Peyton Hillis Continues To Impress as Josh McDaniels Looks More Foolish

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2010

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 03:  Running back Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns runs away from linebacker Keith Rivers #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 3, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

On March 15 of this year, the Broncos sent fullback Peyton Hillis, a 2011 sixth-round draft pick and a 2012 conditional draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn.  

Hillis has quickly returned to the promising form he showed in Denver prior to Josh McDaniels' arrival in the Mile High City. Quinn has yet to play a down in the regular season.

Hillis was not as impressive in the 23-20 victory against the Bengals as he was last week against the Ravens. Even still, he had 83 more rushing yards than his former team. Hillis bowled his way to 102 yards, while the entire Broncos team amassed a whopping 19 yards.

After Denver's Week 4 win, the Broncos are now averaging 55 yards rushing per game; Hillis is averaging 80.5 yards. The Broncos have three rushing touchdowns; Hillis has four.

The Broncos have managed to go 2-2 without any sort of effective running game, so just imagine how good they could be with Hillis.

During his rookie year with the Broncos, Hillis started just two games, and ran for 343 yards and five touchdowns. While all those numbers didn't come during the two starts, the bulk of them did. It looked like Denver had a young running back that would be effective for them for years to come.

Enter Josh McDaniels.

During the Broncos' first draft with McDaniels at the helm, the team drafted Knowshon Moreno in the first round. Right then, Hillis' career as a Bronco was doomed. A small part of me held out for a rushing attack that featured both Moreno and Hillis. That hope was dashed very early in the 2009 season.

McDaniels barely let Hillis sniff the field. In 14 games, Hillis carried the ball just 13 times. For some incomprehensible reason, the Broncos did nothing to take advantage of this young, multi-talented player.

After that season, I was actually a bit happy for Hillis when I heard the Broncos were shipping him out. I thought the Browns might give him the carries he deserved.  

For the Broncos, this trade made very little sense when it happened. Quinn had pretty much already proven that he was a bust after three terrible years in Cleveland; his career passer rating is 66.8.

With each week, McDaniels is looking more foolish for failing to utilize Hillis when he was in Denver. 

If the Browns are smart, they'll continue to use Hillis as the featured back after Jerome Harrison returns from his injury. If they're smart, they can even build around Hillis for the future.