is well placed,” Banner said.

Ain’t that the truth?

Richardson was expendable because the Browns were feeble on offense and losing with him. Why not look feebler and lose without him, but with the promise of a payoff down the road?

So there’s the challenge; the Browns must take advantage of the opportunity they have created. They’ll have four of the first 44 picks, but no margin for error, in the next draft.

We all remember what happened the last time they had two first-round picks.

They selected Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.

No more Groundhog Day on Draft Day.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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