Here are my five biggest takeaways from the fallout of the Browns’ decision to trade running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft pick:
>>It is playing much better nationally than locally. I’ve spoken with several national NFL media types in the last 24 hours, and the majority like the deal for the Browns. I should point out that most also think it is a good trade for the Colts, too, but all are aboard with the idea of the Browns positioning themselves to help their offense considerably in the 2014 draft with a top-flight quarterback, some pass-catchers, and an offensive lineman or two. That isn’t the case in Northeast Ohio. Around here, there is more outrage and hostility directed at the Browns. Fans don’t want to hear about the future. They are furious that the Browns have, in their view, given up on the 2013 season. They have flooded us (and many others at the Browns’ headquarters in Berea) with angry phone calls and e-mails and social-media comments.
>>Joe Banner is one cool customer. The Browns’ chief executive officer hasn’t flinched in the face of one of the boldest decisions anyone running an NFL team has made in recent memory. Players selected with the third overall pick of the draft simply aren’t dealt away as soon as Richardson was, two games into his second season. But Banner made the move and is expressing full confidence that it was the absolute right thing to do to help ensure multiple seasons of success. As he told yours truly and Nathan Zegura on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on Thursday: “We came in and said we would not be afraid of being bold and taking chances. We feel there are things that are similar about teams that win, how they do things, how they build their teams, what the priorities are, and we’re going to do things we think are going to serve that and build the type of team that everybody in Cleveland wants in the long run.”
>>The Browns will weather this. I know it doesn’t feel that way now, but they will. They have parted ways with a running back who has never quite lived up to his lofty draft status. And that’s truly what the fuss has been all about. People continue to see Richardson as the former Alabama star who defied conventional draft logic by entering the league as a top-five draft pick. The warm afterglow of that is what largely prompted the Colts, who were very desperate for running back help, to give up a first-round pick for him. Running backs simply don’t deliver first-round value in a league where the teams that win have one thing in common: an outstanding quarterback leading a highly effective passing game. The chances of the Browns’ season being turned around on the strength of Richardson’s (or any running back’s) legs were minimal, at best. Excellent running backs are much easier to find than excellent quarterbacks.
>>The entire roster has been put on notice. If the Browns are willing to deal away a player of Richardson’s magnitude, no one on the team can feel safe. And given the way Banner and the rest of the club’s decision-makers have been operating, there is reason to believe that more moves will be made before the end of the season. Perhaps they won’t be as dramatic as the Richardson transaction, but there will be some additional activity.
>>The coaching staff gets additional time. In the ultra-insecure world of NFL coaching, a trade such as this serves as sort of a gift of time. Coach Rob Chudzinski, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and the rest of the assistants can count on an additional season courtesy of the many players they can figure on coaching (including the likely addition of a rookie quarterback) that aren’t here now. Although coaches and players share the burden of an 0-2 start, it’s a little hard to expect a whole lot from a team that entered the year missing some key parts (including the two-game suspension of wide receiver
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