Browns, WWW

Tempered Expectations as Josh Gordon Returns: While We’re Waiting

Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns

Every time I consider getting overly excited for Josh Gordon’s return to the football field, I think of one thing: The uniforms. That’s right, out of all of the chaos and turmoil and the emotional roller coaster that has been Gordon’s tenure with the Browns, I think of the uniforms. This, of course, is because every story that has been written about Gordon — be it on these pages or others — is more often than not tied to a litany of images of Gordon caching passes in practice or during a game while wearing the old Cleveland Browns uniforms.

Here’s one I took a while back:

Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns

Scott Sargent/WFNY

Here’s another:

Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns

Scott Sargent/WFNY

Think about this. The player who has been the subject of countless headlines since being drafted in the supplementary session in 2012 has yet to play in a regular season game since that fateful night when Dwyane Bowe, Brian Hartline, and Barkevious Mingo stood and nodded aimlessly on a convention center stage to unveil the team’s oranger orange. Sure, there were those handful of preseason games where Gordon made us believe he and Robert Griffin III could be something, but that was it. Everything else? They look like someone slapped the images in Instagram and decreased the saturation to about 30 percent.

When Gordon was reinstated (conditionally), rumors immediately circulated surrounding the wide receiver’s future. It had appeared the team all but detached themselves from his ongoing saga, refusing to comment on him when asked at any turn. Twitter GMs insisted that he would be traded to another team upon the Browns acquiring the rights to do so, but with each additional day, it appears more and more as if No. 12 could have a legitimate shot of being inserted into the team’s lineup as the timeline allows.

That timeline is one that permits Gordon to join in team meetings on Wednesday, his first time with teammates since last preseason when he checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic. At the time, this caught everyone off guard as Gordon displayed incredible skills, spreading the field and hauling in multiple touchdowns. Little did we know, he had bottomed out not long before after an entire career of taking drugs and drinking before every single game. While we were busy getting our hopes up, Gordon was busy tearing himself down.

Gordon has spent the last two seasons reportedly working at getting better and getting back on the field. The Browns, conversely, have been unable to rebound, putting out an embarrassing array of pass-catching options around fledgeling quarterbacks. Here is a list of players who have caught passes for the Browns since Gordon last played in an NFL game on December 21, 2014:

  • Terrance West
  • Isaiah Crowell
  • Taylor Gabriel
  • Jordan Cameron
  • Andrew Hawkins
  • Travis Benjamin
  • Rodney Smith
  • Duke Johnson Jr.
  • Robert Turbin
  • Travis Benjamin
  • Shaun Draughn
  • Terrelle Pryor Sr.
  • Gary Barnidge
  • Brian Hartline
  • Darius Jennings
  • Marlon Moore
  • Jim Dray
  • Dwyane Bowe
  • Malcolm Johnson
  • E.J. Bibbs
  • Rob Housler
  • Corey Coleman
  • Ricardo Louis
  • Seth Devalve
  • Rashard Higgins
  • Dan Vitale
  • Randall Telfair
  • Connor Hamlett
  • Jordan Payton
  • Matthew Dayes
  • David Njoku
  • Bryce Treggs
  • Kenny Britt
  • Kasen Williams
  • Sammie Coates
  • Jordan Leslie
  • Kevin Zeitler

So you can understand why the team (even this team, the one that can’t wait to trade) would be excited about the prospects of Gordon returning. You can understand why coaches and the front office and even Browns teammates are taking these next few weeks with a bit of skepticism.

“I do need to feel comfortable that he’s not (trying to leave the team),” said head coach Hue Jackson. “If he’s coming back to play football, he knows he needs to play football here. There’s no other place that he can do what he needs to do in the National Football League as far as playing. It’s right here.”

“Everybody deserves chances in life, so I wish him the best and hopefully he’ll be able to get back in the league,” said Chris Kirksey.

“I know it’s well detailed the stuff that he has gone through in the past. … Hopefully, everything works out well, and he will be out there on the field for us,” said Jason McCourty

As has been the case for many of the last few suspensions for Gordon, reports are swirling that the former league-leading receiver is in the ‘best shape of his career.’ It’s crazy to think that, along with the uniform dynamics, Gordon is just 26 years old. It’s also crazy to think that, despite this being years of nonsense, the Browns have yet to find a player who could produce at even a fraction of the level Gordon did during his 10-game season.

From a next steps standpoint, he’ll meet with Hue Jackson and his teammates while taking part in conditioning drills, and is expected to address the media. Media has never been an issue for Gordon who, during his time on an active roster, was always categorized as affable and cordial, providing thoughtful responses to all inquiries. If Gordon can stay on track through meetings and such over the next few weeks, he can practice with the team on Nov. 20. If the team feels he’s ready, he can then play in the final five games of the season, beginning Dec. 3, in Los Angeles against the Chargers.

Maybe then, if everything goes to plan, he’ll finally get one of those new uniforms. At that point, I’ll start to get excited.

This Week in #ActualSportswriting

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2 Sweet. #AndNew #SDLive @ajstylesp1

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This Week in Picks:

Why do I feel like I need a law degree to enjoy the NFL. When this column was penned last week, Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott was slated to miss Week 9. Given that the line moved to “pick” on the news, I decided that Kansas City was the way to go. Between Wednesday morning and Sunday afternoon, Elliott was granted something that would allow him to once again join the Cowboys on the field. In my pool, I changed my pick to Dallas (which won). Here, however, it was too late. The result was a 1-2 week—my first losing week in a month. This week, we get them back.

Cleveland (+13.5) at DETROIT4
JACKSONVILLE (-4) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
NY Giants (pick) at SAN FRANCISCO

YTD ATS: 17-10
Last Week: 1-2

  1. This kid is going to be so, so special. []
  2. A great follow-up from the guy who wrote the 2015 cover story. []
  3. A great profile if you can get past the header image. []

  • BenRM

    The best expectations for Gordon are no expectations at all.

    I hope that fans and media alike give Gordon a chance to reacquaint himself with any type of sobriety before they begin to kill him for various on field activities. Most of the Cleveland media makes me want to drink on a daily basis, I can’t imagine how it would be for him.

    Of course, if he’s out partying, that stuff is all fair game. But don’t hold Josh accountable for the failings of people like Bowe, Britt, and Coleman.

  • RGB

    Baby steps…be better than Britt.
    That’s my initial expectation.
    Accomplish that, then we’ll revise expectations accordingly.

  • mgbode

    That’s a high bar. Let’s start w/ Sammie Coates who is so inexplicably bad that he is below Kenny Britt on the depth chart. Then we can climb to Britt. Maybe even get to Bryce Treggs by the end of the season?

  • mddawg

    I’m all in on Josh Gordon. His approach to re-entering the league now and previously are strikingly different. The fact he’s openly admitted his addictions shows he’s now willing to put that behind him and focus on being one of the best WR’s in the league. Now if Hue could design some plays to actually get him the ball then we can win some games…

  • tigersbrowns2
  • tigersbrowns2

    good post MD

  • Harv

    His admission alone shows absolutely nothing. It might only indicate a recent comprehension that he wasn’t getting a paycheck anywhere, never mind a relatively enormous one, without copping to a problem, doing an extended rehab stay and telling the media that Goodell “may not realize how important he is to me.” Josh has made sincere and heartfelt statements of contrition at every stop, beginning with Baylor and Utah. He’s being straight when he acts straight. The team’s desperate need for talent at that position won’t alter that.

  • Trade him, Trade him now. Do not wait a moment longer for the next suspension to be handed down. Trade him for whatever picks, players, or magic beans you can get and move the hell on already. Let someone else gamble on him.

  • mgbode

    If the Browns could trade players after the deadline, A.J. McCarron would be starting this week.

  • JM85

    It probably wasn’t the best idea to do that interview right after you were conditionally reinstated.

  • Underground economy, baby! Throw him up on the dark web.

  • RGB

    And Sashi would have quit.

  • mgbode

    Admission and asking for forgiveness are steps in the process. They just cannot be the final steps on the road to recovery.

  • mgbode

    he did the interview before and it is suspected Goodell knew about it.

  • Harv

    They are also manipulative nonsense. We don’t know what they are until more is manifested by the actor. Josh has a history of sincere statements and promises. What this is will out.

  • RGB

    Fool me once. Shame on you.
    Fool me four times…

  • JM85

    Boy do I feel stupid.

  • mgbode

    No, you shouldn’t. Interview by GQ came out afterwards. It was then reported that he did the interview before and that people believe Goodell knew it happened.

  • mgbode

    They can be manipulative nonsense, yes. We agree that he must keep taking steps forward.

  • Harv

    Sammie Coates … man, it’s like that receivers room is a race to the bottom. They somehow can’t find one mediocre plugger, not a deep threat but a guy who can run a few solid routes and hang on to the ball.

  • tsm

    He is instantly the best WR on the team, which is actually a very low bar. If he is serious about playing, we will have a few games to decided if we want to move forward with him.

  • mddawg

    He hasn’t made “sincere and heartfelt statements of contrition” while with the Browns. His last interview (or player’s statement) during his previous suspension was defiant and unapologetic. We’re all hopeful and optimistic, that’s why we diligently visit a site called “Waiting for Next Year”.

  • Harv

    totally disagree. Matter of fact, even his first statements upon arrival about his college suspensions fall into that category.


    Man I just hope he stays sober and has some cash left from his playing days to put together a non-football life. Anything above that is a bonus to me.

  • mddawg

    These were the type statements he was making during his NFL suspensions, not when he entered the league.

  • paulbip

    Gordon is a liar. He said that he smoked pot before every game, but that would have shone up in drug tests. He is now flat broke and once the paycheck comes in, he will be stuffing his nose.

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  • Sam Gold

    Tempered expectations.


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