Browns, Hillis capitalize on terrible Broncos trade
Maybe the hooded sweatshirt was hanging over Josh McDaniels’ eyes the entire 2009 season. Or maybe he never took the time to watch all of the Denver Broncos’ game film from 2008. Or maybe Mike Holmgren and the Cleveland Browns’ new front office is a whole lot smarter than we realized.
Or maybe there’s no reasonable explanation for how Peyton Hillis(notes) ended up where he is – sparking the suddenly feisty Browns, and leaving Broncos fans writhing in agony over the worst trade of last offseason.
Where is Brady Quinn(notes) these days? You’ll find him scraping barnacles off the bottom of the depth chart, languishing behind Tim Tebow(notes). Yes, that’s the guy whom McDaniels traded Hillis for – he of the career 66.8 quarterback rating and 52 percent completion rate. And it wasn’t even a straight up player-for-player deal. Denver kicked in a sixth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2012 to sweeten the pot. Nothing like a couple of bamboo shoots under the fingernails on draft day to remind fans of a team’s brain-searing roster machinations.
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[Photos: See more of unlikely star Peyton Hillis in action]
http://l.yimg.com/a/p/sp/tools/med/2...1289181489.jpg The Browns’ Peyton Hillis rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Patriots.
(Tony Dejak/AP Photo)
Of course, you could give Hoodie Jr. a pass and say that there was no way McDaniels could have known Hillis would be a player who almost singlehandedly destroyed Hoodie Sr. (Bill Belichick) and the Patriots, en route to 220 yards from scrimmage (including 184 yards rushing) and two touchdowns – a guy who through eight games is on pace to rush for 1,288 yards and score 16 total touchdowns.
You could say McDaniels couldn’t have known, and you’d be right. He couldn’t, because McDaniels never took the time to try and know what Hillis was capable of accomplishing. Despite Hillis’ five yards per carry average and five TDs in a meager 68 rushing attempts in 2008, he didn’t get a sniff when McDaniels took over. Instead, the new regime, in its infinite wisdom, went out of its way to try almost anyone at running back other than Hillis. They drafted Knowshon Moreno(notes), signed J.J. Arrington(notes) (then cut him and signed him again), and scooped up injury-addled veterans Correll Buckhalter(notes) and LaMont Jordan(notes). And into the abyss Hillis went, never to be heard from again in 2009, save for 13 meaningless carries in 14 games.
The truth is, McDaniels never believed in Hillis, and the running back said as much when he joined Cleveland this offseason. Maybe only Hillis believed in himself, since nobody in the media (including me) was shooting a thumbs-up in Cleveland’s direction at the time of the deal. Just like nobody talked about Hillis when they lauded the sick talent in the University of Arkansas’ backfield in 2007, yammering non-stop about Darren McFadden(notes) and Felix Jones(notes), and almost never saying a word about Hillis.
Hindsight is cruel in the NFL, and Hillis’ success is downright merciless for a Broncos team that can’t run the football (last in the NFL heading into this weekend) and has watched Moreno struggle to stay on the field.
So Hillis delivers the two-pronged entry this week, making Denver’s shortsightedness a loser, and Cleveland’s sheer luck a winner. I have a feeling both cities will be talking about this trade for years to come.
On to this week’s other winners and losers …