The Indianapolis Colts benched running back Trent Richardson yesterday.
It’s a damning sign of just how disastrous the trade that brought Richardson to Indianapolis three months ago has become.
He ended up with just five carries for 19 yards in a 22-14 Colts win, with Donald Brown getting the bulk of the action at running back.
As recently as two weeks ago the Colts were still defending the decision to send a first-round pick to Cleveland for Richardson.
Coach Chuck Pagano issued this defiant statement back in mid-November (via PFT):
“I don’t know if he’s snake bit, I don’t know what the heck is going on. We’ll get it fixed. We’ll get the holes there. He’s making the right reads, he’s doing all the right things, he knows what to do. He played great without the ball, protection-wise, those things. His numbers are going to come. I’m not concerned about that.”
So what has changed? Why did the Colts bench him?
The most obvious reason is that Richardson has struggled, to put it mildly.
After 10 games in Indy, Richardson finds himself toward the bottom of almost every statistical rushing category. He’s 78th out of 82 eligible running backs in yards per carry, and he has just one run longer than 15 yards all year.
The statistical disparity between Richardson and Donald Brown isn’t slight. It’s overwhelming … so overwhelming that they had no choice but to make a change.
But this isn’t necessarily new. Richardson had been below-average all year long, yet the Colts kept starting him.
The reason they had to make a change now is that they’re seriously struggling as a team. It’s one thing to keep starting Richardson while you have a comfy division lead and his futilely is masked by team success. But a loss yesterday would have cut Indy’s lead in the AFC South to one game.
Since Reggie Wayne went out with a season-ending injury the Colts have been blown out twice and outscored by 45 points overall.
This is a team that expected to compete for the Super Bowl — that’s the only way you can rationalize the Richardson trade in the first place.
Now that things are getting real and their status as contenders is coming into question, they had no choice but to follow the stats and dump Richardson.
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