"I struggled with it," Holmgren told Seattle's KJR-AM on Thursday, via The Plain Dealer. "Philosophically, if I'm the coach and someone came in anywhere and did that, I'd say 'OK, fire me, or I'm going to quit. Or we're going to both go into the owner and talk about this and then we'll see who's still standing.' "
"How do you make your team better by trading your best player?" he added. "He's the best offensive player. He's a valuable, valuable guy."
Holmgren was fired at the end of last season by owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner. Sources told The Plain Dealer the "general feeling" was that Holmgren and former general manager Tom Heckert had "botched" the top picks in the 2012 draft, a group that included Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
According to The Plain Dealer, Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi wouldn't have drafted Josh Gordon with a supplemental pick in 2012. That decision wiped away Cleveland's second-round choice in this year's draft.
Holmgren believes Richardson is a future star. He never would be on board with sending that promise elsewhere.
"I'd shake hands and walk. I would," he said. "Because if I disagreed with it vehemently, and I couldn't buy in, I mean, I'm not saying I'm right, I'm saying that's what I would do, because you have to be true to yourself in this business."
"You can't tell me some of those players aren't asking some of the questions you and I are asking," he said. "They were friends with (Richardson). It's too wild. This sort of thing doesn't happen, and it happened, so asking questions about it would be natural."
It should be said that Holmgren was a failure in Cleveland who very much earned his ticket out of town over three seasons. That said, he's not a voice in the wilderness here. His exasperation speaks for many.