You may be wondering why I have waited this long to respond to the news that the Browns traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. You see, I have no interest in being CNN. As we have learned from them over the last few years, the first to report the news doesn’t “win” anything. And, usually, they screw it up.
Also, being completely honest, I was trying to wade through my emotions and reactions to the news. I wanted to give you what I believed to be well-thought-out commentary, and I haven’t spent the last 36 hours or so thinking very calmly. In fact, when my boss showed up in my office to check on me yesterday morning, knowing that the trade probably really pissed me off, I almost got choked up. But then I realized (in the most manliest of sports blogger ways) that there was really just something in my eye. Then I cracked a couple jokes, and we moved past the moment awkwardly. (That’s how you do it, right guys?)
Anyway, as usual, I digress. The Trade.
I think the only original thought I have had about the entire situation was my first gut reaction. “Oh shit guys, the Browns have totally given up two games into the season and traded their best offensive player, so they can draft Johnny Manziel next spring.” And then I spent five minutes fervently praying that I was wrong. Thankfully, I have since decided that my first reaction most likely was wrong. (Semi-Serious Side Note—First reactions and impressions often are wrong, and that’s why I generally like to take the time to reconsider.)
Anyway, this is where I’ve landed:
Why They Did It—In the last five years, no NFL team has gone 0-2 and made the playoffs. So it appears that Haslam and Banner have thrown in the towel and are focused on the future. In fact, that’s pretty much what Banner said at his press conference. (Second Semi-Serious Side Note—When in doubt, I like to assume people are telling the truth.)
Why That’s Dumb—Every single team in our division went 0-1 this season. In fact, I made a joke after our first game, that the Browns were tied for first in our division. Because, you know, they were. Then, all four teams played division opponents in Week 2. So, inevitably, two of the teams in our division had to lose and go 0-2. And, arguably, the Browns faced the biggest challenge that week by going up against the defending Super Bowl Champs. (Actually, I think the Bengals are better this year, which (ahem) is probably because I hate the Ravens and Joe Flacco, but whatever.) The point is that this “0-2” wasn’t as big of a deal as a usual “0-2” might be. Also, this 0-2 was played without Josh Gordon, the Browns’ best wide receiver. (Not that being crowned “best wide receiver for the Browns” is much of a hard-fought achievement but, again, whatever.) The point is that there was no reason for the Browns to react this way so early in the season.
I think my dad said it best in the e-mail he sent me yesterday: “I thought that Art Modell was the dumbest person to ever live in Cleveland, but obviously I was mistaken. This move makes Art look like a frigging genius.” Mind you, I still think Art wins at “worst ever” (and yeah, yeah, he’s dead, rest in peace), but I think this pretty much sums up this decision. It was dumb.
How I Feel—I’m not mad. I was, but I let it go. What am I really going to do? Not be a Browns fan? Not possible. But, I’m also not optimistic. Sorry, I just can’t pull it off. (Although nabbing McGahee might turn out to be ok, but more on that after Sunday’s game.)
So in the end, I’m just bummed. Because I think this was a bad call. I agree with Mike Holmgren. “How do you make the team better by trading your best player? He’s their best offensive player. He’s a valuable, valuable guy.” Yes, Mike, he is, both on and off the field. And this didn’t make the team better. Not now, and not in the future. And so you have to ask the dreaded question: Did they do it to make the team worse? Is this some sort of screen test for Major League: Browns Edition? If so, and I’m quoting my friend Andy here, no one wants to see a cardboard cut-out of Jimmy Haslam naked.
Moreover, you didn’t need to do this to get a good spot in the draft. We were going to have one anyway. ‘Cause let’s be real. We weren’t going to the playoffs this season. But maybe we could have beaten the Steelers and won more than 5 games. And, being honest, that was enough for Browns fans this season. See, Haslam and Banner don’t seem to get us yet. We aren’t going anywhere. We’re used to losing. But, if you go from slowly rebuilding, which we can get behind, to draft-focused, season-ending sabotage, we are going to become significantly less patient.
You said this was about the future, Banner. Well, I’m officially done waiting. So, this better pay off, and soon. The “future” needs to become the present, NOW.