You remember where you were that day.
No, I’m not talking about Brad Stevens’ sudden exit to coach professional basketball in a city where people have funny accents. I’m not talking about the Colts’ triumphant win over Peyton Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos a few Sundays ago. Heck, I’m not even talking about the day the Indianapolis Indians won their most recent division crown (granted, baseball is to Indianapolis as…. um…. a foot-long hot dog is to my understanding of how analogies work. Still, you get the idea.)
“Colts acquire RB Trent Richardson from Cleveland Browns in exchange for 2014 first round pick” was what popped on the phone screen as I sat in my Wednesday night research methods lecture. I had to have been dreaming….after all, it was research methods. Or maybe iOs7 was still working out the kinks.
Eager to do anything but pay attention in class, I hit up ESPN.com. Sure enough, Trent Richardson had been dealt to the Colts.
It was a peculiar move then, and it’s a peculiar move now. Blockbuster trades just usually don’t happen in professional football, especially in the middle of the season. At least not since the tragic passing of Al Davis.
Emotions ran rampant that day. There were your over-zealous Colts fans, adamant that the former No.3 overall pick was the missing piece to a Super Bowl offense. These claims were mostly based on absolutely nothing other than the fact that Richardson was, indeed, a top five draft pick at one point in time. But that’s here nor there.
There were your Matthew Berry’s and Eric Karabell’s of the world, who believed the deal skyrocketed Richardson’s fantasy value due to playing in a significantly more talented offense.
Then, there were your Bill Barnwell’s of the world, who astutely pointed out in his Grantland piece that “The Browns could have signed just about any college free agent off the street and gotten the 3.5 yards per carry Richardson’s produced so far as a pro.”
Ding ding ding, Mr. Barnwell.
The truth is, Trent Richardson was a below average running back for the Browns. And he’s been downright terrible as a Colt.
Aside from his 3.5 yard per carry average in 2012, the bruiser out of Alabama simply hasn’t shown the ability to produce big plays in the NFL. According to Pro Football Outsiders, 0.7 percent of his carries last year went for 20 yards or more, the fifth-lowest rate among running backs with 200 single-season carries or more over the past five years.
You’d expect a back as highly touted as Richardson to improve in his sophomore season, no? I’ll save you the suspense. It’s actually gotten worse. T-Rich is averaging 3.0 yards per carry as a Colt, his longest run being 16 yards.
And that passing game he was supposed to be such a big part of? Maybe things will change with Reggie Wayne’s absence from the lineup. But Richardson has a grand total of two receptions for the Colts.
You know it’s bad when Donald Brown….. yes, Donald Brown, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry running behind the same offensive line.
And then you get to the irony of this whole situation. First round picks are treated as royalty in the NFL these days. It’s not often you see them being given up for running backs that routinely trip over the chalk lines on the field and a bag of magic beans.
So we can bash Colts GM Ryan Grigson all we want for the Richardson deal. But his Colts sit 5-2 and atop the AFC South, having played the league’s toughest schedule to date. While first round picks are always still valuable, the Colts’ selection will likely fall somewhere in the late twenties.
When you consider the facts, though, it just doesn’t make sense.
A top five team in the NFL got absolutely hosed in the biggest blockbuster trade of the season? That same team has the third most players on injured reserve as of week nine? Andrew Luck is on pace to finish with fewer passing yards and touchdown throws than last year?
Perhaps the Colts were simply more loaded than any of us thought all along.
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