Well, finally the other shoe dropped on Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon: The NFL has suspended him for a full calendar year. Gordon issued a statement apologizing to his teammates, coaches, organization and fans for the suspension.
The questions that immediately filled the sports talk airwaves were to be expected:
“Is this suspension fair considering that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice got two games for punching his then-fiancé in the face?”
No it’s not, but not in the way you may be thinking.
Gordon’s suspension was mandated by the collective bargaining agreement. Unless there were really special circumstances, as a third strike offender, he was to be suspended for a calendar year. There weren’t and he was.
The question of Ray Rice’s suspension was really up to the league office, and they said that two games were enough. Is THAT fair? No. Not to the NFL’s female fan base and not to the subject of domestic violence. A woman got knocked out and then dragged from an elevator. That should be worth more than a two-game suspension.
“How will this affect quarterback Brian Hoyer’s career and how will it affect quarterback Johnny Manziel’s development?”
Hoyer, hoping to finally be a regular starter after five seasons in the NFL, may see that chance short-circuited by Gordon’s suspension. This will make an already weak offense even weaker. And when the offense fails, Hoyer will be blamed. When game days are a boring series of 3-and-outs, the fans and media will scream for Manziel just for something to get excited about.
Manziel, on the other hand, will get rushed into the starting position where he will be left with the same mess Hoyer had to work with. He’ll take a pounding from opposing defenses and the fans when the team starts ending series after series with punts. This isn’t basketball where one guy can take over a game. Manziel’s abilities, whatever they are, can’t be enough for this team to succeed.
“Should Browns GM Ray Farmer have done something more about the wide receiver position, considering he knew before the draft?”
I hate arguments about personnel decisions when looking at them in the rearview mirror, but this one is fair because Farmer did know ahead of time. It is fair to question it.
This is an offense that has struggled for six seasons because of a lack of talent. Every off-season seemed to be about trying to build the defense while mostly ignoring the offense.
Should Farmer have done something differently about the wide receiver position? It seems so. I don’t know if he thought he had some deal that never materialized, but his big signing at that position was Andrew Hawkins. How did he ever expect this offense to keep this team in games? Maybe there’s a plan for down the road, but that does little to help the team now.
Which brings us to the urgent question: What can the team do from here? And the answer is “nothing”. You’re not going to pull off a blockbuster trade in the NFL; it just doesn’t happen. So you’re left looking at free agents who either aren’t good enough to be on anyone’s roster or guys who are retired. They can try, but finding a player this late in the year is almost pointless.
For me, the news of Gordon’s suspension doesn’t make me think of Rice or Farmer or Hoyer or Manziel. It makes me think of the Browns fans. They deserve to be treated better by all parties involved in this.
For the last six seasons, they’ve watched a team that couldn’t garner together more than five wins in a season. And not just a team that loses, but a team that specializes in losing in boring fashion. They don’t lose crazy high-scoring games. They lose games where you know it’s over as soon as the other team has more than 20 points because the Browns offense is never going to be able to match that.
Every front office says how they care about the fans, how they are so thankful for the fans’ loyalty, and yet they do very little to reward it. Wait, I’m wrong. There were renovations!
The team is proud of the changes it made to First Energy Stadium. I hear they’re nice. A giant scoreboard and reconfigured seating. Oh, and don’t forget the new mascot, Swagger! All to bring pride to the fan base and a better game-day experience.
Well, let me state the obvious here: Pride is going to come from winning, not from a canine. I’ve not heard one person talk about Swagger with any sort of excitement. The only people who care about the mascot are in the Browns marketing department, their heads filled with visions of stuffed dogs flying out of the team shops.
And the game-day experience is never going to be good without some excitement on the field. Doing something for the fans means doing something about the product on the field, not the field itself.
Ray Farmer had to know that this offense was going to be pretty stagnant, especially without Gordon. And he mostly decided to do nothing about it. They drafted their quarterback of the future, but equipped him with no wide receivers. They did what most previous front offices seem to do with their off-seasons: They focused on the defense.
I understand that defenses win championships, but the fans deserve better than watching every offensive series end with a punt or a turnover, all in the hope that the defense can “bend and not break” despite watching it eventually break week after week.
Some Browns fans care only for the football team and many care for them far more than any of the other sports franchises in town. And here we are, not even out of the preseason, and it looks like it’s going to be another year with double-digit losses.
We knew this suspension was coming, so we can’t act surprised. But the same can be said for the front office. The preseason has shown the fans what the personnel people should have known all along: This offense isn’t good enough to compete.
To the people who truly bleed orange and brown, I am sorry. I am sorry that you are on the cusp of another awful season. I am sorry that a player concerned with keeping it real just cost you the most exciting skill-position player the team has ever had. I’m sorry that you’re going to already have to start thinking about 2015 when 2014 hasn’t even kicked off.
But I’m mostly sorry that another front office has again taken advantage of your loyalty and again asked you to be patient while they install their master plan.
You deserve better.