Trent Richardson was the Cleveland Browns’ first-round draft pick a mere year ago. Now the running back is gone, traded Wednesday to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-rounder in 2014.
Brian Hoyer started the year as the Browns’ third-string quarterback. Now, after an injury to starter Brandon Weeden, Hoyer was named the team’s starter Wednesday for Sunday’s game against Minnesota, leapfrogging veteran Jason Campbell at No. 2.
After being taken with the No. 3 overall pick, Richardson rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He has 105 yards on 31 carries this season and doesn’t seem to have the explosiveness Cleveland’s new Coach Rob Chudzinski and the front office desire.
“This was more about the moment presented itself,” Browns Chief Executive Joe Banner said, “and based on the situation the Colts found themselves in, it wasn’t something where we could say, ‘Can you wait three weeks to think about this or learn more?’ We thought it was a move to make us better and we had to make that decision now. We decided to move forward.”
That leaves Bobby Rainey, whose only NFL experience is on special teams, as the only running back on the Browns’ depth chart, although veteran Willis McGahee was expected to take a physical for the team this week.
Chudzinski said the Hoyer move was a strategic one.
“I feel like based on our current situation — where we’re at offensively as well as getting into the game planning for Minnesota — that Brian’s strengths are the best fit for this week and that he gives us our best chance to win,” Chudzinski said. “The things that he does well fit what we need. For me, it’s about who gives us the best chance to win.”
Still, it’s hard to look at the two surprise moves without wondering whether the Browns are already in rebuilding mode after an 0-2 start.
After all, they haven’t won more than five games in a season since making the playoffs at 10-6 in 2007. In fact, they’ve only had one other winning/playoff season since re-joining the league in 1999.
So as history shows, things aren’t likely to get much better this season. Why not get a head start on next year?
Banner denied anything of the sort but said he understands why fans might feel that way.
“We have to earn their belief and trust in the decisions we’re going to make as a group,” he said. “I don’t expect them to trust that until we prove that the trust is well placed. So, I understand the skepticism for now. We have to do what we think is right, move the franchise forward and get it to where we want it to be.”