- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Cleveland Browns are officially on the clock. The Browns must deliver a franchise quarterback in the 2014 draft, or the next excruciatingly painful 14 weeks will be an utter waste.
The white flag was raised on the Browns' 2013 season Wednesday afternoon when they shocked the football world by trading running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft pick. I initially thought someone had hacked Adam Schefter's Twitter account when I read the news. Trading your top player for a draft pick after two games? This is strange even by the Browns' standards. The Browns received a pick that will likely end up in the bottom half of the first round and are left with no offense for the rest of the season. This is a bad trade, and the only way the Browns can save face is by finding the new face of the franchise.
Browns CEO Joe Banner, general manager Mike Lombardi and coach Rob Chudzinski are pushing all of their chips into the 2014 draft, which is 232 days away for those wondering when the Browns can become relevant again. The Browns have multiple picks in the first, third and fourth rounds, giving them the means to draft the quarterback of the future that they want.
“Right now, based on how we’re building this team for sustainable success, we’re going to be aggressive and do what it takes to assemble a team that consistently wins," Banner said in a statement.
Browns fans, who have enjoyed just two winning seasons since the team rejoined the league in 1999, don't want to hear about "building." They want some assurance that this team is headed in the right direction. Right now, hope and offensive talent are in short supply in Cleveland.
The day began with the Browns announcing Brian Hoyer will replace the injured Brandon Weeden at starting quarterback for Sunday's game at Minnesota. It ended with Cleveland announcing Willis McGahee is coming to town to replace Richardson, if McGahee passes his physical. McGahee for Richardson? Even the worst fantasy football owners are snickering about this.
Richardson hasn't lived up to the hype of being the No. 3 overall pick in 2012. His career average of 3.5 yards per carry is less than pedestrian. It's easy to say the Browns lost with Richardson and can lose without him. That's not seeing the big picture. If that's the case, the Browns should trade Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas, too.
All you have to do is watch Richardson to see his potential. He played most of his rookie season with broken ribs. He was running behind an offensive line this year that doesn't get any push off the ball. Richardson is a powerful and versatile runner who has the talent to be a top-five back in this league. The Colts will give him the opportunity and carries to prove that.
This is the latest move showing the Browns' new regime wants its own players. Of the 27 players drafted by former general manager Tom Heckert from 2010 to 2012, only 15 are currently on the 53-man roster, with Richardson being the latest to go. Now, the decision-makers can set their sights on getting their own quarterback.
My question is who's going to take the handoffs from the new quarterback? Young quarterbacks in this league had reliable runners. Matt Ryan had Michael Turner, and Joe Flacco has Ray Rice. Richardson would have been an integral part of the supporting cast for a rookie first-round pick.
I understand the need to get the quarterback position fixed. That has to be a priority for a franchise that is on its 19th starting quarterback since 1999. Weeden knows he has no future after hearing of the Richardson trade. Hoyer is merely a stop-gap.
The pressure is on the new regime to get the right franchise quarterback in 2014. If not, it could be the one getting sacked in a few years.