On Friday, two days after the Browns shipped running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a 2014 first-round pick, one of Cleveland's best players, left tackle Joe Thomas, put into words what many Browns fans have been thinking over the previous 48 hours: "Nobody on any team is untouchable."
The Browns drafted Richardson third overall back in April 2012. But a new front office and coaching staff considered the bruising running back expendable -- obviously -- and felt comfortable trading him for a chance to rebuild the team through the draft.
"About the only people safe are the ones that came here this year in the first round that were drafted by the guys that are making the calls right now," Thomas continued (via to the Akron Beacon Journal). "That's the way it is. I've been through four coaching staffs right now and GMs. And if you're not drafted by them, there's no safety in this business."
That's the reality of the NFL but also one of the Browns' biggest problems: Lack of continuity means the organization is perpetually rebuilding. In addition to those four coaching staffs Thomas mentioned, the Browns have had 10 starters since '07, and that number will reach 11 when Brian Hoyer takes the field against the Vikings this Sunday. (Here are the others: Derek Anderson, Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden and Thaddeus Lewis.)
By comparison, the Ravens have had one starting quarterback since 2008 (Joe Flacco), the Bengals have had three (Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton), and the Steelers have had four (Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon). There's something to be said for drafting a quarterback and sticking with him. The same holds for a coaching staff and front office.
Meanwhile, Mike Holmgren, the Browns' previous president and the man responsible for drafting Richardson and Weeden, ripped the organization for trading the second-year running back.
"How do you make your team better by trading your best player?" he said during an interview with Sports Radio KJR. "He's the best offensive player. He's a valuable, valuable guy. …
"To me, they're putting all their eggs for next season," Holmgren continued. "They started off 0-2, they couldn't score any points, I think it was a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction. There's a little bit of a 'what's going on?' I don't know this for sure but I can sense it."
And it's that sense of "What's going on?" that Thomas is alluding to.
Early in training camp, Thomas spoke of the "drudgery" of playing on bad teams but added: "I'm excited about Chud (Rob Chudzinski) as a head coach and very hopeful this is the team with this group of guys and coaching staff that is going to get to the playoffs and I'm going to be able to enjoy that at least in the second half of my career here."
Assuming, of course, Thomas isn't deemed expendable by the higher-ups. Honestly, we can't imagine he would be; if president Joe Banner's plan to fix this mess involves finding a franchise quarterback, the first order of business will be to protect him.
Then again, this is Cleveland. Anything's possible.