The 2013 season brought many achievements for Colts fans to be excited about. Some of the highlights included:
- 2nd consecutive 11-5 record
- A playoff victory
- Andrew Luck’s maturity (fewer interceptions & higher completion percentage)
- Wins against elite competition (Seattle, Denver & San Francisco)
- TY Hilton transforming into a legitimate play-maker
- A blockbuster trade for the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 draft
I’m sure that is how most fans felt about the acquisition of T-Rich, and it was hard to argue against the move after the injury to Ballard. Richardson did not play well. Period. But, that doesn’t mean we should listen to all seven Browns fans that were snickering about how they pulled one over on the Colts. Mid-season trades rarely produce immediate results, and in our case (as Colts fans), that is what we are experiencing. In this day and age of the demand of instant gratification we are too quick to assign judgments for the long-term. Either a guy stinks or he’s the next big thing – there is no gray area.
Let‘s look at some the factors that may have contributed to the season’s shortcomings:
- Trent Richardson. Yes, some of his biggest issues were directly a result of his poor play, but he never made excuses; instead he appeared lost and seemed to “over think” things. Whether it was making the wrong cut, missing a block or failing to turn a potential big play into a minimal gain, Richardson was an overall failure. He has made it known that it was difficult to get the timing down with the line. That excuse will not fly this season.
- The Offensive Line. The name was quite fitting as it was “offensive” to watch. Thankfully, Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn are elsewhere in the league as they were dreadful at best. Hugh Thornton hopefully will show improvement after having to unexpectedly fill in for the injured Donald Thomas last season. The team stubbornly tried to fight through the rough patches with the same line-up despite having better results after injuries caused shuffling.
- Coaching. Let’s face it – Pagano & Co. stuck with the “Power Running Scheme” way too long. Injuries caused an already insufficient group to be an even worse fit for the scheme. The coaching staffed lacked innovation and were too predictable which allowed the opposing defenses to stuff the box – and in turn – stuffed the Colts behind the line of scrimmage.
- Better Options. Donald Brown, a descendant of the Polian Regime, was somewhat of an enigma within the organization. He showed flashes of brilliance but will be remembered for the infamous “Dammit Donald” voiced by one Mr. Peyton Manning. It became his lasting legacy. Under the Pagano Administration, Brown remained humble and hard-working and finally seemed to “get it”. Despite starting the season third on the depth chart, he proved himself as the best RB for the team as it was currently constructed.
So, besides his undistinguished play last year, many of the other factors help shape the notion that the Richardson trade was not salvageable, but is this true?
Let’s look at a player that experts have compared to T-Rich – Marshawn Lynch. Lynch was effective in Buffalo but his checkered past and a management change forced the Bills to trade him to Seattle in 2010 after 4 games.
Lynch’s 2010 Stats:
- 4 Games
- 37 Rushes
- 164 yards
- 4.4 yards/carry
- 0 TDs
- 12 Games
- 165 Attempts
- 573 yards
- 3.5 yards/carry
- 6 TDs
Trent Richardson (2013)
- 2 Games
- 31 Attempts
- 105 yards
- 3.4 yard/carry
- 0 TDs
- 14 Games
- 157 Attempts
- 458 yards
- 2.9 yards/carry
- 3 TDs
Richardson Totals: 16 Games – 188 Rushes – 563 yards – 3.15 yards/carry – 3 TDs
Lynch Totals: 16 Games – 202 Rushes – 737 yards – 3.95 yards/carry – 6 TDs
Although Lynch’s numbers are slightly better than Richardson’s, they are fairly comparable. It is also worth noting that Richardson’s role was diminished midway through the season which resulted in fewer opportunities. Let’s look next and Lynch’s 2011 stats, the next year following the trade.
Lynch’s 2011 Totals: 15 Games – 285 Rushes – 1204 yards – 4.2 yards/carry – 12 TDs
Based on Lynch’s improvement we can predict (and hope) that Richardson’s stats could be the following:
Richardson’s Totals: 16 Games – 288 Attempts – 1063 yards – 3.7 yards/carry – 6 TDs
I want to be clear – these are rough estimates and obviously could be more or less depending upon performance in the season. Realistically, T-Rich should have similar attempts with maybe less yards, a lower average, but double the touchdowns he had from 2013. Ideally, we would like to see the actual numbers end up higher but these figures provide a solid framework to help estimate what we should expect in a season where he comes in as the unopposed starting running back and more familiar with the Colts system.
Lynch gained the nickname “Beast Mode” for a reason – he became a workhorse in Seattle and was a pivotal figure in their rise to dominance in the NFC. Three years ago the NFC West was a laughing stock with the division winner posting a losing record – now both the Seahawks and the NFC West are considered the most dominant in the NFL. The Colts are following a parallel model as the Seahawks by roster turnover and building the foundation based on the trenches and a dominant defense.
QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has spent time with both organizations, had this to say regarding Lynch:
“His numbers were great, and we were the 31st rushing team in the NFL,” Hasselbeck said. “We struggled to win the division, won a playoff game, but running the ball just wasn’t working. It wasn’t that Marshawn wasn’t a good runner. It wasn’t that the linemen weren’t good linemen. It’s important to gel and practice and come together — you can’t overlook that stuff.” (Courtesy of Shutdown Corner, Eric Edholm)
It seems quite probable that many have written off T-Rich way too soon the way some had written the Lynch deal off. The Lynch deal led to a championship – there’s no concrete evidence to support the Richardson deal will end in anything different.
“I can handle the load here, and I can handle whatever adversity there is along the way,” Richardson told Eric Edholm, Shutdown Corner (YAHOO!). “I always thought of myself as a workhorse, and a workhorse is going to hit a few bumps on the road. But that’s what I plan to do, roll right through them.”
Time will tell what the future holds for him and how the trade will be viewed. The season is inching closer and closer – and it will be time for him to justify whether he was rightly criticized or if his critics rushed to judgment. This is a situation that will demonstrate the power of social media – he rushes for a TD on the opening drive of the season and he will be a savior. If he fumbles his first carry the fan base will demand he be traded.
Make no mistake – if Richardson struggles look for the team to rely on Bradshaw to carry the load. T-Rich has two options – either come out swinging and become “Beast Mode – Part II,” or ride off into the sunset with all of his critics saying “I told you so.”