By Jim Souhan
The Browns were right to trade Trent Richardson.
The Vikings should know why.
I covered both sides of the Herschel Walker deal – from Dallas when the deal went down in 1989, and in Minnesota as Walker struggled to play well enough to justify the Vikings’ enormous outlay of players and draft picks.
The Richardson deal isn’t as lopsided, because perhaps no trade in the history of sports will ever turn out as lopsided as The Herschel Trade. The Indianapolis Colts gave the Browns a 2014 first-round draft pick for Richardson, the xth pick in the 2012 draft.
Here’s how much the NFL has changed: In 1989, initial reaction to the Walker trade around the league was that that Cowboys rookie coach Jimmy Johnson had gotten fleeced by wily Vikings general manager Mike Lynn. Today, many around the league are questioning why the Colts would give up even a first-round pick for a talented running back.
In 1989, the thinking was that the team that landed the best player, and Walker was still esteemed at the time, had won the deal. That sentiment faded when the Walker struggled to fit into the Vikings’ short-passing offense, and was erased when the full details of the deal emerged, and it became clear that the Cowboys were going to receive a handful of NFL-ready players as well as a slew of draft choices.
Today, running backs are devalued. Everybody wants a good one; few teams other than the Vikings intentionally build around a great one.
The Colts were able to trade a first-round pick for a running back and ignore their other needs because they have a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. The Browns were right to amass draft picks so they can maneuver for their franchise quarterback.
Richardson was a mediocre player for the Browns. With the Colts, he may be pretty good.
Both teams did well in this deal. The Browns did better.
The Colts gave themselves a chance to reach the playoffs with a flawed team. The Browns gave themselves a chance to finally find a franchise quarterback.
Yes, history says they'll probably screw it up. But they have to try.