By now, we should have seen this type of reaction coming. After a game like Sunday’s, a game in which the Browns were beat up by the Tennessee Titans to a final score of 31-13, one should have expected the swarm of negativity and brash reactions that have become a staple of Browns seasons in the last 12 years.
After Sunday’s game, much of the focus has been on running backs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty, specifically on the way they were utilized on the field. Hillis ended the day with ten rushes for 46 yards while Hardesty finished with seven rushes for 22 yards. Both backs had five catches, though Hardesty also had four drops.
It was obvious on a few offensive drives that Hardesty was the main back, but this also came earlier in the game when it wasn’t completely out of hand. You have to understand that head coach Pat Shurmur is still in the feeling-out phase of how to best use both running backs and in a normal, close game, he likely would have used Hillis more as the game progressed. Simply put, the circumstances of the game made it difficult to use either running back effectively.
It’s not worth looking at Hillis’ contract situation as a potential reason for his lack of carries, either. Not only is it simply unlikely that that would be the case, a thought like that is nothing but conjecture at this point. Hillis has said that his contract situation “isn’t even an issue,” so to suggest that it’s playing some type of role in this situation is nothing more than a reach by people begging to make a story out of nothing.
In today’s NFL, a two-back system is essential to a team’s success. While that means that a feature back’s carries will be lowered, it also means that a team has a viable and productive backup. It makes no sense whatsoever for the Browns to trade Peyton Hillis at this point, so you can bet those trade rumors are unfounded and nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction by fans to one particularly bad game.
Make no mistake about it, Peyton Hillis is the starting running back for the Cleveland Browns. We have all hoped to see Montario Hardesty get more carries in the offense as a way to spell Hillis, to keep him healthy as the grueling season wears on. Now that it’s happening, people are quick to call it a controversy.
If you’re in the camp that likes to think it’s a controversy or that Hillis should be traded, take a few days to calm down and realize that the Browns are still 2-2 going into the bye week. They aren’t going to the playoffs in 2011 anyway, but have showed signs of being on the right track, and that future success relies on Peyton Hillis being a major component of the offense.