Posted September 19, 2013

Colts’ smart, succinct rebuild laid the groundwork for Trent Richardson deal

AFC South, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts
(AJ Mast/AP)

Smart draft picks like T.Y. Hilton put the Colts in position to acquire Trent Richardson from Cleveland and make a push for the Super Bowl this season. (AJ Mast/AP)

The Indianapolis Colts’ rebuilding project, one brought on by Peyton Manning’s injury and subsequent departure, more or less ended the moment they took Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in 2012. It officially ended Wednesday when they dealt away their 2014 first-rounder for running back Trent Richardson.

This is a franchise that believes two things: 1. That it can win the Super Bowl right now, this season; and 2. That it does not really need a first-round pick next May.

The reasoning behind both trains of thought are born from the work Indianapolis has done since muddling through that miserable 2-14 season. They hired Ryan Grigson as general manager almost immediately after that year wrapped, and he proceeded to mold the roster using all avenues available to him.
Grigson traded for CB Vontae Davis, FB Stanley Havili (a key piece in first-year offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s scheme), LB Kelvin Sheppard and others. He chased WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, OT Gosder Cherulis, NT Aubrayo Franklin, DT Ricky Jean-Francois and CB Greg Toler in free agency. And, most importantly, he made his draft picks count — Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Bjoern Werner, Hugh Thornton.

Indianapolis was not as decimated as that 2-14 record would have you believe when Grigson stepped in as GM. Less than two years later, the Colts are a legitimate contender in a relatively unimpressive AFC.

This is a young roster, with most of its key pieces locked into place for years to come. It’s not perfect — the offensive line still needs help, as does the defense. Grigson could have utilized that 2014 first-rounder to bring in another building block, but the opportunity presented itself to add one overnight.

Is there an element of risk here? Absolutely. A pretty substantial one, in fact.

For all his obvious talent and the hype he brought with him out of Alabama, Richardson is a relatively unproven NFL commodity. Though he totaled more than 1,300 yards last season, Richardson has a career yards-per-carry average of 3.5 and has struggled to stay healthy. Plus, there’s this, as told to the NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington by an anonymous Browns player: “Trent has some things he needs to figure out before he becomes a dominant player in the league.”

The Browns opted to roll with the possibilities presented by a loaded 2014 draft class rather than wait for Richardson to become a star. They did not view him as a fit in their new offense or in their new approach.

The Colts do, and with good reason.

Richardson is an able runner, sure, but he also can get out of the backfield and catch passes (51 receptions last season). And the threat of him taking off with the football ought to be enough to keep defenses honest, thus opening up the field for Luck. Last season, Luck completed 63.7 of his passes (65-for-102) off of play-action, according to Pro Football Focus; he was at just 52.2 percent on straight drops. The Colts now can utilize those fakes more consistently — and more effectively — with Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw paired in the backfield.

Hamilton’s playbook is built for a player of Richardson’s ilk to carry the load. In his two seasons as Stanford’s offensive coordinator, Hamilton helped produce rushing totals of 1,330 and 1,530, respectively, for Stepfan Taylor (the former came with Luck at QB). Hamilton wants to use his running backs often, in a variety of ways.

It appeared that he might have a chance to do so when Indianapolis brought in Ahmad Bradshaw to join Vick Ballard. Bradshaw, though, spent the entire offseason rehabbing after foot surgery, and Ballard just went down for the season with an injury of his own.

The Colts knew they could contend in the AFC South, possibly even on a larger stage. They also knew — and owner Jim Irsay said as much on Twitter over the weekend — that the backfield situation was unsteady.

Some may argue that it still is, at least until Richardson proves he can stay healthy and take off as a No. 1 back. For the Colts, the potential for him to pull that off was worth the high price tag Grigson had to pay to pry Richardson from Cleveland.

Indianapolis’ GM can justify such a purchase because of everything he had done leading up to Wednesday’s trade.

The Browns feel as if they have to focus on the future. The Colts’ future has already arrived.

52 comments
dwb_alpha
dwb_alpha

1) Anyone that watched the Colts during "that miserable 2-14 season" knows they were 2-14 on purpose.  They are cowards, and purposefully lost games to get Andrew Luck.  Then Irsay threw Jim Cauldwell under the bus to cover it up.

2) Unless Trent Richardson can sack the opposing QB and cover their WR's, this changes nothing.  Their defense was embarrassing against the Dolphins last week.  And the day when adding a running back...any running back...to a team in a league that's afraid to give them 20 carries/game suddenly makes a team favorites for the Super Bowl is the day snowmen all move to the sun.  Just cover the news and stop making wild predictions.

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

You lost me at the part about the Colts being s Super Bowl contender this year. They lost to Miami at home. 

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Sorry, but the Browns blew this in typical, pathetic fashion.  Indy's pick will be low.  And to argue that a 22-year-old who gained just under 1,000 as a rookie (and tied a league record for rookie touchdowns) on a team with no QB is somehow damaged goods is just laughable: Richardson got dinged up a lot because teams were gearing everything to stop him--no one worries about Colt McCoy or Brandon Weeden.

So the Colts have landed two of the the top three players in last year's draft.  These guys may well win multiple championships together if the organization can rebuild the defense quickly and well enough.

Meanwhile, the Browns aren't winning anything, and they haven't for 50 years.  

The NFL is a great reality check, year by year, and trades like this show us why...winners/losers.

RobertSmith
RobertSmith

Richardson has not yet proved he is worth a first round draft pick (let alone the harvest that Cleveland paid to get him) ... but should be an upgrade for the Colts.  It is possible both teams enjoy the benefits of this particular trade, even if the Colts overpaid a bit.  

Hello1813
Hello1813

A good trade for Indy.  The only downside is the media hype & increased expectations.  Even if Richardson is just an average RB, having Luck at QB will mean defenses can't stack the line.  


For the Browns, I feel bad for the fans.  The message is we will rebuild in the draft.   But the guy they traded up for and took just last year is the guy they traded away.   They also have 30 yr old second year QB that looks like a wasted pick.  They can have all the picks in the world, but they just don't what to do with them.  Each previous regime has wasted the picks they had.

gaspo
gaspo

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

gary41
gary41

Everyone knew QB's in 2013 were subpar, with 2014 & 2015 looking much better, yet a number of clubs insisted on drafting QB's in the first 3 rounds.  Now the Browns realize they made drafting errors at QB in 2013 & RB in 2012.  RB's are not going 1st round anymore for several good reasons, no matter how great they look in college.  Richardson, behind that Alabama line in a primary running attack, was fine, but he was never a deceptive runner and not really a shifty danger in the open field for receptions needed by NFL teams.  Yes he is good, especially with a good OL & injury free, but it makes little sense to value any RB as first round, which is a precious resource for every team.  The Browns have made some really dumb moves in the past--this trade is designed to correct two of them.    

Kopernicus1967
Kopernicus1967

This is almost laughable if you are a Browns fan.

Every pro-Browns blog is: Richardson, Richardson, Richardson....

I personally saw nothing to say he is a superstar.  A HOF running back in their 2nd or 3rd year should be putting up the big numbers.  The guy makes less than 4 yards a run and is now around 50 yards a game.  You can't blame it on play calling, that is a catch-22.  Why run plays with him if he doesn't get the yards.  People that watch this guy at the Browns camp are the ones thinking that Weeden (of all things) is a better bet to moving the ball.

The Browns will tank again this year.  They will get another top-10 first round pick that they will waste.  

This is the team that should move to LA!!!!!

divirgilio33
divirgilio33

I don't get it! Richardson is a beast!!!  Are the Browns trying to make the Colts another Patriots?!!!


ShelbyGilligan
ShelbyGilligan

It is funny to see how fans of other teams think that the Colts are a middle of the road team. The rookie record setting QB from last year is only going to get better and now he has more weapons at his disposal. They are easily a top five team in the weak looking AFC right now. 

PaulSharpe
PaulSharpe

Good Move, but Colts are Utterly Delusional if they think they're close to winning it all...   'Overachieved last year, and due for 9-7 or 10-6 in 2013...   at Least one more year, 'Then' we'll talk....

Dirty_Bob
Dirty_Bob

A young QB and RB worked out well for the Colts the last time.  Being a Colts fan I still don't find this move putting them over the top though. 

carnage_2012
carnage_2012

Cleveland has been and always will be trash. Look forward to them picking another garbage player next year

carnage_2012
carnage_2012

Cue the Benny Hill music for the Browneyes

BookieBreaker
BookieBreaker

BROWNS EVERY YEAR LOOKING TO THE FUTURE SAME OLD SONG

Fifilo
Fifilo

Good move for both teams.

Peterson looks like an average back in Cleveland, so getting anything in the first round seems liek a good salvage. I  don;t buy this rebuilding bit, he's in hist second year. If the Browns thought he had a real upside he would their back for the next decade.


Colts are hardly Superbowl contenders, they are second tier team. But they do need a running back, and they need one now. So here the Colts do see an upside.


But then, given the quality of the teams the respective franchises have put out over the past decade, there... 


Well, should be interesting to see how this plays out. Don't think it is as big a deal as the networks build it up to be.

NeilCassidy
NeilCassidy

Colts are super bowl contenders?  Don't think so.  This is not a runner's league anymore anyway.

numcmusic
numcmusic

If Gosder Cherilus is listed as an asset then the Colts management may not be as brilliant as portrayed in this piece.

Signed,

Detroit Lions Fan

Elan
Elan

That's the trouble with the Browns,  management can't carry out a 2,3,4 or 5 year plan.  I don't think they even have a plan.  Let go of a top 5 pick then why pick him!

NashVegas008
NashVegas008

So the Browns gave up a proven first round pick (Top 5, 1000 yard rusher) for a future draft pick  (probably outside of the top 20) that may or may not be any good or be a player they need. 

Something about a bird in the hand versus two in the bush, and the grass is always greener on the other side come to mind.

brendans
brendans

Richardson is not a game changer and will get hurt. Waist of a first round draft pick on a running back.

Roy1
Roy1

Let's be honest, the Colts weren't really a 2-14 team.  They tanked it for Andrew Luck.  Maybe not all through the season, but certainly starting halfway in.  The players play hard, but the front office and coaches tank with personnel and playmaking decisions.  

rocknitout
rocknitout

@dwb_alpha 

1) Anyone who watched the Colts during that miserable 2-14 season saw a team that couldn't win. They didn't purposely lose games to get Luck. If you had any idea what you're talking about, you'd know this because by winning the last two games that season, they very nearly gave up that top pick. And threw Caldwell under the bus? Please, again, had you watched that season, you'd have seen that the man wasn't the right fit for that job. 

2) Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think TR had a sack or cover any 49er WR's on Sunday. And the Colts' defense put an old fashioned arse kicking on the 'Niners. 

I will agree with you though, no way in Hades that the Colts get to the SB this year.

jamsub
jamsub

@NoQNoSuperBowl  Miami is not exactly a doormat anymore and I bet every team that wins a Superbowl likely lost a game that had people scratching their heads.


Not saying Colts are going to the Super Bowl but I am sure their organization likes the direction they are going and feel they can't improve much in the draft next year or at least the first round.

AINTZ_NATION
AINTZ_NATION

@Kopernicus1967 its easy to stop a good runner when thats all a defense has to focus on.  he's not AP but he's still good. 

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@ShelbyGilligan They are, and they proved it on their home field last week. Last year was an inspiration fueled run, but the party is over now. Their nothing special, and they'll prove it over the next 16 weeks... The Richardson trade? Pfft, what a waste of a first round pick...

Kristian
Kristian

@PaulSharpe I'm not a Colts fan but recent history has shown that 9-7 or 10-6 teams can indeed win the Superbowl.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@Dirty_Bob It worked once in 12 years, and it was with PFM, for crying out loud. Can't wait to see Manning and the Broncos destroy this overrated team when they meet. 

Fifilo
Fifilo

Holy crap, I said Peterson?

Bed time.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@numcmusic ...Or Heyward-Bey, or Aubrayo Franklin (3rd team in 3 years), etc, etc. He basicly just listed their moves/picks and implied an A-plus grade on all of them. Please remind me, who is Coby Fleener again and what has he done? Nothing. Colts are middle of the pack, even in the AFC. They'll probably be watching the playoffs from the couch this season...

David2
David2

@Elan Banner and Lombardi weren't the ones that picked Richardson or Weeden, and those were stupid selections at the time they were made.

jamsub
jamsub

@NashVegas008 Likely they hope to land in the top 3 and use the Colts pick to grab someone else with value.  Think QB in top 3 and then stud WR at 20 or so.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@brendans Ahmad Bradshaw is a better back than Richardson. At least the Browns will get a pick in the top 16...

David2
David2

@brendans Don't forget the idiotic trade up one slot to get him as well.

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

@Roy1 : If having Curtis Painter start most of your games means you're tanking, then sure, they tanked.

Dirty_Bob
Dirty_Bob

@Fifilo 

 In all fairness to your sleep deprivation, even Peterson would probably look like an average back in Cleveland.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@David2 @Elan Weeden should have been signed as an undrafted free agent. What a dumb pick - yeah, let's sign an old guy so he can reach his prime at the same time as his decline starts...

rocknitout
rocknitout

@JahliSuwaghaman @Roy1 Painter started more games than he should have because 1) the Kerry Collins experiment (millions in guaranteed pay) failed miserably, and 2) Jim Caldwell thought Painter would pull it together (he practiced well but always choked in real play). 

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@DarrenZancan @Kristian @PaulSharpe Those 9-7/10-6 teams were underrated, not overrated. Overrated 9-7 teams do what the Colts did last year - lose their first playoff game. Richardson doesn't make the Colts better, he makes them the same. Nobody is scared of the Ponies for a reason.... Gee, didn't they just lose at home to the Dolphins?? Sorry, but the 'cancer inspirational tour' is one-and-done...