By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
Three days after the controversial trade of Trent Richardson and one day before the Browns defeated the Vikings, 31-27, I had an exclusive interview with CEO Joe Banner.
What I learned was the trade was initiated by Banner primarily because he did not see Richardson as the style of running back that fit into the team’s pass-first emphasis and he felt Richardson could bring some value in return. He emphasized that he had nothing negative to say about Richardson’s work ethic or character.
Banner claimed he would be surprised if more trades occurred before the league deadline of Oct. 29, but would not count anything out.
Portions of the interview were edited as extraneous.
When you decide to trade a high-profile player like this, at which point does the owner get involved?
Banner: Jimmy (Haslam) was there on Wednesday. I made him aware on Tuesday that we were having conversations, and he was there on Wednesday, so we just tried to keep him posted. He really relies on us to evaluate those things, negotiate things and make decisions.
Did he have to be sold on it?
No, not at all. I say that from the perspective not that he was anything other than asking questions to make sure we were being thorough, asking questions to contribute to the thoughtfulness of the dialogue. He wasn’t advocating a position. He really trusts us to look at that and make the assessment.
Who contributed to the discussion?
Chud (coach Rob Chudzinski) was right there. We were talking constantly. Mike (Lombardi, GM) was on the road so I was keeping him informed. Ray (Farmer, assistant GM) was on the road so I was keeping him informed. I knew what they thought. But Chud and I were the two that were right there dealing with the fluid situation, deciding whether to do it, deciding what was good enough to do it for and what wasn’t good enough to do it for.
Was there any dissenting view?
No. We felt that this was the right thing to do. That comes out of kind of a philosophy and an attitude that we have about how to build a team and what’s important. Once you have that, these type of decisions you’ll agree on most of the time, not all the time. But that really helps. When you get into a decision that’s just purely evaluation, you can be all over the place with different opinions. When you’re doing something that’s reflective of the philosophy you have about how to build a team and what the priorities are, you kind of go into it with an understanding of where everyone’s in at that, so you’re likely to be in agreement most of the time.
Did you feel you need a different style in that position?
I think it’s going to depend as we look at the whole group of offensive weapons, but that could be the case. The other part of the question: Are you looking for one dominant back or multiple contributing backs? I think that depends on availability. You can go either way.
Richardson is a power, downhill runner. So you don’t want that?
I would say you would overemphasize that vs. the real reasons, which were other things which we think are more crucial to building a successful, long-term team. I mean, that’s really what drove it. It was not anything negative about him. He could work in this system, but he’s not the only type of back that could work in this system. So it was really about the value we got relative to the things we think we need to accomplish going forward to be a really good team.
Why do you think you couldn’t get more value after the season?
Your question implies we didn’t think we got good value and I think we did.
He was the third pick in the 2012 draft and you received much less in the 2014 draft.
You don’t get value based on when you were picked, anymore. You get value based on what you’re doing and what people project you to do. Where he got picked, the Colts could care less. All that matters to them is how good he was going to be. He could be picked in the seventh round and if he were playing spectacularly right now … if he was (Arian) Foster, who went undrafted, you could get a helluva lot in a trade when he was in his second or third year. The only thing that mattered about Trent is how good he was and how good they thought he was going to be.
Did the first two games, particularly the first game, confirm to you what you thought about your talent on offense?
I think we thought we had a lot to learn about where we were at offensively and that we felt we had a good defense with a chance for it to become really good. If that’s what you mean, I think that’s probably true. I think it’s premature to determine exactly kind of the open questions. Some of the guys are starting to lean towards an answer, how the younger guys are developing and how they’re fitting into the scheme we’re running. If you mean, in terms of the offense being a work in progress and the defense was something that had made a lot of progress, I think that would be true to say
Did the first two games convince you that you had to collect more assets?
I don’t want to get that specific. I’m afraid how the players could interpret my answer.
Scott Fujita wrote that Richardson was a high-maintenance player who was late for meetings and rehab sessions and was disconnected from teammates. True?
I’m happy to say my and our experiences with Trent, really this year, were very positive. He was a good guy, he worked hard. We felt he did everything he could to make himself the best player. He wanted to be out there and play when we were managing him through training camp. I experienced nothing but positive things with Trent and watching the way he operated. I don’t know what happened last year. I was here part of the year and I wasn’t on the inside. If somebody were late for a meeting last year, I don’t know if I would be aware of it or not.
He seemed to become more outspoken. Was that a problem?
Not at all. The only thing I was aware of was him wanting to have more opportunities. That’s never a bad thing to believe in yourself enough to want a bigger role. I just want to be clear, there was nothing and there is nothing negative about Trent. This was totally an assessment of where we want to go and what we’re going to need and how we can best get there. Time will tell if we’re right, by the way. We made the decision this will help us better than not doing it.
Do you believe on occasion there is benefit to shaking up the locker room?
No, I generally believe it’s better for the locker room to feel we’re predictable. That doesn’t mean you don’t make bold moves. But you can be predictably aggressive without having people feel unsettled by feeling no sense of security.
Do you think the trade has created that?
No, I don’t.
When discussing a trade like this, how much does public reaction come into play?
We just had a discussion that we knew that some people would interpret this as if it’s throwing in the towel on the season. We don’t want people to think that and we don’t believe that to be true, but we understand why people do. We’re gonna do some things that are very unpopular and some that are popular. But we have to do what we think makes the most sense. You can’t do things for any other reason because you increase your risk for making mistakes.
There’s a growing sense that there are more trades to come. Can you accomplish anything else before the deadline?
There’s nothing planned and I’d be surprised if it happens. But I’ve learned the lesson of not making any absolute statements if you don’t know what’s going to come your way. But we don’t plan on doing that.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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