Sam Hitchcock

The trade may never reach the levels of ridicule with which football fans view the Atlanta Falcons trading Brett Favre to the Green Bay Packers, the Indianapolis Colts trading John Elway to the Broncos or the Oakland Raiders letting Randy Moss go for a fourth round pick to the New England Patriots, but the Denver Broncos trading running back Peyton Hillis to the Cleveland Browns for Brady Quinn is one of the worst trades in recent memory.

How good has Hillis been? Aside from being tied for second in touchdowns scored among running backs, he has been Cleveland’s first, second and third offensive option since establishing his penchant for bowling over cornerbacks.

The Browns only have a few complementary offensive weapons, receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who if one is being generous can be viewed as an NFL number two receiver at best, and a playmaker in receiver and kick returner Josh Cribbs. Sadly for these players, the Browns’ quarterback situation has been more pathetic than Wade Phillips’ tenure in Dallas.

The glimmer of hope that can be found behind center is rookie Colt McCoy. McCoy showed flashes of brilliance before getting injured, but for the majority of the season, Cleveland has been subjected to the gruesome twosome of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. Since neither Delhomme nor Wallace can throw an accurate pass, Hillis has been the most targeted receiver through short yardage dump-offs. Putting this all into perspective, Hillis accounts for 37 percent of the Browns’ total yardage.

So, how does Hillis compare in his debut season with Cleveland to Brett Favre’s debut when he was traded to Green Bay and started 15 games for the Packers? Favre recorded 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and passed for 3,227 yards. Certainly a respectable season, but Hillis has made a more immediate impact.

John Elway was traded as a rookie and experienced tremendous growing pains his first year, throwing for seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions with 1,663 passing yards in 11 games. While Elway would go on to become a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, it is hard to fault the Colts for trading Elway when he refused to join the organization.

The standard for terrible trades has to be set by Randy Moss, who in 2007 debuted with the Patriots and recorded one of the greatest seasons for any NFL player. With 98 catches, 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns, he helped Tom Brady and Bill Belichick reach immortality as the Patriots went 18-0 before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Moss and Brady broke the touchdown records for their respective positions, all at the expense of a fourth round pick.

Notwithstanding Moss’s record-breaking year, he only accounted for 31 percent of the Patriots’ total yardage. Hillis has accounted for 13 of the Browns’ 22 touchdowns this year, meaning he scored 59 percent of their points. Moss scored 23 of the Patriots’ 67 touchdowns in 2007, which comes out to only 34 percent of their points.

At 24, Hillis is older than both Brett Favre (22) and Elway (23) in their debuts, but much younger than Moss (30). Tom Brady and Michael Vick are considered the two frontrunners for MVP, but Hillis certainly deserves mention.

His team may not be playoff bound, but Cleveland has found its running back of the future and workhorse for the next couple of years. Hillis and Cleveland fans can only hope he can propel them to the same level of success that Elway, Favre and Moss were able to achieve with their new teams.