With the change occurring in Cleveland under new owner Jimmy Haslam, it's not exactly a secret that Pat Shurmur is on the hot seat.
The Cleveland Browns might be short on talent, but despite their 1-6 record, have played hard in every game. This could be attributed to Shurmur, but you can't undermine your team's chances of success the way that he did when he benched rookie running back Trent Richardson on Sunday.
Richardson only had eight yards on eight carries in the first half, then didn't see the field in the second half. While there was some speculation that Richardson aggravated his rib injury from Week 6, Coach Shurmur himself was asked about how the injury might have affected Richardson, and answered (per Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer): "He just, in my opinion, the way the game was going wasn't quite effective and maybe the injury contributed."
Despite Shurmur's answer, ProFootballTalk.com's Josh Alper reported that there wasn't an aggravation of the injury, stating:
Coach Pat Shurmur was asked about Richardson’s absence. The good news for the Browns is that their first-round pick didn’t re-injure his ribs, make the injury worse or pick up any new injury. The bad news is that Shurmur just benched Richardson in favor of Montario Hardesty because the coach felt that Richardson was ineffective.
Eight carries in one half (with only two carries in the second quarter) isn't enough to determine the effectiveness of a running back, especially not one like Richardson, who tends to get going as the game goes on. Cleveland's running game as well was both rarely used and ineffective, as they only rushed the ball a total of 17 times for 55 yards.
This was partly due to Indianapolis' strategy to put eight or nine men in the box (which allowed Brandon Weeden to have a good day for himself), but that doesn't always make it a good decision. Indianapolis' run defense has been suspect all season long, and in their previous game gave up 252 yards in a loss to the New York Jets. While the Colts were able to stop them early, they likely would've had problems with Richardson the longer the game went on.
This coaching oversight by Shurmur will lead him on a fast track to the unemployment line. Richardson, even at less than 100 percent, is one of Cleveland's best weapons and must be utilized. The Browns might only have one win to show for it all season, but have played extremely hard, and at times looked good.
Was benching Trent Richardson the smart thing to do against Indianapolis?
Richardson is a huge part of that. Benching him for any reason other than a serious injury he couldn't possibly play through is a mistake. No one is expecting the Browns to make it to the playoffs with a current record of 1-6, but they will at least have to play hard and develop as a team in order for Shurmur to retain any notion of being the Browns' head coach in 2013.
Benching Richardson instead of playing him (thus helping him develop into an NFL back) was not a smart move, even if Richardson himself agrees with it (after not agreeing with it, per ESPN Cleveland's Will Burge):
Trent Richardson flip flopped back and forth between saying he could have played and saying it was the right choice to sit him down #Browns—Will Burge (@WillBurge) October 21, 2012