Monday, April 16, 2012

Browns need to get Rich(ardson)

What’s with this nonsense that taking a running back in the first round of the National Football League college draft would be a wrong move for the Browns?

It’s almost a sure bet Alabama running back Trent Richardson will be there for them when the Browns are called on the clock by Commissioner Roger Goodell at approximately 8:45 p.m. on April 26.

And barring unforeseen circumstances, so, too, will be Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Of course, we all know wide receiver is a position that screams help for the Browns.

Richardson is the No. 1 running back on the board. Blackmon is the No. 1 wideout on the board. In some quarters, however, Blackmon seems to be the choice for the Browns even though they have a running game that borders on embarrassing.

Granted, the NFL has become a quarterback-driven league. The importance of the ground game, at least statistically, has been reduced in the last several years. But has it really been diminished that much where an elite runner like Richardson would be bypassed?

It isn’t often that someone like Richardson comes along. The last time a talent like him arrived, the Minnesota Vikings snapped up Adrian Peterson, now one of the top running backs in the NFL.

Right now, the Browns are a bad offensive football team looking to get at least respectable. In order for them to get better, not good, they need a solid running game in order to take off any pressure on whoever steps under center.

Once they get better, they can take it up a notch in their quest to become good. But unless a strong running game is part of the equation, that’s not going to happen. Not now, not next year, not ever.

The Browns don’t have a Drew Brees or an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady, quarterbacks who can take their teams to a Super Bowl and win it. They are special quarterbacks who are resourceful enough that a running game serves as a mere adjunct.

The Browns don’t have that luxury. Neither do Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Big Ben needs a strong running game to be successful. And where would Flacco be without Ray Rice? Or the Houston Texans without Arian Foster; the San Francisco 49ers without Frank Gore; the Atlanta Falcons without Michael Turner?

The Browns have to start somewhere and running back, at least with a talent like Richardson, is the place to start. If the top running back in this draft were a lesser player than Richardson, then yes, Blackmon would be the man.

The Browns must start becoming a team on an upward trend. They must start to become good somewhere on offense. And considering the state of the current offense, running the ball is a good start.

Yes, I know the west coast scheme is pass-first philosophically. But ask any offensive lineman which he would prefer to do, pass block or run block, a vast majority of them would say run block, especially with a horse like Richardson behind that line.

Another factor that should steer the Browns toward Richardson: He would touch the ball at least 20 times a game, maybe more considering his reputation as a good receiver out of the backfield.

How many times would a wide receiver touch the ball? Five, six, maybe seven times a game on average. Do the math. Who would be more valuable?

Most arguments against drafting a running back this high cite the lack of Super Bowl appearances by teams with a superstar runner. A valid point.

But it would be silly to use Super Bowl and Cleveland Browns in the same sentence. In order to even consider using them in the same breath, they must show signs of getting better. Walk first before jogging. Jog before you start running. Run before you sprint.

Currently, the Browns are in walk mode when it comes to the offense. Placing Trent Richardson’s name on a piece of paper to be delivered to the NFL clearing house on draft night would be the first step toward jogging.

If there’s one team in the NFL that would benefit most from someone like Richardson, it’s the one for which you are rooting.


  1. Scary that I agree with you. The core of this team next year should be to learn to run the ball effectively with a running back that is big, strong quick, that can receive the ball and provide pass protection. This should be the Browns pick at 4

  2. Oops. Read the other comment first. Shudda known this was you.

    Surprised you agree with me on Richardson. When we last saw each other, you were pushing for Blackmon. Glad to see you've changed your mind.

    And it's not so scary that you agree with me. What'll be scary is if I agree with you.