Front office personnel and coaches are paid very well to make decisions about players, but even that couldn’t have made the Browns’ controversial choices in the last couple of weeks any easier.
First, head coach Rob Chudzinski decided that third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer gave his team a better shot to defeat the Minnesota Vikings than second-string quarterback Jason Campbell. In a world where athletes live and die by the depth chart, this was seen by many observers as a huge mistake.
Then the team decided Trent Richardson, who had played just 17 games with the Browns, was an expendable commodity and traded him to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2013 first-round draft pick. The organization has spent countless hours removing the face of their franchise from signage, emails and its website.
These moves, which were made within 12 hours of each other, were met with almost unanimous criticism and skepticism. The popular thought was that the Browns were tanking for a better draft pick next season.
Not only has the team not tanked, but it has prospered. Since the controversial moves, they are undefeated and playing good football.
Hoyer has dazzled, going 55-for-92 for 590 yards, throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions. More importantly, he has led two separate fourth-quarter touchdown drives to seal victories.
Meanwhile, Trent Richardson has done exactly what he did for the Browns. Through two games, Richardson has averaged less than three yards per carry and has found the end zone in each contest.
It will be years before we know which team won that trade, but for now the Browns are better off. The offense has been much more efficient, having scored 48 points in two weeks. While Richardson probably wasn’t holding the Browns offense back, his departure did spur a change.
The roster has rallied behind its new starting quarterback and the team is playing to prove that it doesn’t need Richardson to win football games. The Browns have a new attitude—the swagger and look of a legitimate football team for the first time in almost six years.
One inarguable fact is that the team is winning, and these changes seem to have birthed that result. The coaching staff and front office should be praised for having the intestinal fortitude to make changes midseason. The changes were not popular at the moment they were made but now are gaining support from the fanbase.
Winning truly does cure everything.
Past regimes would have sat on their hands and used an 0-2 start to turn the season into one long evaluation period. They would have let the team lose, decided who was worth keeping for the future and then made the changes next offseason.
That isn’t how Joe Banner operates. That isn’t the new Browns.
This organization has figured out a way to improve now while still acquiring assets for the future. In the NFL that doesn’t happen often, but it seems to finally be happening in Cleveland.