The Cleveland Browns announced they were parting ways with receiver Josh Gordon on Saturday, and his name has dominated NFL Twitter and Reddit in the hours since. That should continue into Monday, when we are likely to find out Gordon’s next destination, if not sooner should a trade announcement break in the next few hours.
This is an article including one of those headlines.
Gordon, 27, has played in 11 of a possible 65 games since the start of 2014. In those 11 games, Gordon has caught 43 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns, with a catch rate of 46.7% and 15.2 yards per reception. His next slip-up with the NFL could result in a lifetime ban for all we know. He chose to stay away from the Browns for almost all of training camp and preseason because he needed to make sure he was ready both mentally and physically and that he needed to focus on his sobriety. He returned on August 18, but only on a limited basis and mostly just to be able to go to team meetings. Reports of his release by the Browns were surrounded by him both being late to practice and injuring his hamstring in a photoshoot. After sticking alongside Gordon through the 2014 season, through the 2015 season, through the 2016 season, and through the 2017 season, Cleveland chose to release him one week into what is expected to be their best year in over a decade. They’ve got Myles Garrett. They’ve got Jarvis Landry. They’ve got Baker Mayfield. They’ve got Denzel Ward. They’ve got Jabrill Peppers. And they could use a player like Josh Gordon, who caught a touchdown in Week 1. And yet, they are now choosing to finally move on from Gordon.
Let that be a sign that this is not about a photoshoot, a hamstring, or being late one time. This is about the entire presence and being and background of Josh Gordon. I don’t even know if this could be about “the last straw” because John Dorsey has only been the GM in Cleveland since last December; as far as Dorsey’s seen, Gordon’s only ever been an active member of the team save his “personal rehab” in August.
This is how I think every “Josh Gordon is an asset that’s available” article should start, well ahead of the “Well, we oughta go get that guy!” comments and any mention of the phenomenal season he had five years ago. The last time Gordon was an effective and reliable week-to-week receiver was the same season that the Seahawks won the Super Bowl — and doesn’t that seem like forever ago?!
And don’t paint me as some narc; on Friday night I went to a weed-based comedy show at the UCB theater in LA called “I’m Too Effin’ High” and I was. This goes beyond marijuana consumption. If you think that Gordon’s problems started in 2014, you’re either foolish or too focused on the fact that you won your fantasy championship a year before his suspensions started. Gordon admitted to using drugs, including Xanax, as early as seventh grade. And he’s self-aware enough to know there are causes that go beyond getting high for fun:
The anxiety, the fitting in and stuff. Not being comfortable with who I was. Socially, I felt awkward, talking with people, telling them where I was living. Other kids have nicer stuff than you, “you’re poor” type of shit. A lot of inadequacy, I think, is the reason why I initially got into it.
He was talented enough as an athlete to get an offer from Baylor, but was suspended in 2010 for getting caught being high in a Taco Bell drive-thru. He was suspended again in 2011. He transferred to Utah. He never played there. He was an elite college athlete who potentially could have been the rare receiver to challenge for a Heisman had he ever given himself the chance, but Gordon only played one season at the college level before entering into the NFL’s supplemental draft.
A situation in which players are rarely ever chosen at all, let alone above a day three pick, Gordon was chosen by the Browns with a relatively high second round supplemental choice. That’s how good he can be, but how good he actually is must also factor in the little amount he has actually played.
An NFL player is not his 40-yard dash time.
An NFL player is not his best game or best season.
An NFL player is not his worst game or worst season.
An NFL player is not how high you can jump.
An NFL player is not how good of a person you are.
An NFL player is not a knee that is constantly landing him on the injury report.
An NFL player is not a single arrest.
An NFL player is not the hardest worker in the room.
An NFL player is all of these things and more. You are the sum of your parts. You are every little wrinkle to your personality, and then you are your talent, and then you are your work ethic. And then you are your moral code. And so on and so on until we come to the end: the end is the results.
Josh Gordon’s results have been horrible. To say anything else is totally near-sighted in my opinion, unless the word I’m looking for is far-sighted.
If Gordon is his 1,646 yards in 2013, then he is absolutely also his 655 yards in the four-plus years since. That’s what he has been able to produce because that’s how often he’s allowed himself to be on the field through his own actions. At no point has Gordon had a solid reason to appeal any of his suspensions because at all times he has apparently been guilty. And I don’t think that Gordon shouldn’t be given another chance or that he is necessarily a bad acquisition, but look at the entire picture when evaluating the fact that to acquire one player you must fire another player.
A player who has maybe never been in trouble. Who has worked his ass off. Who is not nearly as talented as Gordon but who also seems a sure bet to be active for the next 15 games. Who has never been late to a meeting. Who doesn’t do photoshoots midseason (I’m not sure if the photoshoot part is a big deal to Cleveland or not, but it does seem like a pointless activity for a guy who needed a lot of time to get “mentally and physically healthy” to focus on the season and then above all that, injures himself while doing so). You’re not just acquiring a player, you’re firing a player. All the while still asking yourself, “Why did the Browns give up on him now? What do they know that I don’t know yet?”
I support Gordon as a player you just want to see play football, because he’s fucking great at it. I support Gordon as an NFL employee like any other who deserves a shot at a roster spot if he has earned it, and maybe he’s finally clean and ready for that. I support Gordon as a marijuana-smoker if he chooses to be that, knowing that it is a violation of NFL rules. I support weed use in general. And I’m not against the Seahawks being the team that perhaps involves themselves in such trade talks; smoking weed is not as bad as insider trading, right?
I just think it’s important to note the entire picture. Josh Gordon is not just a human highlight reel, he is also human. Flawed and currently still fighting his way out of the NFL’s spotlight of negativity. I hope his next chapter is better than most of the last eight.
Onto said rumors.
Twitter detectives pointed out that Gordon is currently following the Seattle Seahawks on Twitter, and the only other teams he follows are the Browns and Houston Texans, his hometown team. He also follows Russell Wilson. Also Jeremy Piven.
Early speculation immediately went to the Dallas Cowboys, of course, a team that would never shy away from a player like Gordon and who has perhaps the worst WR unit in the league. Ian Rapoport mentioned the Cowboys, as well as the San Francisco 49ers, as potential suitors.
The 49ers are looking to compete right now, it seems, and Kyle Shanahan is surely looking for the “Julio Jones” to his offense because Pierre Garcon, Dante Pettis, and Marquis Goodwin certainly don’t appear to be at that level.
It’s also said that Cleveland would like to keep him out of the AFC:
Cleveland prefers to trade WR Josh Gordon out of the AFC, and to an NFC team, and that's the Browns' current intent, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 16, 2018
Gordon knows he has no say in where he is traded, but the two places he's hoping to land are with the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys.
Which would be bad news for the Jacksonville Jaguars should he be traded, because Mike Freeman claims that Gordon said he’s interested in playing for Doug Marrone down there.
After many conflicting reports on what would happen to Gordon should no trade go down, it is settled that he will not be subject to waivers and will become an unrestricted free agent. That means Gordon could land anywhere. Will it be the 49ers, Cowboys, or Jaguars? The Seahawks? In my experience, it’s almost always a team that was never linked to said player at all.
We likely won’t have to wait long for the answer. Then Gordon’s new journey begins, hoping it’s not at all like the previous ones. Except for the part where he’s a great football player.