If you thought that 2012 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2013 proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, and appearances in postseasons and courtrooms. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last five years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.
On September 18, the Cleveland Browns traded 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the Colts’ 2014 first-round draft pick. The move was shocking. In-season trades rarely happen, and trading away a player drafted in the first round the year before is even more rare. In fact, only Richardson and John Matuszak were top three picks that played their rookie seasons and were then traded the very next year.
Richardson was not a pick made by the current front office, which undoubtedly factored in to their willingness to listed to a potential deal. He finished the 2013 regular season with 563 yards on 188 carries, and just three touchdowns. These numbers were a far cry from his 2012 total with the Browns, ones which set rookie records and provided that incarnation with a threat in the backfield.
Prior to being traded, Richardson’s use was being questioned by fans. Against the Dolphins in the opener, he carried the ball just 13 times, even though he was having moderate success running. The trade came as a huge surprise to the players, including Richardson who found out he had been traded when a phone call from a friend prompted him to turn on the radio and hear the news himself.
“I can’t believe it. I didn’t see it coming anywhere. I guess it was the best move for the Browns,” Richardson said the day after from Indianapolis. “I wanted to be a Brown, I didn’t see it coming but at the same time I’m a Colt now and have to get ready for Sunday’s game.”
Around the Browns locker room players were surprised that a guy who was supposed to be a focal point of the offense was suddenly out of town. If the Browns were trying to send a message, it was received. Anyone could be gone.
The deal kicked off rampant speculation that several Browns players could be traded, including top receiver Josh Gordon. The speculation on Gordon lasted until the trade deadline passed, causing at least a slight distraction. Gordon grew weary of the rumors and not knowing what the future held for him in Cleveland.
The deal was met with anger and frustration from a large portion of Browns fans and media alike. Outside of Cleveland, the deal was largely applauded. (Mike Holmgren aside.) The perception was that the Browns sold high on Richardson. No matter where the Colts pick inside the first round landed, the consensus was that Richardson wasn’t worth a first-round selection. When the Browns took Richardson in 2012 they were criticized for taking a running back—any running back—so high. Analysts saw the Colts as the only team desperate enough to give away a first-round pick.
They may have been right.
What doesn’t change is that the Browns found themselves making a phone call to 32-year-old Willis McGahee. McGahee wasn’t with any team because he had been injured the previous season and likely could have been finished in the NFL if not for the Browns. McGahee ultimately led the Browns in rushing yards this season with 377 on 138 carries. He scored two touchdowns. Six quarterbacks in the NFL had more rushing yards than McGahee. A seventh—Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck—also had 377 yards.
The Browns as a team finished the season with just over 1,300 yards rushing, which ranked them 27th in the league. Their four rushing touchdowns were dead last. Bobby Rainey, Fozzy Whittaker and Edwin Baker were all given shots to run the ball after the trade. Baker had the most success with the Browns, averaging 57 yards a game and scoring a pair of touchdowns on the ground in his three games with Cleveland.
The Colts finished the season 11-5, and that first round pick will be after pick No. 20 depending on how the Colts finish in the playoffs.