The NFL really doesn’t seem to care a lot about the lives of fantasy football “owners.” How else can you explain the multiple teams that seem to run the ball almost exclusively without exclusivity? Running by committee is a clichéd statement around the NFL, but the committee has pretty much completely avoided Cleveland since 1999. Even when it seemed like the Browns had accidentally found their way into two running backs with breakout performances by Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis, it seemed that the Browns could never find a way to mix and match the opportunities for both backs. Yesterday with Montario Hardesty and Trent Richardson, it seemed like the beginnings of something that might just take hold if the Browns’ coaching staff trusts in it.
I made a Twitter joke after Montario Hardesty sat with one carry for 19 yards for an extended period of time. Hardesty came in on the first drive of the game for the Browns and followed up Trent Richardson’s nine yard gain with a much speedier 19 yard run around the left side. The joke, of course, was what the Vegas odds were that Montario Hardesty would complete the game with one carry for 19 yards. My joke was almost completely based in truth. After Hardesty’s 19-yard run in the first quarter, he didn’t receive another carry until giving Trent Richardson a break in the fourth quarter. What a break it was.
Hardesty ran on first down from the Browns’ 22 for 4 yards. He followed that up with a 13-yard run, and then a 3-yard run. Yes, Weeden was sacked for an 11-yard loss on 2nd down and the Browns failed to convert on 3rd and 18, but Hardesty is the point here. All said and done, Hardesty gave the Raiders a different look and the contrast was successful. In the end, Hardesty finished with five carries for 39 yards and a 7.8 yard-per-carry average. Even more than the numbers, the contrast looked obvious on TV like when Pedro Martinez could dial up mid-90’s fastballs before hitting you with the 78 MPH changeup. Well, maybe not that good, but you get my point.
Trent Richardson is still far and away your number one running back. He had a workmanlike day with 20 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 23 yards. His 3.6 yard-per-carry average isn’t gaudy and neither is his 9-yard long. And if we’re being quite honest, eight of those yards came when Shawn Lauvau practically willed Richardson eight yards with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
But Richardson is still a guy that teams have to worry about and account for at all times. Even when they’re successful doing so, this is where the committee comes in. If the Browns can turn to Montario Hardesty, a speedier option, it gives the Browns a contrast in their attack that will only serve to make everyone more effective.
They say when you have a quarterback controversy between two quarterbacks, it really means you don’t have any good quarterbacks. As a follower of the Browns, I couldn’t possibly agree with that more. That isn’t the case with running backs though. When it comes to running backs more is better provided the coaching staff believes in it and can effectively dole out the workload. With Sunday’s successes, here’s hoping Shurmur will continue to pepper Hardesty in. Done well, it could make the Browns entire offense – including Trent Richardson – more effective.
And to think, some fans wanted to see Hardesty cut at various points since he was drafted…