Before Trent Richardson arrived in Indy, the advance billing from Browns writers basically suggested he was a decent back but was known to "milk" injuries a bit, the way established veterans are known to do when looking to get out of offseason workouts, training camp, practice. Richardson has said he played hurt at times as a rookie, and the offseason leading up to his second season while still with Cleveland he missed offseason stuff due to injuries.
The Colts acquired him for a 2014 first-round choice (which became Johnny Manziel), and Indy media understood it. Some criticized the deal, but many of us saw the team address an obvious need. The Colts were excited to get him. They gushed at the time.
In the beginning, the company line was that Richardson had difficulty adjusting to the playbook. He said he still didn't know what he was supposed to do when on the field, and often had to ask Andrew Luck while on the field. But by December of 2013, Donald Brown (another former first-round pick who didn't live up to his lofty selection) had actually earned the starting job. While Brown couldn't block a lick, he started the last seven games and averaged 5.3 yards per carry in his last season with the Colts (before bolting for San Diego) while Richardson averaged 3.0 yards per carry for the season (two games with Browns), eight of 10 starts for the Colts.
In training camp last August, the company line repeated that Richardson struggled to play catch-up the previous year, but now he was up on the playbook and his second season would prove his worth. He struggled again, averaging 3.3 yards per carry in 12 starts. In his return to Cleveland, in which many expected him to be motivated against his former team, he didn't deliver and in fact failed to pick up a blitzing safety on one play when Luck got drilled. Media scrutiny intensified, which included a stubborn Colts head coach Chuck Pagano fending off critics about why he was still playing Richardson with the repeated comment, "Because he's our starting running back."
By season's end, he wasn't anymore ... again.
In the locker room, Richardson said he was well aware of his critics and he had heard the boos. He suggested the fans can be fickle, that they "love me when I score." But, alas, that wasn't the case. Many in the media including myself stopped talking to him because he clearly didn't have a realistic view of what was going on.
Ahmad Bradshaw was the Colts' best back in 2014, averaging 4.7 yards per carry before suffering a season-ending injury in the 10th game. That gave Dan "Boom" Herron the chance to play and he, too, outperformed Richardson with a 4.5 yards per carry average. Herron started the last five games including three in the playoffs. Some have suggested an O-line with 11 different starting combinations contributed to Richardson never showing what he could do. But it didn't explain what many of us witnessed, a lack of vision to see the holes and a lack of burst to hit the holes quickly, not nearly as fast as Bradshaw and Herron in 2014 and Brown in 2013. The yards per carry averages suggest it wasn't an O-line issue.
Richardson was inactive for the last two playoff games, the latter the AFC Championship Game when we were informed afterward that he had been suspended for two games. After he had been inactive for the AFC Divisional playoff win the previous week at Denver, he told reporters the following week that it would not happen again. But then he missed the Saturday walk-through before the AFC title game, for which he explained he was taking his pregnant wife to the hospital and his cell phone had died, according to ESPN's Mike Wells. When Richardson finally called Pagano to explain and offer to take a different flight to New England, the coach said it was unnecessary because they weren't going to use him anyway, again reported by Wells.
Much has been made of his release because, in addition to him struggling, the Colts have cited language in Richardson's contract that stipulated his suspension got the team off the hook for paying him $3.18 million owed for 2015. That's money that won't count against the salary cap. Richardson filed a grievance the day after he was waived, claiming that disputes over his weight (he was 230 and the team reportedly wanted him at 227) were because the team didn't communicate its weight expectation. He told Wells and The Indy Star that his problems in Indy were because he and GM Ryan Grigson didn't see "eye to eye." That was a surprising assertion considering the Colts' stubbornness to stand by him for as long as they did, seemingly not willing to admit the trade was a mistake. He said he had enough evidence to prove the Colts suspended him to get out of paying him. The grievance is pending. What isn't in dispute is he missed the walk-through, and was unhappy about being inactive the previous week in the second round of the playoffs and voiced his displeasure about the team not using him. He was active for the Bengals wild-card playoff game but did not have a carry.
Now he says it was a scheme problem. It sure seems from my perspective that Richardson has been all about excuses for a long time. I'm stunned the Raiders gave him a two-year, $3.9 million contract. That's a lot of faith and money in a guy who will be paid more than Bradshaw was in his two years with the team. We expected Richardson to get another chance to prove himself. I guess we'll see if he can show more than he did with the Colts. Most in this media and fan market are skeptical, to say the least.