Mike Holmgren was essentially the guy who brought Trent Richardson to Cleveland last year, trading three draft picks to move up a spot and draft the running back at No. 3 overall.
But the now-former Browns president was just like most of us on Wednesday when he found out that the team had traded away its top pick from a year ago for the Indianapolis Colts’ No. 1 pick in 2014.
“I didn’t believe it,” Holmgren said on a Seattle sports radio show. “I went on my computer and saw it. I had a lot of emotions, because I really liked the young man and I really think he’s an outstanding football player. ... He had a really fine first year and he played through pain and injury, so I was startled by that. “
Richardson rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie but has just 105 yards on 31 carries this season. Sources told Cleveland.com that the new Browns regime wouldn’t have taken him at the team’s original spot at No. 4 in the 2012 draft, let alone trade the fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks for him.
Still, the move caught a lot of people by surprise.
“You can’t tell me some of those players aren’t asking some of the questions you and I are asking,” said Holmgren, who was let go by new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner after last season. “They were friends with [Richardson]. It’s too wild. This sort of thing doesn’t happen, and it happened, so asking questions about it would be natural.”
He added: “To me, they’re putting all their eggs for next season. They started off 0-2, they couldn’t score any points, I think it was a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction. There’s a little bit of a ‘what’s going on?’ I don’t know this for sure but I can sense it.”
Holmgren, who appeared in the Super Bowl three times as the coach of the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, said if a front office pulled such a stunt when he was coach there might be yet another vacancy to fill.
“Philosophically, if I am the coach and someone came in anywhere and did that, I’d say ‘OK, fire me, or I’m going to quit,” Holmgren said. “Or we’re going to both go into the owner and talk about this and the we’ll see who’s still standing.”’
And if the owner insisted on making the trade? “I’d shake hands and walk. I would. Because if I disagreed with it vehemently, and I couldn’t buy in, I mean, I’m not saying I’m right, I’m saying that’s what I would do, because you have to be true to yourself in this business.”