If you watch a game at Lucas Oil Stadium these days, after every running play you'll likely hear the crowd yell some variation of "Booooo." For one running back, the cheer is a positive, celebrating the player nicknamed "Boom" Herron with the "Booooom" cheer. For the other running back, however, the chorus is a collection of "Booooo"'s raining down to express the displeasure in Trent Richardson. The fans have had enough. They've turned to booing despite watching one of the league's best offenses. And they're perfectly justified in doing so.
They've seen enough. We all have. And it's time for the Colts to feel the same.
No longer can they just continue to trot Trent Richardson out there. He might as well be nicknamed the "drive-killer," because the Colts don't do much on many of the drives with him in there. The Colts punted four times in the game today. On every single one of those drives, Trent Richardson touched the football (Boom Herron only did on one of the drives). Is it all on him? Of course not. But when the Colts run it on first and second down and gain one yard combined, odds are that drive will end in a punt. And it did.
More than being a drive killer, however, Richardson is just flat out not producing. 8 carries for 12 yards will not get it done. No way. Over the past three weeks, Richardson has gained 54 yards combined on 27 carries - averaging just 2 yards per carry. He has played in 27 games with the Colts, including playoffs. He has more games below 40 yards rushing (16) than games above 40 yards rushing (11). That's not good - especially for a guy who was the third overall pick in the 2012 draft and who the Colts traded a first round pick for.
A common excuse for Trent Richardson defenders is that it's more the offensive line's fault than Richardson's. And while I'm not about to say the line has been good or that it hasn't been an issue, it's not the main reason why Trent Richardson has been struggling. Over the past two years, Colts running backs not named Trent Richardson have put together 17 games with 40+ yards rushing (compared to Richardson's 11). Furthermore, while Richardson has averaged 3.1 yards per carry in Indianapolis, everyone else has done much, much better behind the same line in the past two years. Donald Brown averaged 5.3 yards per carry, Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 4.7, Boom Herron has averaged 5.4, and Vick Ballard averaged 4.8. The offensive line? Yeah, not great, but good enough for a first round draft pick to be able to produce like the others.
Before I sat down to write this, I watched the Green Bay Packers take on the New England Patriots. And the Patriots have this ability to take "no-name" running backs and make them successful. They don't need first round draft picks at the position. And I saw them run LeGarrette Blount successfully, just like they've done often. Just over a week ago, Blount was waived. He went unclaimed, and that means the Colts didn't so much as put in a waiver claim for the talented running back. And instead we're left wondering why in the heck the team continues to trot Richardson out there.
Is it because Ryan Grigson is too stubborn to admit his mistake? I honestly don't know, but I find it hard to believe that it's because the Colts think Richardson is actually running well. The best teams are those willing to admit their mistakes. Sure, it makes them look bad initially, but it allows them to move on more quickly in an effort to improve the team. The stupid teams are the ones that stick with a player who they know it was a mistake to acquire, hoping that instead the player will justify the move while at the same time knowing it won't happen. The trade hurt the Colts. Handing the ball off to Trent Richardson each week hurts them even more. And yet for some reason, the Colts haven't changed much. They still started Richardson today and gave him just as many carries as Herron - though he gained 76 less yards than Boom.
I don't think we really saw anything we didn't know on Sunday. I don't think there were many left who actually thought that Trent Richardson was a good option. I kept saying that the final six games of the regular season would be a tryout for Richardson to see what value he could bring to the Colts. Is it possible that only two games into that "tryout" we've already seen it? Look, the Colts aren't cutting Richardson right now. But the least they can do is begin to make some changes. Primarily, quit factoring in the running back so prominently. Make him a third down back of sorts. Two weeks ago, he was successful in converting several third down tries, and he actually has impressed as a pass protector and receiver this season. Utilize him there, but don't kill drives by handing it off to him on first and second downs. When has that worked this season? Seriously, when has it worked? Yet the Colts continue to do it. That's stupid.
We're past the time for blaming Ryan Grigson for the trade. Everybody knows that it was a terrible move that hurt the team. But by continuing to play Trent Richardson and give him carries, the Colts are continuing to hurt the team with the move. The Colts aren't learning. And that's worthy of criticism. It's one thing to stick with a guy through struggles - I admire that. It's another thing to stick with a guy who hasn't shown much at all other than being traded for a first round pick and who is hurting the team - especially when every backup has outproduced him. It was Donald Brown. It was Ahmad Bradshaw. Now it's Boom Herron.
I don't mean to pile on Trent Richardson - I really don't. I think that he has handled the struggles with class, admitting that he needs to get better and applying himself to do so. I don't think he has played well at all, but I'm not piling on him in this article - though he hasn't played well, I think he has handled the situation well. A player not playing well is one thing. A team inexplicably continuing to play him is another thing entirely, and that's what I'm criticizing here. Everyone else notices that playing Trent Richardson is hurting the team. The boos that rain down at Lucas Oil Stadium every time the back touches the football shows that clearly. And it seems like the only ones not noticing the struggles are the very ones who can do something about it in the coaching staff and management. I really don't know whether it's just a stubborn attitude refusing to admit a mistake, misplaced confidence in Richardson's potential, or something else, and it really doesn't matter. What matters is that Trent Richardson isn't getting it done for the Colts. He's not playing well, and the Colts' brass needs to do something about it. But I'm not crossing my fingers that it will happen.