Josh Gordon’s missteps and bad decisions outnumbered his good ones in two college stops, but he made it to the NFL’s supplemental draft 24 months ago and the Cleveland Browns, desperate at the time for any kind of playmaker, used a second-round pick on him anyway.
Now, Gordon is just 23 and is the NFL’s reigning receiving champion — and he’s facing what could be the end of his NFL road.
He’s his own worst enemy, the author of a story that’s becoming more sad than anything else.
Gordon still is entitled to his day in court after being arrested on DWI charges early Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., and he’s still awaiting his day in the NFL’s court of appeals on the reported substance-abuse policy suspension he’s facing, which would be his second in 12 months. That suspension could be for at least 12 months.
Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is probably up to Gordon. Since reports of his newest possible suspension leaked, he’s been busted for allegedly speeding with a passenger who was cited for marijuana and now for alleged DWI after being clocked 15 MPH over the speed limit way past the time of night that mostly bad things happen.
Even if there were no prior incidents, there’s no excuse for impaired driving.
It’s the wrong kind of trend; all these things have come on the wrong side of the possible last-chance line. The Browns have to be beyond angry, and Gordon’s showing that whatever help he’s received thus far hasn’t actually helped.
Last season Gordon emerged not just as a dominant player and the NFL’s leading receiver, but did it on a bad team that played three different quarterbacks. He had no known incidents after being suspended two games to start the season — it was cut down from a four-game suspension on appeal — and positioned himself as a star for years to come.
In today’s NFL, plenty of "big" receivers are a shade over 6-foot-1 and "big" cornerbacks are around 5-11. Gordon is a legit 6-3, plays even bigger and runs better than a lot of guys who aren’t close to his listed weight of 225. There are lots of receivers 6-3 or over, but not many with Gordon’s combination of athletic ability and penchant for running to daylight after the catch.
Nothing’s settled and nothing’s official, but Gordon’s 2013 season stamped him as the kind of talent around whom a team would want to build and commit a bunch of money. Gordon is one season away from being able to negotiate a second pro contract, but now he’s facing the prospect of making exactly zero dollars in 2014.
These mistakes could end up costing him between $20 and $40 million. He’d never have received the full guarantees a blue-chip receiver with no baggage gets these days in the pass-happy NFL, but he’s a rare player who can challenge defenses and has left the Browns more than challenged in trying to replace him since the May news of another pending suspension broke.
Now, it’s not about the Browns waiting for the result of an appeal — Pro Football Talk reported last week that’s coming in late Jule — but wondering where Gordon’s interests lie. In football? In getting help? In just partying until he’s totally out of chances?
That time, sadly, might be coming. What’s sadder is that, given his track record, this latest news doesn’t come as much of a surprise.