Ellis Boyd Redding once said of his friend Andrew Dufresne from the award-winning film “The Shawshank Redemtion” something that seems appropriate for these Cleveland Browns led by Mike Lombardi the current General Manager. Who yesterday, traded away the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Whom the Browns traded up to get.
“Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of poop-smelling foulness I can’t even imagine- or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards… that’s the length of five football fields; just shy of half a mile.” – Ellis Redding
You see, the short-sighted view on this highly unexpected trade has many layers of anger, disgust, and disbelief. This scenario is most challenging for those in Northeast Ohio who financial invest in this once proud franchise. At some point those mentioned will have a chance to back away from this situation emotionally and realize, in the end, this was necessary.
Had this happened in 1993 and not 2013 then yes, the Cleveland faithful would be right in looking to run Michael Lombardi and his staff out-of-town. The truth, always the hardest thing to accept when you’re an NFL franchise looking to become relevant again or for the first time, plain and simple, these Browns with Trent Richardson were going nowhere.
Today’s pro football is not your fathers game of pigskin, it’s a brave new brand that requires the “elite” signal caller behind center to be the building block for future opportunities in competing for world championships. The days of Emmitt Smith or Walter Payton and Tony Dorsett carrying a franchise to the first Sunday in February are long gone.
This is in no way a negative mark on Richardson, or any top echelon tailback in the league today. Just look at Adrian Peterson, the best back this planet has to offer, and it’s not even close, has been unable to carry the Minnesota Vikings beyond the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
Last season Adrian rushed for 2097 yards, less than one first down shy of the all-time record for yards in a season by any back in league history. The Vikings couldn’t even sniff the Divisional round. That would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. How times have changed, and its the reason behind last nights blockbuster trade.
Just from a pure statistical perspective, the undisputable facts say that Richardson last year on 298 carries had just 2 runs of 20 yards or more which should give pause to those who believe the Browns made this trade in error. In addition, when Richardson faced eight men in the box or more his yard per carry average was 3.2 and that was 53 percent of his rushes. Are those really “face of the franchise” numbers?
Lastly, with Richardson, the Browns scored 10 points to open the season at home to the Miami Dolphins, then last week they put up 6 points at Baltimore to a Ravens team that allowed 49 the opening week against the Denver Broncos. This is not to say the Browns inefficiencies scoring are Trent’s fault, instead, the larger point being made resides in the lack of playmaker’s all over the offensive side of the ball.
Which brings us to the decision made by Lombardi and company. Why give your fan base who has suffered tremendously for decades false hope? The sting of this present moment feels like every other year, coming off of a Summer filled with great expectations only to have the rug pulled out from right under you just before the third game has even been played.
Yes, this season will be looked at as a quick death, but the big picture shows a front office that truly gets it and understands the evolution of today’s game. Also, to get where everyone desires to go requires a belief and a plan. The execution of that plan requires tough calls that will not make everyone happy along the way.
In the end, all that matters is a collective effort from a group of people who can lead from the top on down, whether you believe in Lombardi’s tactical plan or not, as a football community we are all going to witness its bloom. In today’s NFL the ownership piece as well as the football operations side is critical to championship success. A sight not seen in Cleveland since a different Lombardi has been used to start keeping score in the trophy department.
The Browns and their fans might not have to crawl through 500 yards of foulness we can’t imagine, but they have endured a sentence of futility that would bring any fan base to its knees. As Andy Dufresne said to his friend Ellis Redding… “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne