Cleveland Browns Can’t Count on Josh Gordon

Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (12) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is theoretically eligible to play in the National Football League later this fall. Fans need to be realistic about what they will see from Gordon.

Fans of the Cleveland Browns are excited about the idea of wide receiver Josh Gordon returning to National Football League fields this fall.

That’s understandable. Gordon is, on paper, the best offensive weapon currently signed to the Browns. The NFL announced on July 25 that Gordon is currently eligible to work out with and feature for the Browns in preseason games before the start of a four-game suspension that will hopefully put an end to the issues that prevented Gordon from playing football for most of the past two NFL seasons.

Everybody should, however, remain realistic about what we will see from Gordon beginning in October.

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For starters, there is zero reason to believe that Gordon will stay in the good graces of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell up through the end of summer and Week 5 of the regular season. Before the afternoon of July 25, Gordon last made headlines earlier this year because it was alleged that he failed yet another NFL drug test.

From conversations I’ve had with reporters and with individuals within the NFL, I believe it is only a matter of time before marijuana is off of the banned-substances list as it pertains to NFL players. That day isn’t coming today, nor is it occurring before the start of the 2016 regular season. Assuming that there is at least some accuracy in the stories floated out there by Gordon this past offseason, one has to assume that Gordon has been popped by NFL tests multiple times since the end of the 2013 campaign.

Why is that going to end just because Gordon is now reinstated?

The NFL has a history of conducting witch hunts on players who have multiple test failures on their resumes. Gordon is a victim of one, as that is why he is banned for the first four games of the 2016 season in the first place. Knowing how the NFL operates, one has to assume that Gordon will be one the most-tested professional athletes in all of North America. One red flag will likely mean the end of his career.

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Let’s say that Gordon finds and stays on the straight and narrow path. That’d be great news, as it would mean that a young man not yet in the prime of his playing days took multiple positive steps toward reclaiming his career and pursuing the superstar status Gordon seemed destined to achieve only a few years ago.

That alone does not, however, mean that Gordon will be the player of old come October.

Take a spin on social media websites such as Twitter and look at highlights of Gordon completing spectacular plays that are posted by overjoyed Cleveland fans. Those video clips are from 2013. That was three years ago.

It was also the last time Gordon was actually a full-time NFL player.

Try to produce a list of great athletes who play in only five NFL games across two seasons and then come back and immediate find their prior forms. You won’t be doing so for long, as such an imaginary list is short. Quarterback Michael Vick may come to mind, but remember that Vick only played like an elite QB for a season with the Philadelphia Eagles before his offensive production decreased.

How will Gordon respond the first time he experiences a crunching hit in a NFL for the first time in years? What type of “football shape” is Gordon currently in? Where is Gordon’s head right now? Does he even want to be a member of the Browns? What relationships, if any, does Gordon have with his to-be fellow teammates?

Those are just some of the reasonable questions one could ask about the Gordon situation.

It is also worth noting that Gordon is not returning to the Browns as he left the team following the 2014 regular season. The Browns have a different coaching staff and a different front office, one that has never worked with Gordon and one that did not pick him for anything. What is known about whoever is lining up at QB for the Browns in Week 5 is that he and Gordon have never played a snap together in a meaningful NFL game.

Adjustments will be necessary. It will take time for Gordon to acquire chemistry in the Cleveland offense.

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Gordon last played in an altered offense during the 2014 season when he suited-up for all of five regular season games. He finished that campaign with a total of 24 catches, good for an average of under five receptions per outing. Gordon did not find the end zone a single time in 2014. He barely flashed any signs of being the dynamic play-maker he was throughout the previous season.

Some athletes are able to flip the figurative switch, find that extra gear and make the transition to elite levels. Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James showed this past June that he still possesses that ability. Gordon will need to be LeBron-esque if he is to match the statistics he posted in 2013.

That’s no easy task.

Before anybody can even consider delivering any hot takes about what they see from Gordon in training camp sessions and preseason games, one must realize that Gordon needs to make it to October and Week 5 of the regular season without any off-the-field incidents. Gordon must be the best possible teammate. He shouldn’t even consider jay-walking let alone taking part in any controversial activities that could lead to him receiving a written command to meet face-to-face with Mr. Goodell.

July 25 is merely the start for Gordon. The road to Gordon helping the Browns do anything of note in 2016 is long and winding.