Let’s not pretend that Josh Gordon’s two-game suspension at the start of the Browns 2013 season is a minor thing.
It’s a pretty big thing.
Because it could cost the Browns two wins. Just like Joe Haden’s suspension a year ago cost the Browns wins. The two are key players, and their absence matters.
In Haden, the Browns missed their best cover corner. In Gordon, they will miss their best receiver and best downfield threat in a downfield offense.
Gordon was a second-round supplemental choice of the Browns last offseason, and Tom Heckert gave up the second-round choice in April’s draft because of Gordon’s talent. However, he also took a risk, because Gordon failed three drug tests at two different schools when in college.
Now this suspension.
Gordon attributed the suspension to codeine in a cough syrup prescription. The league doesn’t comment on these matters, except to announce the suspension. It’s a bit unusual for the league to give Gordon two games off the field and two games without pay, so perhaps there’s something to his story.
But then again … Lions running back Mikel Leshoure was suspended two games and fined two more for two marijuana-related offenses prior to last season. So … there’s that.
Gordon’s history certainly makes anyone wonder.
Regardless, the NFL makes it clear to players that they are responsible for what goes in their bodies, and if they need a prescription waiver there is a process to follow.
Basically, it’s too easy for a player to blame something on a prescription or over-the-counter purchase. The old “I didn’t know there was codeine in the pretzels” excuse isn’t gonna fly.
So the bottom line is Gordon is responsible for what happened.
And for the fallout that affects the team.
The Browns open against Miami and Baltimore. The Dolphins were not a very good team a year ago, but they have made a significant effort to upgrade, adding Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbee via free agency, trading up in the draft for Dion Jordan and signing cornerback Dimitri Patterson. OK, the last one was a joke.
They have second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was drafted before Brandon Weeden.
They aren’t great, but the point is that Gordon’s absence removes the guy who should be the Browns No. 1 wideout from the lineup. Either Davone Bess or David Nelson starts for him, and neither bring what Gordon could.
Yes, the Browns have Travis Benjamin.
Let’s just leave that one right there.
Without Gordon, the Dolphins will bring a safety into the box, dare the Browns to throw downfield to receivers who don’t scare them and limit Trent Richardson. Assuming he’s healthy.
Baltimore is a transformed defending Super Bowl champion that lost Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Ellerbee, fullback Vontae Leach and others from a title team. No matter, Ozzie Newsome added Michael Huff and Elvis Dumervil to go with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.
Are the Ravens what they were when the Super Bowl?
No, but they will be lined up across from Greg Little, Bess and Nelson in facing the Browns passing game.
The present regime with the Browns has already started privately blaming the previous one for draft choice and player decisions. No doubt the suspension will be attributed to Heckert and Mike Holmgren taking an unnecessary chance.
But the same group that is doing this grumbling (privately) is the one that advertised its April draft by saying it considered Gordon part of this draft group. The team that traded picks in the fourth and fifth rounds and turned down a chance to acquire a pick in the second round (from St. Louis) did so, in part, because of Gordon’s presence.
The Browns are a team that has won 22 games in five years and seen its new owner immersed in a federal investigation at his company.
It gave up draft picks in April for picks next season.
The hope for improvement is with basically the same cast and new systems on offense and defense, as if new coaches can sprinkle pixie dust on a marginal team and make it win.
The Browns are a team that badly needs some good news. Gordon gave them bad news, and he hurt the team.
Because when a team is struggling, it needs all its good players. For every game.