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What In The World Are The Browns Up To?

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Popular RB Trent Richardson was traded to the Colts Wednesday for a first-round pick in 2014. Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images.
Popular RB Trent Richardson was traded to the Colts Wednesday for a first-round pick in 2014. Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images.

It is the defining moment of not just the Jimmy Haslam-Joe Banner-Mike Lombardi-Rob Chudzinski era.

Rather, it is the defining moment of the expansion era Cleveland Browns, and also one of the defining moments in overall team history going all the way back to the original franchise’s start in 1946.

Really.

In the span of just nine hours Wednesday, this new regime took a big broom and swept out the work of the Mike Holmgren-Tom Heckert regime, and then some. It’s as if Holmgren and Heckert were never in Cleveland.

At 9:30 a.m., news broke that Cleveland St. Ignatius High School product Brian Hoyer, formerly the team’s third-string quarterback, had leapfrogged second-stringer Jason Campbell and would start Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. He will replace Brandon Weeden, who suffered a sprained right thumb – or maybe something more serious – in last Sunday’s 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Weeden was the No. 22 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. Holmgren and Heckert traded up to get him after then team owner Randy Lerner, upon looking around the rest of the AFC North and seeing the likes of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, bluntly asked his top two executives, “Where’s our franchise quarterback?”

But at 6:30 p.m., before the Cleveland area sports talk radio shows could fully digest that news and the possibility that it might be the last we’ll see of Weeden as a starter here, the club dropped a much, much, much bigger bomb and announced the trade of RB Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for the Colts’ first-round draft choice in 2014.

In the 2012 draft, the Browns had traded up to No. 3 overall to make sure they got the Alabama star. Richardson quickly became the face of the franchise, erasing some of the great Jim Brown’s team rookie records by running for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also finished second on the club with 51 receptions.

And he did it while playing with two broken ribs over the last nine games of the year.

If you had $1 for every Richardson No. 33 jersey that has been sold in Cleveland over the last 1½ years, then you’d be a very rich person. Now they are nothing more than collectors’ items.

The Browns have become faceless, pulling off arguably the biggest trade since 1970 when they dealt Pro Football Hall of Fame WR Paul Warfield to Miami to get the Dolphins’ No. 3 overall draft pick, which they used to select Purdue QB Mike Phipps. We all know how that turned out.

Where do the Browns go from here? With continued major question marks at quarterback and with a group of running backs that might be the most non-descript in team history, further constricting the most enemic offense in the league this season, have they given up on 2013 after just two games?

That remains to be seen.

If somehow, some way, these moves, especially the one involving the ultra-popular Richardson, work out and help the club become a winner, then Banner and Lombardi will be hailed as geniuses.

And if not, then … well, it won’t be pretty. The fans are already screaming mad after watching 12 losing seasons in the last 14 years.

But you know what? They can scream a lot louder.