Peyton Hillis is no stranger to controversy. It was Hillis, of course, that began the 'Wildcat' offense movement at Arkansas, before Darren McFadden and Felix Jones took over when Hillis was hurt. Hillis moved to fullback and was eventually drafted in the 7th Round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
Hillis made the Broncos, though it took several injuries to the Broncos' running back corps for Hillis to get significant playing time. Hillis made the most of it, however, averaging 5.0 yards per carry for the Broncos before a hamstring injury ended his - and the Broncos - season.
After Mike Shanahn was fired and Josh McDaniels hired by the Broncos, Hillis seemed to be a perfect fit for McDaniels offense. You'd think that Hillis was exactly the type of player a new coach looking to bring toughness to a team would want. Except he wasn't. Hillis struggled under McDaniels, and carried the ball just 13 times the entire 2009 season. After fumbling the opening kickoff against the Browns in Week 2, Hillis barely saw the field - a point of contention between McDaniels and Broncos fans to this day.
Hillis was traded - mostly as an afterthought - to the Browns in February 2010. He became an instant hit for Browns fans, with his rough and tumble running style. If any player embodied the city of Cleveland and the Browns it was Hillis. Nearly 1200 yards later, Hillis was a town hero and cover-boy for Madden Football 2012. It seemed a big contract would be next.
As was the case in Denver, however, a coaching change has put those plans on hold, it seems.
Pat Shurmur, like Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels before him, has not taken to Hillis the way Eric Mangini did. There are contract talks that seem to be going no where and then Hillis missed the Browns win over the Miami Dolphins after being a late scratch with strep throat. ESPN reported that there were players in the Browns locker room that question Hillis' motives for not playing against the Dolphins - accusations that Shurmur, Hillis and his agent Kennard McGuire, have steadfastly denied.
Whatever the truth is, however, Peyton Hillis always seems to have his doubters. There were rumors when Hillis was in Denver that he wasn't a hard worker, especially in practice, and wasn't studious in the film room. Others would say that Hillis was not happy unless he was getting the ball, and blocking was not his fortay. The result are fewer carries and - in the midst of a contract year and negotiations - some hard feelings.
There is no doubting the effect that Hillis has on the field. Browns fans love him. But for some reason that affection has not been shown by NFL coaches, be it Mike Shanahan, Josh McDaniels or now Pat Shurmur. Whatever the reason is, Hillis had better fix it. Word travels fast in the NFL and with they style of football Hillis plays this could be his only chance at the big money.