Less than five months ago, while playing in his first career Pro Bowl, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was doing what he does best — catching passes and making plays.
Gordon hauled in six receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown as Team Rice narrowly defeated Team Sanders, 22-21. His performance put the proverbial bow on top of a spectacular 2013 campaign in which he led the NFL in receiving yards (1,646), average yards per reception (18.9), receptions over 20 yards (30), and receiving yards per game (117.6).
The accolades piled up. He was named a first-team All-Pro selection and the Pro Football Writers of America Player of the Year, in addition to the several Browns single-season records now attached to his name.
Gordon, a former Supplemental Draft pick, had established himself among the elite at his position, statistically trumping, among others, the likes of Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and A.J. Green — all of whom are indisputably considered top five wideouts.
Here’s the kicker: Gordon accomplished these feats with three different quarterbacks starting under center for the Browns last season. Who needs chemistry when you have Gordon at your disposal? Just throw the ball up and, more often than not, he’ll come down with it. This is the trait of a potential Hall of Famer.
It became evident that Gordon’s future was brighter than the sun shining down upon Honolulu on that January day.
Now, thanks to one boneheaded transgression too many, it’s bleaker than a Cleveland winter.
After failing his second league-mandated drug test — as first reported on May 9 by ESPN’s Outside the Lines – Gordon is facing a severe, possible year-long suspension.
The NFL still has yet to rule on the matter, irking Browns first-year head coach Mike Pettine.
“There’s certainly a level of frustration because we’ve known the news for so long,” Pettine recently told 92.3 The Fan, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It’s just a holding pattern and I understand that the league has a process that they have to go through and there’s other things that they’re dealing with and we respect that. But at the same time it is difficult because it really will affect our preparation for the season … We’re prepared for all of the eventualities, but the waiting is difficult.”
Sadly, Pettine must also prepare for the eventuality that Gordon never gets his act together.
We’re talking about the same player that, almost a year ago to the day, violated the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, resulting in a two-game ban to open the 2013 regular season. This is the same guy whose character issues (read: positive drug tests) got him kicked out of Baylor and torpedoed his draft stock, forcing him to go the Supplemental route.
So is it a surprise that Gordon has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse — from a budding, 23-year-old superstar to an abject washout? Not at all. This is the classic million-dollar-talent, ten-cent-head kind of player. There’s a few in every sport. Gordon happens to be the NFL’s most notable.
It’s a spectacular fall from grace in such a short period, but one that shouldn’t have been unexpected. Gordon obviously can’t help himself and hasn’t learned from his college days to separate basic right from wrong.
In the immortal words of Ron White, “you can’t fix stupid.” And Gordon’s off-the-field decisions are as stupid as stupid gets.
Unfortunately, Gordon’s foolishness affects more than just himself. His absence robs Browns fans — any NFL fan, really — of the opportunity to watch a truly special talent dominate the gridiron.
Feel bad for them. Feel for us. But don’t you dare take pity on him.