Is this the beginning of a Browns running committee?

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…

  • Jeremy

    Funny thing is Heckert was/is getting alot of flack for the pick of Hardesty. Not just the fact he moved up to get him, but the fact that we drafted him at all.

  • BenRM

    I fully admit to being one of those who thought that Hardesty was going to (and probably should have been) cut this season.

    But it looks as if he is finally healthy and running like it. His vision also looks better than Richardson’s at this point (which is to be expected). He has probably earned 1 or 2 more series a game (until he fumbles again).

  • Harv 21

    I think every team has a substitute RB who gives the starter a blow. That doesn’t make it a “committee.”

    What’s happening here is that Montario is getting his confidence back and the coaching staff is starting to trust that he won’t start coughing it up as he was doing earlier.

    Must say that it’s nice to see so many young players – Montario, Little, Gordon, Schwartz, Winn – improving at the same time. Wasn’t long ago that we were witnessing the group implosion of Braylon, Derek Anderson, Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald.

  • woofersus

    I don’t think Richardson is that much slower than Hardesty, but Richardson is always working exceptionally hard for every yard. It seems like he never has any space. Of course some of that is on the runner, and he does seem to bash into one of his own offensive linemen 2-3 times per game, (film room request – why does that keep happening?) but it also seems like the opposing linebackers are rarely unsure when the run is coming and when the box and/or LOS get loaded up Weeden doesn’t have either the ability or the freedom to change what’s happening. I’m curious why Hardesty doesn’t seem to have the same thing happen to him. Are the play designs that different? I’ve always wondered why they never pitch it out to Richardson and let him break a tackle in space.

    I’m not discounting the value of a change-of-pace and moment of rest for your primary RB. AND I’ve always been a bit of a Hardesty fan, so I’m glad to see him doing well. I just can’t shake the feeling that Richardson isn’t always being put in the best position to succeed.

  • gren

    What about Ogbannaya also filling in the 3rd down duties? We are now using all 3 running backs in every game, that makes it a committee.

  • Probably not a true committee with an equal load, but would you be upset if Hardesty had, say, three series and at least five carries and possibly 10-12 per game?

  • Natedawg86

    Very happy with that, and it would more than likely extend the careers of each at the same time

  • Harv 21

    wouldn’t be upset in the slightest, nor confused about who the RB is. What they’ve done lately reminds me of what Pitts would do with Bettis: he was the hammer who defenses would plan for and key on and often stop early in the game. Then Pitts would periodically bring in quicker change of pace guys but by the end of the game Bettis would be back and breaking tackles because the defenses were tired of tackling that load. He’d get stronger as the game went on, as Richardson seems to.

    This also may not be so much of a committee plan as a plan to rest his bruised ribs. He may be needing more breaks as breathing may be painful as he gets a little winded.

  • Dee P

    I agree with your overall point….but….I’m confused when you asked why the Browns never pitch it out to Richardson and let him break a tackle in space.

    1. The toss play to Richardson has been one of the Browns staple offensive plays this season. They run at least three times a game.

    2. Since 1999 we have never thrown flat passes to a running back more than we currently do with Richardson.

    Both of these situations satisfy the want on pitching the ball out to Richardson and letting him break a tackle in space, no?

  • Dee P

    Find it interesting with the Browns.

    In a time where RB committees are “the thing” – (the present day) we haven’t went that way.

    In a time where RB committees weren’t “the thing” – (late 80’s early 90’s with Byner-Mack and Metcalf-Vardell/Hoard) we were doing it.

  • LMK

    i hope the browns start using both backs. it falls into shurmur’s amateur play calling that most of the time when hardesty is in, it’ll be a pass play. if they actually start mixing his touches with richardson’s 1) the D won’t be able to read the plays as well and 2) richardson will get some much-needed short breaks; we’ve seen in the earlier games that there’s a fine balance to using him too much. I think last year’s texans w/ foster and tate was a great example of how well using two backs can go and I think the browns have great potential to do so as well.

  • mgbode

    as long as Hardesty is running like he has been the past few weeks, then he deserves some touches. it only benefits the team.

  • Kildawg

    Only way I’d be upset is if he becomes ‘Stone Hands’ again and cannot hang on to the football. (Hardesty is not that good as a pass-catching RB.) Again, this pick is looking better for Heckert: solidifying his job rather than potentially costing him said job.

  • Kildawg

    Ours hang on to the football while Pittsburgh has guys that, well, do not (read: Mendenhall and Week 12).

  • saggy

    listen: hardesty looks GREAT. no other way to say it. he has been legit.

    but, for me, 20 carries is too FEW for a guy you drafted with the third overall pick. I am thinking he must be still feeling the ribs. or maybe shurmur and childress are just in over their heads.

    or both.

  • mgbode

    it’s up to the GM to decide who to pick with each selection.
    it’s up to the coaches to divvy out the carries.

    yes, they should work together to some degree on the selections, but I truly hope that the coaches don’t care about when people were drafted or how much money they make when deciding who to play or how many carries to give out.

    also, 20carries/game * 16games = 320 carries

  • saggy

    It would be great, IMO. But let me ask this: Am i remembering correctly?…..Hardesty was running the ball in the 4th quarter, but then they would bring in Richardson to block on third downs. If we are going to give our RB a rest, i would prefer that he sit the entire series instead of coming back in just to block. I understand about his ability in pick-ups, but surely someone else must also possess the ability to block from the RB position?

  • porckchopexpress

    I would like to see a team where Hardesty gets about 15 a game and Richardson gets about 25. The problem is that I don’t think Shurmur can comprehend a football world in which 35 passes aren’t thrown.

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    Couldnt have said this better myself. He does remind me of Bettis. My buddy said the same thing during the game. And Hardesty is a nice change of pace. I think they have a nice mix of run vs pass. Our offense is starting to look legit.

  • Gren

    Until this year, it was well deserved. I still remember the first time he got the ball (pre-season?) and he fumbled it. I was convinced he was done for after that but, he’s put it together. This is something I’ll gladly stick my foot in my mouth for.

  • Henry Brown

    NFL coaches probably don’t care about fantasy players, but the league, networks and Rodger Godell seem obsessed with creating stars. In any case, Hardesty looks really fast, like the second round pick we thought we were getting.

  • Henry Brown

    Not sure what the problem is with that? I would like to see a nice balance which means we still need to throw more than we run in today’s NFL.

  • Dude McDude

    It should also depend on the opposing defense in regards to the offensive game plan as well…

  • woofersus

    I didn’t mean passing to him in the flats, which I agree we’ve used relatively often and with much success. I meant an old school pitchout behind the LOS. It gets him to the edge a second or two sooner, and he can still cut it back inside the tackle depending on what the LB’s do. You can pull a guard and use a TE as a lead blocker.

  • jaws

    Hardesty has talent, belongs in the game. Injuries are the only thing that have kept him out and now the browns (almost foolishly) drafted a RB so high they have to ride him. Too bad T-rich really hasn’t been very efficient this year. You can chalk it up to him being the whole offense and while I don’t disagree; Adrian Peterson is the whole offense up in Minnesota right now, and his numbers make T-rich look like T-poor.

  • Dee P

    I tried to point that out in my first point. The toss play, has been a staple of our running game. We run it at least three times a game. The exact one you are talking about.