As the 2014 NFL Draft was approaching, I was very hopeful that the Cleveland Browns were going to take Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. There was one possible obstacle: The Jacksonville Jaguars who were picking 3rd, one spot in front of the Browns. There were whispers that they also wanted Watkins.
No! Can you imagine Josh Gordon and Sammy Watkins teamed up together?! No more of this boring offense we’ve been subjected to for several years! We have to get Watkins!
Well, as all of you know, we did not get Watkins. Not because he wasn’t available – Jacksonville ended up taking quarterback Blake Bortles with the 3rd pick – but because the Browns traded the pick to move down where they eventually took Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. (Worry not; just as I promised a Josh Gordon Thud article when I wrote the Johnny Manziel one, there’s a Justin Gilbert one coming, too.)
And to add to the heartbreak of knowing the team wouldn’t have Watkins, we also found out that they wouldn’t have Gordon, either. Suspended. An entire year. Drugs. Crap.
But a series of events led to Gordon being reinstated, even if none of it had anything to do with Gordon. Instead, it had everything to do with Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Ray Rice hit his then-fiance-now-wife in the face and knocked her out. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the guy who tries to win female fans by going overboard on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, decided that a 2-game suspension was fitting. People started freaking out. Then a video surfaced. More questions, more freaking out. Goodell had to sit down with the Players Union and work out a more severe punishment for this type of behavior. Yes, because they didn’t already have a strict discipline for domestic violence. Whatever.
But in the Browns favor was that Gordon’s year-long suspension was reduced to 10 games. Yes! Yea for a less stringent drug policy!
Fast-cut to the season starting strong. After 9 games, the Browns sat in first place at 6-3. They were playing that good without Gordon, what would they do when he was back?!
They beat the Atlanta Falcons in his first game back….and they never won another. In the one win, Gordon had 120 yards receiving….and 183 yards total the rest of the season. Never got in the end zone. Looked lethargic. Disinterested. Ran the wrong routes and gave up on other routes. Contributed to a starting quarterback losing his job. Awesome.
All of this came to a head on Saturday before the season finale, when Gordon missed practice. (If this article had sound, you’d hear my forehead hitting the table.) The team suspended him.
The questions that come screaming are the same ones everybody has: How could the guy throw away millions because he can’t stop toking? Then, he gets a second chance, and he seems distant and uninterested. Missed practice. Maybe – and maybe not – because he was at a party thrown by former Thud member Johnny Manziel.
So many hopes. So many visions of the Browns making it to the playoffs on the fresh legs of Flash Gordon….and we got nothing. Nothing except a guy with an attitude problem. A guy that should feel lucky, that should have been playing for a new contract, came out and never looked like he wanted to be there. Oh, and since he got suspended from the final game, he lost his free agent status. And that right there may have been the ONLY thing he did right for the Browns in 2014.
Gordon and his agent will once again try and fight the system that is punishing him for his behavior. I don’t think he’s going to win. If he doesn’t win, he’s under contract for one more year at only $1.33M. In comparison, Miami wide receiver Mike Wallace makes $15M. Texans WR Andre Johnson make $10M. A guy making 1/10th of that with the talent that Gordon has? The NFL is always willing to look past a player’s problems as long as the player can make things happen on the field.
In no way, shape, or form do I think the Browns should bring him back. They have to show that they will not tolerate this behavior. But if you think he can’t be traded with that measly contract, you’re out of your mind. What can they get? Not much, probably. Teams will use the fact that he has one year, a history of problems, and the knowledge that the Browns don’t want him as leverage.
But anything is better than the nothing you’ll get if you just cut him. And trade him quick, because he can’t get through an offseason without finding trouble.
I know there was so much anticipation for Manziel and, because of his savior status, was probably the biggest letdown for the Browns this year. However, I am more disappointed in the way the Gordon situation played out. I really thought his presence on the field would open up the game for everyone else: rushing and the other receivers. But it did no such thing. That’s not all his fault, but the hope was there and the hope never materialized.
And as Johnny Manziel started his Browns career with one, Josh Gordon just ended his with a giant thud.