From November 17, 2013 to December 8, 2013, Josh Gordon was the greatest receiver in NFL history. He went for 125 yards in Week 11, followed that up with 237 yards in Week 12, somehow outdid himself the next week going for 261 yards, and closed with 151 yards against the Patriots.
In true Browns fashion, they lost all four games in that span, but Gordon had already left his mark. He set four NFL records including most receiving yards in a four-game span and becoming the first receiver in NFL history to have consecutive 200+ yard games. He also set five Browns’ franchise records on his way to a First-Team All-Pro season including most receiving yards in a season with 1,646 yards, which led all receivers that year.
This is the Josh Gordon that everyone thought of when he was traded to the Patriots on Monday for a fifth-round pick. However, we have forgotten the Josh Gordon of the past five years: the addict.
Gordon began experimenting with Xanax and weed at 13. In the Uninterrupted documentary, “J.G.”, Gordon admits having used alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, codeine, and methazine. “I’ve been enabled most of my life,” Gordon said. “Coaches, teachers, professors, everybody pretty much gave me a second chance just because of my ability.”
Gordon has been suspended three times since his magical 2013 campaign. In 2014, the NFL suspended him 10 games (originally the full season) for a DWI charge in Raleigh, N.C.. Right before the last game of the 2014 season, the Browns suspended Gordon after he blacked out the night before and was late to the plane, pulling up to the tarmac right before takeoff. He was then suspended for the entire 2015 season for testing positive for alcohol–a violation of the NFL Substance Abuse Program.
Media and fans labeled Gordon as a drug addict, who was wasting his talent, after being suspended again, and Gordon succumbed to this label. He went back to his hometown, Gainesville, Fla., where he would walk around the streets looking for people on corners, places that smelled like weed, knocking on smoke shop doors, and asking random people who looked like dealers or users for a hook-up. Gordon had reached rock bottom.
After being briefly reinstated by the NFL in 2016, Gordon decided to enter an in-patient rehabilitation facility in order to “gain full control of [his] life and continue on a path to reach [his] full potential as a person,” Gordon wrote in a statement.
And it seemed like he was in full control, deciding to wait to join the team in order to avoid the pressures of the on-going filming of the HBO documentary series, Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns, until “Gordon showed up late to the facility on Saturday morning and was ‘not himself.’”
This resulted in the trade to the Patriots which reminded many fans of the Randy Moss trade in 2007, which resulted in one of, if not, the greatest offensive season in NFL history. THIS IS NOT THE SAME SITUATION.
In the five years leading up to Moss’ tenure with the Patriots, he had 5,300 yards and 48 touchdowns in 74 games. In the five years leading up to Gordon being traded, he had 630 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games.
Moss was never suspended for drugs during his time in the NFL. He had problems in the locker-room; Gordon has problems making it to the locker-room. Moss was also a football savant who could learn a playbook in a couple of days, which is essential to play in the famed Patriots’ system.
The Patriots have been able to have one of the best offenses for decades without having high profile receivers. This is thanks to the strength of their system, which relies on able to plug and play with virtually anyone. Chris Hogan played lacrosse in college and he had 680 yards in 2016. They run a business-like organization and expect everyone to show up on time and do their job, which, to say the least, is not Gordon’s strong suit.
As Nick Wright from FS1’s First Thing’s First pointed out, the Patriots view this trade like buying a lottery ticket. If he plays well, they’re geniuses for only giving up a fifth-round pick. If he doesn’t play well or fails another drug test, well, it was only a fifth-round pick.
He could become the next Randy Moss, who the Patriots got for a fourth-round pick, or he could end up like Albert Haynesworth who they acquired for a fifth-round pick and cut after only four months. The Patriots don’t care. It’s gonna all be on Gordon, but maybe that’s what he needs.
The Browns have done all they can to provide Gordon with support, but maybe what he needs is tough love. That was the case for Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who only became a Hall-of-Famer after being cut by the Eagles for substance abuse issues. However, Carter is skeptical about the troubled receiver, saying, “It’s hard to flunk middle school, flunk high school, flunk college, then go to a Ph.D. program.”
Whatever happens on the field with Gordon should not be our concern. This is a time to remember that these players are people too. It will be a critical point in this young man’s life that could end in triumph or tragedy. I will be praying for the former.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons