This also goes over some of the better trades in Browns history. For instance, I had forgotten that the extra 1st rnd pick we got in a trade of Mike Phipps, we ended up with Ozzie Newsome. Forgot about that.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Nobody predicted the impact Peyton Hillis would have on this Browns season.
Even the two men who combined to acquire Hillis from the Denver Broncos in the trade involving quarterback Brady Quinn disagreed on exactly what role Hillis might fill.
Browns coach Eric Mangini said when he informed Hillis of the trade on March 14, he said, "There's no reason that you couldn't come here and have 1,000 yards and be a core part of the offense."
The fact is, even after acquiring Hillis, General Manager Tom Heckert had designs on Tennessee's Montario Hardesty as the team's feature back. Heckert traded three draft picks to the Eagles to move up and pick Hardesty in the second round. That was five weeks after Hillis was acquired.
"Obviously we liked Peyton, but we didn't think he was 'the guy' and (would) have all this production," Heckert said. "We thought he'd be a good running back and a backup fullback. We talked about how we could use him, whoever the running back was, Jerome (Harrison) or Montario, and use Peyton as a fullback who can catch, where we'd have two guys in the same backfield that could run and catch."
Circumstances put Hillis in the feature role. He seized it and provided the Browns their offensive identity.
Heckert said the trade originated when Denver coach Josh McDaniels started letting people know that a few of his players were available. Hillis, receiver Tony Scheffler and receiver Brandon Marshall were the main ones.
Mangini speaks routinely with McDaniels in the off-season and relayed the info to Heckert after the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Hillis made a big impression on Mangini with a 129-yard rushing day in a 2008 game against Mangini's Jets. Mike Shanahan was still Denver's coach at the time.
Heckert remembered Hillis as a highly recruited high school player who was stuck behind Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas. Hillis moved to fullback for some playing time.
The trade crystallized a few weeks later when President Mike Holmgren came to the conclusion that he needed to wipe out the team's quarterback roster. He gave the go-ahead to find a team interested in Quinn.
"We knew they were interested from the last time around (during the 2009 draft)," Heckert said of Denver. "We didn't think we'd get a whole lot draft pick-wise for Brady. We were trying. We called teams and nothing came about. So we thought, if we got Peyton, what else would we get? And then we decided on the draft picks."
In addition to Hillis for Quinn, the Browns received Denver's sixth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2012. The conditions had to be met this season for the 2012 pick to be as high as the third round. At worst, the Browns also will get Denver's sixth-round pick in 2012.
"I think the Browns wanted me and Denver didn't want to have anything to do with me," Hillis said. "It seems that's what it looks like. You can tell the Browns really wanted me because they gave up a first-round quarterback and got me and two low-round draft picks. That meant a lot to me. It meant a lot for me to come in here and play well and get the best out of that trade."
It may go down as one of the greatest Browns' trades of all time. It will take time to rank where it belongs on the following list:
In 1962, the Browns traded defensive tackle Larry Stephens and third- and sixth-round picks to the Los Angeles Rams for quarterback Frank Ryan. Ryan played through 1968 and was the field leader on the Browns' last NFL championship team in 1964.
In 1968, the Browns traded quarterback Dick Shiner, defensive tackle Frank Parker and a draft pick to the Steelers for quarterback Bill Nelsen and defensive back Jim Bradshaw.
Nelsen, despite famously bad knees, took over for Ryan and led the Browns to the playoffs in three of the next four years. Shiner was a flop in Pittsburgh. The Rooney family would never make another trade with the Browns.
In 1977, the Browns traded draft-bust quarterback Mike Phipps to the Bears for Chicago's first-round pick in '78. On draft day, the Browns traded down in the first round with the Rams for a fourth-round pick. They used the No. 1 on tight end Ozzie Newsome, a future Hall of Famer.
In 1980, the Browns traded a second-round pick in '81 and a third-rounder in '82 to the Bills for guard Joe DeLamiellure. He completed the offensive line puzzle that powered a strong running game and protected quarterback Brian Sipe, who was named MVP. Joe D. made the Hall of Fame.
In 1984, the Browns traded their last four picks in the ninth through 12th rounds to the Bears for Chicago's three picks in an upcoming supplemental draft of players from the soon-to-be-disbanded United States Football League. The Browns used two of the picks on running back Kevin Mack and return specialist Gerald McNeil, who became integral players on their five playoff teams.
In 1985, the Browns traded first- and third-round picks in '85 and first- and sixth-rounders in '86 for the Bills' No. 1 spot in the supplemental draft. The Browns used that sleight of hand to steal quarterback Bernie Kosar away from the Vikings, who intended to take Kosar with the third overall pick in the regular draft.
The bottom line of all these deals is they springboarded the team to a run of good, winning seasons. If the trade for Hillis does the same, it will join this list.