Another chance

Josh Gordon: the NFL’s most enabled player

Toyloy Brown III, Opinion Editor

“[Josh Gordon] is a talented player, we’ll see how it goes,” were words said by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after being asked on how he envisioned Gordon helping the team.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Cleveland Browns traded wide receiver Josh Gordon to the New England Patriots in exchange for a 2019 fifth-round pick. Reports from NFL insiders like ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport claim that his late arrival at a Sept. 15 practice as well as an injured hamstring that occurred during a promotional video of him doing a 40-yard dash contributed to the Browns’ decision to trade him. These can be viewed as petty blunders but continues Gordon’s pattern of irresponsible behavior.

From the New England perspective, it makes total sense why they want to acquire a player of Gordon’s caliber at this point in the season.

After a disappointing offensive performance in the team’s 31-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Pats intend to improve their lackluster receiving corps of Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson and others. New England has also been without one of their best targets in Julian Edelman for four weeks because he broke the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy. This rule bans any substance or masking agents that can give an unfair advantage to a player.

With all that in mind, Gordon is a talent that should assist in reinvigorating the Patriots offense and hopefully elevating them to being one of the perennial contenders in the AFC.

From the Cleveland Browns perspective, they decided that the 27-year-old Gordon was ultimately too unreliable as a talent to remain on the team for another week.

It can be argued that he may not be as useful as a receiving weapon after delivering a disappointing one reception for 17 yards game week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the Browns, they may not think that Gordon is a player worth having on their team.

The Browns and the Patriots both have reasons for making the decision they made, but what I find myself most interested in is the perspective of Gordon himself.

In 2013, he was viewed as one of the top tier talents at the wide receiver position in all of the NFL. In 14 games, he hauled in 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. During weeks 12 and 13, Gordon became the first player to finish with 200 receiving yards in two consecutive games.

He also led the league in yards and earned first-team All-Pro honors. All of these accomplishments occurred all while he was 22 years old. Gordon’s ability to perform on the gridiron has never been questioned, however, everything else about him outside of football has been.

Gordon has routinely committed wrongdoings in his use of drugs throughout his life without feeling that he will actually pay a price for his misconduct.

These missteps have followed him since his days in high school, where he was expelled for marijuana possession. He still ended up attending Lamar High, competing in multiple sports while also remaining involved in a gang where he dealt drugs along with other illegal activities. This was only the beginning of a string of times where Gordon did not suffer much consequence for his poor decisions.

At Baylor University, Gordon was arrested and suspended for 13 games of his sophomore season. Gordon also spoke on how a coach at Baylor helped him cheat his drug tests so he could remain eligible to play, according to a feature with Uninterrupted in October 2017.

Gordon was eventually suspended again and still took several offers to transfer to big Division I schools like UCLA, USC, Oregon and Utah. Another time where Gordon did not pay a price for his actions and continued to be viewed as a valuable piece to a school even with the baggage he carried with him.

These teams didn’t seem to be dissuaded from taking a chance on him. He went on to Utah and didn’t play a single game for the program. Once he was drafted in the NFL, he resumed his pattern of harmful behavior.

Since he has shown enough of his talent on the field, the Browns kept him on after he broke the NFL’s substance abuse policy as well as was arrested for DWI. In the same Uninterrupted feature, Gordon expressed how he’s made it this far with his issues.

“I’ve been enabled most of my life honestly,” Gordon said. “I’ve been enabled by coaches, teachers, professors – everybody pretty much gave me a second chance just because of my ability.”

In 2016, Gordon entered a rehabilitation center and stayed sober for six months and then suddenly returned back to his addiction to drugs and alcohol, where he described that point in his life as his “rock bottom” in an interview with GQ.

He missed most of the 2017 season until returning week 13, playing the final five weeks of the season.

Coming into this year, Gordon received permission from the Browns organization to miss training camp so he could focus on his treatment plan. The Browns do this in the hope he finishes a complete season. Up to this point, Gordon has missed 57 of a possible 82 games going into week 3 of the NFL season.

“[Josh Gordon] is a talented player, we’ll see how it goes.”

That might be the truest statement ever made by Coach Belichick. It has been proven up to this point that Gordon will miss more games than he will play and has subsequently underachieved due to his bad habits.

Or it can be viewed that the “Patriot Way” that was able to make controversial and great receiver Randy Moss play excellent for the Pats can also be used to transform the career of Gordon.

It’s unclear what will happen in the upcoming games.

However, one thing I am sure about is that Gordon is currently the NFL’s most enabled athlete who continues to get chance after chance after his transgressions.

As per usual, whenever he makes a mistake on the field, another team is prepared to ignore the obvious and give another opportunity.