By Alexander HiderBy Chris Slone
July 12, 2014
PDT Sports Column
Cleveland Browns second-year wide receiver Josh Gordon left his mark on the NFL in 2014, racking up a league-best 1,646 receiving yards in just 12 games. But once his magical year ended, the problems of his past reared their ugly head.
On July 5, Gordon was arrested and charged for driving while intoxicated in Raleigh, North Carolina. The arrest comes a few months after ESPN reported that he faces a season-long suspension for failing a third NFL-sanctioned drug test. Gordon also faced drug problems in college, as he was dismissed from Baylor after he was caught with marijuana multiple times.
Knowing Gordon’s past and the uncertainty of his playing future, the Daily Times Sports Staff asks: Would you keep Gordon on your team?
I’ll be honest, I have went back and fourth on this question. There is seemingly no right or wrong answer, and the Cleveland Browns seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard spot.
I would love to see Josh Gordon get the help that he honestly needs to turn his life around. Other Hall of Fame players faced similar circumstances earlier in their career, such has Cris Carter who was released by the Philadelphia Eagles after substance abuse issues and Michael Irvin who faced one problem after another in Dallas.
Carter was released by the Eagles before he landed on his feet in Minnesota while Irvin spent his entire career with the Cowboys. Both receivers are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So again, there is no right answer to this difficult question.
However, I believe the Browns main priority needs to be on the organization. Lets face it, the city of Cleveland has not had many moments to celebrate since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999. As a franchise, Cleveland needs to change it’s culture. A no-non sense approach usually produces a winning product on Sundays.
If Gordon was a third-string tight end that was fighting for a roster spot, he would have been released a long time ago. I understand he has undeniable talent but his off the field problems outweighs his production on the gridiron. The Browns need to model themselves after organizations like New England — granted I am biased — but I have seen the Patriots constantly win with their no-nonsense approach.
Cleveland has an opportunity to make a statement to their entire personnel staff and the rest of the league. If you want to work in the Browns’ organization, then you are going to do things the right way or you’ll be looking for employment else where. That could be a powerful statement and a chance to finally start changing the losing culture that runs rampant in the organization.
The Browns have not had a playmaker like Josh Gordon on their team since they returned in 1999. Last year, he was statistically the best receiver in the league, and he only played 14 games. I would argue that Gordon is the Browns’ most dangerous offensive weapon since Hall-of-Famer Ozzie Newsome retired in 1990. It’s inconceivable that they would let a player like that walk away.
At this point in the offseason, who would the Browns sign to take Gordon’s roster spot? A third-string reserve off the practice squad? A retired veteran far past his prime? A free-agent rookie kick returner? Would any available free agent really have much more of an impact on the season than a suspended Josh Gordon? Probably not.
In a situation like this, it’s essential to look at Gordon’s ceiling, which at this point is at Cathedral-like heights. He’s only 23. He has the physical tools (6’3” with a 4.5 forty-yard dash). He’s already made NFL history in just 30 games (only receiver to record back-t0-back 200 yard receiving games). Most importantly, if he can stay clean, he’ll have a potential franchise quarterback throwing him the ball in Johnny Manziel.
It won’t be easy for Gordon to get back on the field at this point. He’s dug himself into quite a hole with his drug abuse and problems with the law. Even the Browns have expressed concern that Gordon may not be able to help himself if he is suspended for the upcoming season. But with a young coaching staff and a roster full of holes, Cleveland is still in rebuilding mode. It would be foolish to let go of a cornerstone playmaker like Gordon if there is a chance he could contribute in the future.
Holding on to Gordon’s rights is definitely a risk. But, if when taken into account what he’s done on the field, it’s definitely a risk worth taking.
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