With Josh Gordon, it’s always complicated. Every season, his status as a player in the NFL is even up for debate, which makes his status as member of the Cleveland Browns secondary. For at least one more year we’re here talking about Gordon, and for whatever reason I haven’t closed the door on it just yet.
To have expectations of Josh Gordon or to otherwise plan for him to be a part of your solution is undoubtedly reckless. If anyone in Berea is allowing the potential return of Gordon to impact their draft board or free agent targets then we might as well ask Jimmy Haslam to do what he does so well and clean house again. That said, leaving the door cracked a little with Josh Gordon doesn’t hurt.
Why? Well, first of all, he can still play if you believe the highlights from his pre-season with the Browns.
This is a guy who spent a year away from the game and immediately stepped in and made a difference for an offense that had moments of looking outright scary.
Secondly, he plays wide receiver. There’s a different level of responsibility for a person who plays quarterback. The Browns couldn’t possibly outlast the vicissitudes of Johnny Manziel without doing extreme harm to their team. With wide receivers, it’s just different.
Many of us heard unsubstantiated rumors of Brian Hoyer and Josh Gordon having issues after Gordon was re-instated in 2014. While unable to confirm what, if anything, actually happened between the two, it’s pretty apparent it wasn’t working as Gordon’s targets went from 16, to 13, to seven, four, and seven. Gordon was suspended for the final contest of the season — which featured a heroic performance by Connor Shaw — because Gordon “violated team rules.” He and Manziel were rumored to have skipped a Saturday practice, you might remember.
Given all that baggage, it’s very tempting to just wash your hands of Gordon forever just like the team did Manziel. It’s the double standard of the NFL, leaving the door open a crack for a receiver. A receiver is more of a mercenary position. Either they can run routes and beat corners or they can’t. Either they know how to get open when the play breaks down or they can’t. They can drag a team down if they keep a quarterback from leading the huddle, but it’s a much lower hurdle to jump than at some other positions.
So even if Gordon continues to be someone the Browns can’t count on, as long as they aren’t planning their lives around him, everything he brings can just be a bonus. If he can get himself on the field he just makes all the other questionable people that much better. Tell me you weren’t a little bit excited when he was catching 40-yard passes from Robert Griffin III in the pre-season less than a year ago. I know I was.
In some ways it might feel cleaner to just stop thinking about Josh Gordon all together, but there’s no reason to do anything but try and take advantage of his undeniable skills if he’s ever able to display them on an NFL field ever again. So don’t look to me for a Gordon pep talk, but also don’t think I’ve completely shut those dreams down. Why would I? Where’s the downside risk?
I don’t think there is any.