Former Cleveland Browns President Mike Holmgren voiced his displeasure of the team’s recent trading of running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first-round draft pick. Making his regular appearance on Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle with host Dave “Softy” Mahler, Holmgren pulled no punches when providing his thoughts on the deal.
“When I was told about it, my daughter phoned me, I thought she was kidding around,” Holmgren said of the deal. “I didn’t believe it. I really didn’t. Then I went on my computer and saw it. I had a lot of emotions. Because I really liked the young man. I really think he’s an outstanding football player. He was something that we needed last year and he had a really fine first year, his rookie year, a really good year. Played through pain, injury. So I was startled by that.”
The Browns, under Holmgren and then former general manager Tom Heckert, traded up to the No. 3 spot in the 2012 draft to select Richardson out of Alabama. The consensus best running back in the draft, Richardson drew comparisons to Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson who was selected seventh overall back in 2007. Holmgren not only panned the trading of a first-round pick 15 games into his career, but immediately called out the Browns for quitting on the 2013 season two weeks in.
“I wanted to make sense of it,” said Holmgren. “I’m thinking, ‘What in the world?’ It appears after seeing the press conference that—they’re not coming right out and saying it—they’re kind of preparing for next year, preparing for next year’s draft. Because the coach said we want to be competitive. Who’s gonna be the running back? They don’t even know who’s gonna be the running back this week. How do you make the team better by trading your best player? He’s their best offensive player. He’s a valuable, valuable guy.”
Subsequent to Holmgren’s comments, the Browns named the recently acquired Willis McGahee as the starting running back for the team’s Week 3 contest against the Vikings. He will join third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer in the team’s new starting offense as Brandon Weeden (the Browns’ other first-round pick in 2012, N0. 22 overall) nurses an injured thumb on his throwing hand. Holmgren stated that had he have been in Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski’s position, he would have been forced to walk away.
“Philosophically, if I am the coach and someone came in and did that, said we’re going to do this, then I’d say, ‘OK fire me,’ or I’m gonna quit,” said Holmgren of the team tanking. “We’re both going in to the owner and talk about this and we’ll see who’s still standing.
“I don’t know the coach, but I know people who know him say he’s a great coach, good guy. It’s his first head coaching job. But, boy oh boy, there would be a conversation. I’d shake hands and walk. I would. Because if I disagreed with it vehemently, and I couldn’t buy in … that’s what I would do. You have to be true to yourself in this business.”
[Related: Joe Banner’s Browns have not earned the benefit of the doubt]