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Understanding Sunk Costs: One Giant Step For the Cleveland Browns

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The Browns draft of 2012 was perhaps the most farcically incompetent day of an organization that has seen little but. First, they traded up to blow a third overall pick on what has so far been a well-below average player at a position where 1)good players aren’t hard to find, and 2)within the ordinary range of performance in the NFL differences in quality have a negligible impact on a team’s performance. It’s hard to overstate what a terrible idea this is. Amazingly, they proceeded from this to do something even stupider, blowing another first round pick on a QB with 1)worse credentials than Kirk Cousins or Nick Foles, 2)who had an unimpressive college performance although he was 28, 3)with Russell Wilson still on the board. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a one-two punch of gross ineptitude of that magnitude, and I’ve cheered for teams run by Bill Bavasi and Doug Risebrough.

Well, the Browns are under new management, and while I don’t know how it will work out this week is an excellent sign. Not only are the Browns trying out a potential replacement for Weeden, they traded Richardson.

From the Browns’ standpoint, this is a phenomenally good trade. Getting a first-rounder — and given how overrated the Colts are, it’s likely to be a decent pick — for a running back with a career 3.5 yards a crack — that’s a steal, particularly since even if Richardson starts playing well he’s irrelevant to the Browns until they can find a QB. From the Colts’s standpoint, I think it will work out badly. I assume they see their record last year and figure they’re only a player or two away, which means both that the pick they give up will be a low one and that Richardson could make a big difference in a crucial game. The problem is that the Colts aren’t nearly as good as their record last year suggests, which means they’re likely to be mediocre, and adding a running back won’t make them non-mediocre even if Richardson is a much better player than his replacement-level performance so far suggests. I know that they need to ensure that Luck stays healthy, but you don’t trade a first round pick to improve the pass protection you get from your running back. Trading for him is better than giving something away for the privilege of picking him 3rd overall, but it’s unlikely to work out well. From Cleveland’s perspective, though, it’s a great deal.

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