First, trading away a RB that was touted as one of the Browns best offensive weapons didn't leave the team weaponless. WR Josh Gordon is back and performing as amazingly as promised. The Browns won their first game of the season vs the Minnesota Vikings and did it by passing 54 times vs 15 rush attempts. It
looked a lot like the first two games in that regard, way more passing than rushing plays. While I understand the desire to have a vertical passing game, and the belief that the NFL itself is a passing league, I am left being a bit concerned about what November and December will look like in the AFC North.... we'll need a run game by then for sure. The reality is that the front office and coaching staff WANT this to be a passing team so for now, that's what they are.
Second, justifying the trade by saying we need a Franchise QB is a little confusing to me. How does an additional first round draft pick do that? If you look at the likely teams that will be ahead of the Browns on Draft Day based on record, the most likely teams will be Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and the NY Jets. I would argue that at least three of those teams will be targeting a QB so why would they be interested in trading with us? The more likely scenario is this: having a 2nd first round pick gives the Browns some insurance on WR Josh Gordon. Because of issues with avoiding banned substances, Flash was suspended for the first two weeks this year. That means his next strike is a mandatory one-year suspension from the NFL.
While the fans - and I think the Browns - love what Flash brings to the field, his off-the-field issues must be a concern from a business standpoint. Rumors abound about possibly trading him, but I think that is doubtful this early in the season. Especially since the entire NFL knows he's on his last strike - what are you going to get for him? The risk to another team is the same as yours so I have to think that minimizes his value. (Yeah, the Trent trade should have been insane to consider after two weeks but I just don't see a good
way to spin trading JGordon too). After week 10, who knows? But for now, you've got a great player, someone who is a game-changer... and a 2nd first round pick to get a WR if you think he will have issues.
The Browns have a new regime looking to build the team THEY want, they trade a RB who doesn't fit into their plans and also get an insurance policy about a WR who DOES fit their model but has some risk to him. Are you with me so far? That just leaves me with the hardest question I had to answer... Do I trust the new regime? Do I believe they will get the QB "right" in the 2014 draft? I just don't know.
What I do know is that in 2011, we were told to have patience, to stay with the team through a terrible season to get a high draft pick. And we all know how that ended.... couldn't get the deal done for RG3 so we
moved up one spot and got RB Trent Richardson. And the fans went crazy. Everyone told us what a stud he would be, how we now had our RB locked up for the next 10 years, that we could now compete on the ground with Baltimore and Pittsburgh. And we believed it. Now it's 2013 and we're being told that those guys were all wrong, that you shouldn't ever take a RB in the first round, that the new guys are the smartest guys in the room, that we should stay with the team through a terrible season to get a high draft pick. Sound familiar? And people ask why we are skeptical....
Well, I'm starting to believe for two reasons:
- The coaches and players showed last week that they still had the drive and desire to win, that THEY had not given up on the season so neither should we. By throwing out the playbook and tossing in some trick plays they made everyone rethink the idea that they were going to tank the season. And I have to respect that.
- This ain't my daddy's NFL. Or mine either for that matter. I am finally coming around to the idea that RB are indeed interchangeable. The days of having to have that special guy in the backfield are gone. If you look at the last five years of NFL stats, we've had a different rushing leader each year. Teams find guys who have a breakout year and then disappear - see Peyton Hillis. Which makes me draw the conclusion that it's the Offensive Line that matters, not the skill of the Running Back. Yes, an explosive, talented running back can make a huge difference to a team, but if you have a solid O-Line that gives up very few sack or negative yardage plays, that knows how to create a hole for the runner, almost anyone can be good. You don't need to pick up a guy in the first round when third or sixth round options can work.
I know it sounds crazy, and it's still hard for me to really believe, but the numbers don't lie. Adrian Peterson is more like MLB's Mariano Rivera - there are one or two truly special guys out there and every other team makes the most of someone who's better than average. I think this kind of RB is even more rare than the Franchise QB that we all want.
It's entirely possible that my bias - and that of everyone else I know -stems from the evil game of Fantasy Football and the importance of a good RB. BUT when you look at the real NFL, rushing yards and passing yards are exactly the same. There really isn't anything special about rushing and, in fact, the long-bomb pass play has more value because you have a limited time clock to work with and a scoring drive done by passing takes less time off the clock than running the ball. Fact.
Let's just say for now that I've come to grips with the Trent Richardson trade. I wish him nothing but luck in the future. And while it saddens me to think that the last 2-3 years were wasted by guys who just didn't do the right things for my football team, I am really trying to find positive things to give me hope for the future. I believe that sometimes you have to take one step backwards before you can take two steps forward, it's just that sometime that backwards step is hard to understand and even harder to live through.