In 2010 a young man came along that captured the hearts of Cleveland Brown fans everywhere. He ran with the brute blue-collar attitude that Cleveland was built on. He made the Pro-Bowl as an alternative and graced the Madden cover. A headline on AOL.News read, “Peyton Hillis Means More to Browns Than Pro Bowl Voters Ever Imagined.” Things seemed to be looking up for this young man. Then came 2011.
It all seemed to start to build up when talks of a long term contract shed light that what the Browns were willing to pay for Hillis’s services and what Hillis was expecting were far from close. It would probably take the course of the season to assess the situation and come to an agreement. At the time, my contention was that it would be a smart business move for the Browns to sit tight and see how things played out. If Hillis did not repeat the success of 2010 then the Browns could sign him to a long term contract at a discounted rate, possibly less than they were willing to pay him at the beginning of the season. If Hillis put up another monster season the Browns had the availability of the Franchise Tag to secure him for at least another year while a long term contract was agreed upon.
For some reason the Brown’s decision to not sign Hillis before the season turned into Peyton’s wrong doing. The local media seemed to make this the topic of discussion and honed in on it all season. Through constant questions about his lack of a contract, Peyton missed a game with strep throat under advice from his now fired agent in week three, split carries with Hardesty 10 to 7 in week 4, injured his hamstring the following game against Oakland and then went to Arkansas to get married 9 days later. In the middle of all of this the Browns veterans were said to have had an intervention style meeting with Hillis to try and get everyone on the same page.
Hillis though all of this drama ended the season on a high note have solid games at the end of the season including a 112 yard performance in week 16 against the Baltimore Ravens. Hillis then fired the agent that had led him astray through 2010 and was unable to put together a contract with the team Hillis wants to play for most, the Cleveland Browns. It seems as though things are working out for the Browns and Hillis to revisit contract talks and get a long term deal put together.
That has not stopped the media, locally and nationally from heckling the once loved now troubled running back during the off season. First it was the firing of his third agent in a year that was spun as a negative by media outlets without mentioning it was the agent hired before the 2010 season that handled things so poorly during “Strep Gate”. Then it was the misinformation presented that Peyton Hillis wanted to retire from the NFL to join the CIA. This character attack made Peyton sound, in his words, “insane.” It has been since speculated that Peyton’s fired agent may have been the source of this story. Shame on you Adam Schefter if this was indeed your source. Taking the word of a scored ex-employee as fact!
In a few days a new agent will be hired and free agency will begin. It has been a long year from, “Peyton Hillis Means More to Browns Than Pro Bowl Voters Ever Imagined” to “Peyton Hillis Believer in Madden Curse” but 2012 holds new opportunities. At the end of the day Hillis is a solid running back that loves playing in Cleveland and the Cleveland Browns have too many holes on an offense they are working to rebuild to allow another hole to open up. In a few weeks we will see if the business decision the Browns made in August 2011 pays off in March 2012.