Trent Richardson Cut; Blame Alabama! (Not Really)

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Trent Richardson’s spectacularly unspectacular NFL career appears over now that the Oakland Raiders have opted to cut the one-time Heisman Trophy finalist.

Three seasons and change of Trent Richardson’s yards-per-carry being more accurately measured in inches, and his piling up more fumbles than touchdowns, probably made Monday’s news an inevitability. However, there was a time when he was considered a can’t-miss prospect.

So who gets the blame for Trent Richardson not thriving in the NFL? Surely not evaluators who simply whiffed because they put too much stock in his measurables. Blame Alabama!

That’s a sentiment you’ll sure hear or read suggested in the coming days.

The Crimson Tide’s run-heavy offense put mileage on Trent Richardson’s odometer before he ever suited up in the NFL. Why, just look at that workload in his Heisman-contending 2011 campaign. Then-offensive coordinator Jim McElwain called Richardson’s number 289 times for runs and other 29 as a receiver.

A harrowing workload indeed! Expect, it really wasn’t.

In three seasons at Alabama, Trent Richardson rushed 545 times and caught 68 passes. Compare that with Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch.

In three seasons at Cal, Lynch rushed 490 times and caught 68 passes. Lynch has been just as a pro. One could make a case that over the last four seasons, he’s been the NFL’s best — though only because Adrian Peterson missed an entire campaign.

Peterson was a workhorse in his MVP-winning, 2012 campaign. His workload for the Minnesota Vikings resembled that of his time with the Oklahoma Sooners, when Peterson actually led college football in rushing one season at 339 carries.

Even as his workload tapered off as a sophomore and junior (the latter due to injury), Peterson left Norman with 748 carries — nearly an entire season’s worth more than Trent Richardson logged at Alabama.

So maybe the number of carries weren’t Trent Richardson’s downfall. But surely, playing behind an offensive line as dominant as Alabama’s made transitioning to the NFL difficult for him. That must be the case!

A pair of Richardson’s teammates acclimating to the pros suggests otherwise.

His heir in 2012, current Green Bay Packers standout Eddie Lacy, didn’t rack up as much mileage in his time in Tuscaloosa. Lacy’s 204 carries as a junior marked his only time hitting triple-digits for a season.

But New Orleans Saint Mark Ingram surpassed the century mark all three years he was a member of the Crimson Tide. In his 2009 Heisman campaign, Ingram rushed 271 times.

More cynical critics might point to Ingram’s lack of a star season in the NFL as further evidence of Alabama failing to produce running backs. However, Ingram is coming off a season just shy of 1,000 yards rushing and is reinventing himself as a pass-catching weapon in the Saints offense.

The irony of Ingram finding a new niche that promises to make him a valuable asset is the popular opinion when he was Alabama, back-up Trent Richardson was the better player.

Even with Richardson done for the foreseeable future, Alabama should still have three former running backs either starting or playing prominent roles in Week 1 of the NFL season. Along with Lacy and Ingram, T.J. Yeldon looks to be primed for a productive rookie season in Jacksonville.

Alabama is not at the root of Trent Richardson’s NFL bubble bursting. However, as long as we’re talking T-3’s time in Tuscaloosa, let’s at least remember the good times.