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The Trent Richardson trade has worked out about as poorly as it possibly could have for the Indianapolis Colts.
Eight games after sending a 2014 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Richardson, the former third-overall pick is struggling badly.
He has the statistical profile of a below average running back — the type of player you can sign off the street. And the Colts gave up a first-round pick for him.
He's averaging 2.8 yards per carry and hasn't had a single run of more than 16 yards since the trade. Only 13 running backs in NFL history have averaged less than 3.0 yards per carry on at least 160 carries in a season.
To make matters worse, the Reggie Wayne injury has severely handicapped Indianapolis' offense — knocking them down to the middle tier of AFC playoff contenders, and hurting Andrew Luck's effectiveness.
The trade only made sense in the first place if Indy believed it was a player away from truly competing for a Super Bowl injury. The Wayne injury has turned them into a longshot.
NFL writers, commentators, and analysts are now in agreement that the trade has been a bust.
But as everyone slams them, here's how the Colts are defending the trade.
1. Richardson is just getting unlucky.
Coach Chuck Pagano voiced this sentiment after Thursday's win over Tennessee. He said that random occurrences have stopped Richardson from putting up the stats he should be.
"I don’t know if he’s snake bit, I don’t know what the heck is going on. We’ll get it fixed. We’ll get the holes there. He’s making the right reads, he’s doing all the right things, he knows what to do. He played great without the ball, protection-wise, those things. His numbers are going to come. I’m not concerned about that."
"You look at Trent’s runs, for whatever reason, there’s penetration, a guy is pulling and falls down. There’s a guy in the backfield waiting there. He had some really good runs, plays that he made in space, screens, things like that he does a great job with. That’s going to come."
That sounds vague, but we suppose Pagano's larger point is that we're looking at a small sample size here ... which is fair.
2. He is still young, and cheap.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport summed up the argument in favor of patience last week:
"He's young. They love the violent way that he runs. Plus, he's cheap. The Browns are picking up a ton of his tab. ... He's had several head coaches, he's had several offensive coordinators. The Colts really think that once he immerses himself in their offense, he's going to go off."
The idea that he's "cheap" doesn't really make sense. This trade was so bad because the Colts gave away an incredibly valuable first-round pick in a strong draft, not because Richardson makes a ton of money.
3. He needs an entire offseason in Indy before we can truly evaluate him.
Ex-Colt Edgerrin James told NFL.com's Mike Silver:
"Listen, this kid's going through a lot. His family is coming to town, he's adjusting to a new city and it's a new offense. Give him an offseason, you'll see him roll, you'll see the guy that everyone fell in love with out of Alabama."
There's a reason we rarely see big mid-season trades in the NFL. It's not like basketball or baseball, where a player can switch teams and his role stays exactly the same. Richardson had to learn a whole new system with new blocking schemes and new terminology. Eight games isn't enough time to be fully settled in.
That's what the Colts are saying (and hoping), at least.
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