I wasn’t sold on every move he made in the off-season, but yesterday Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson showed why he’s one of the best in the business. He absolutely stole Trent Richardson from Cleveland. Sure, he gave up a first round draft pick next year for Richardson, but the Colts will not be drafting in the top ten next year. 1 That’s a hell of a move for a team that was relying on Ahmad Bradshaw to carry the load by himself after the loss of last season’s running back revelation, Vick Ballard, to an injury.
The trade is not without risk. There are questions about whether Richardson will be a star in the NFL. The thing with him joining the Colts is he doesn’t have to be the star. The offense will be built around Andrew Luck as long as he is healthy. Richardson just has to take the ball 15-20 times a game, eat up some yards, and force defenses to stay home rather than go after Luck with abandon on every down. If he does turn into a premier back, giving Luck his own Marshall Faulk or Edgerrin James, that will be a huge bonus. But it’s not necessary.
The Colts were unbelievably lucky last year in going 11-5. That luck was bound to disappear, and so far, that would appear to be the case. They’ve had a couple huge injuries early. The breaks they got a year ago were nowhere to be found in Sunday’s loss to Miami. I stand by my preseason prediction that they take a step back this year, maybe only winning 7-8 games, before they begin an extended run of excellence next year.
But getting Richardson yesterday could be a sign that fortune is still smiling on the Colts. The results may not come this year, but with a franchise quarterback and potential franchise running back added to the offense in 17 months, the team is suddenly in excellent shape for the near-future.
Reviewing how Richardson’s brief career has gone got me thinking about busts. People are awfully quick to label both football and basketball players who were stars in college but don’t tear up the NFL and NBA quickly busts. 2
The undercurrent of the articles about yesterday’s trade was that Richardson may not be as good people had thought before the Browns drafted him. That may well be true, but isn’t it a little early to definitively say that he’s a bust? He played most of his rookie year injured, on a shitty team, and still gained nearly 1000 yards. The Colts’ o-line isn’t a top-tier one, but with Luck, Reggie Wayne, and T.Y. Hilton demanding attention, he should get a little more room to run.
Richardson may end up sucking. He may be one of those backs who just can’t stay healthy, and shows flashes of brilliance but can never play more than 10 games a season. Or he, like so many great college backs before him, may just not be good enough to be an elite pro back but still manage to run for 800-900 yards a year and a dozen or so touchdowns. He may never be the superstar Cleveland needed him to be, but being serviceable is enough in Indy.
Finally, poor Cleveland. Or rather poor Cleveland fans. Sure, the Indians will likely make the playoffs, but no one seems to care, as they bring in about 10,000 fans a night. They lost the original Browns. Michael Jordan killed them in the late 80s/early 90s. They lost LeBron. And the team the city wants to succeed the most, the Browns, has generally been awful since the 1960s. The franchise seems intent on scrapping their current rebuilding project, which is only a year old, and starting from scratch again. You’d think the city could catch a break from the Sports Gods at some point.