“Dear Lord, please provide me with the opportunity that Josh Gordon has: To make millions of dollars, support my family, live a lavish life, and be an NFL All-Pro. I promise that I will be a positive influence to those around me and my community, and to use the talent you gave me to satisfy all of my fans. I will not use drugs, disobey the law, or be a menace to society. AMEN!” Upon seeing Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver, Josh Gordon, enter a downward spiral during this offseason, this is the prayer that is being sent to the man upstairs by every NFL Free Agent, 4th and 5th option on any teams depth chart, and CFL player trying to make their way into National Football League. Gordon is quickly losing the trust of the Cleveland Browns organization, the NFL, and his many supporters after being arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) over the July 4th weekend. Not to mention, this is in the midst of facing a year-long suspension from the league for his violation of its substance abuse policy, which he is currently appealing. The text acronym “SMH” has never been more appropriate.
Since the Browns selected the now 23-year old in the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft, it was well documented that he had a limitless ceiling but was an at-risk player considering his checkered past with drugs dating back to his collegiate career at Baylor University and the University of Utah. With that past spilling over onto his professional career, the talented wideout’s career is at a crossroads. After beginning his second season with a 2-game suspension for codeine usage in 2013, he quickly raised the eyebrows of NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, for all the wrong reasons. Despite receiving word in early May that his 2014 campaign may be cut short before it even starts after failing a drug test for marijuana, it appears that did not shake him up a bit. The Memorial Day weekend obviously shed light on Gordon’s adrenaline rush for speed, which he was ticketed for, and left the Browns covering their faces. As Gordon approaches his July appeal hearing for his suspension, these events and his history provide a case against him being in the league rather than for him, especially in light of his recent DWI arrest.
So the Cleveland Browns are now faced with the tough decision of either cutting Gordon, and imposing a no nonsense attitude in the their locker room, stand by the troubled receiver, exhibiting a sign of unity and togetherness throughout the ups and downs of those within the Browns family, or to simply wait to come to a determination, whether or not he participates in the 2014 NFL season. But the home of the Dawg Pound must tread lightly, as they have a host of other issues that are currently disturbing its organizational focus on football. For one, there will be no stopping Johnny Manziels celebrity status, and partying with the likes of Hollywood socialites and entertainers, which lead to questions about his dedication to the game. But honestly, what do you expect from a 21 year-old who has a truckload of money at his fingertips? On top of that, Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam, is battling an ongoing federal investigation of his family business, Pilot Flying J, which has been alleged to be at the forefront of a massive rebate fraud ring on trucking companies. So while Gordon does come with baggage, the Browns cannot sit there as if everything is peachy in Ohio and he is the only distracter to the franchise.
On the flipside, there are feel-good stories of troubled NFL players who have successfully bounced back from their off-the-field troubles. Cincinnati Bengals Cornerback, Adam “Pac Man” Jones, quickly calmed down his negative conduct after a string of incidents, which most notably included his involvement in a well publicized Las Vegas shooting, and ultimately led to his suspension for the entire 2007 season, along with part of the 2008 season. I guess once he saw those game checks get chopped more than the chicken at a hibachi grill, he quickly fell in line. Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been on good behavior and has not had any legal woes since he was suspended six games in 2010 relating to alleged sexual assaults in 2009 and 2010. Most notably, New York Jets Quarterback, Michael Vick, has been the poster child for how quickly things can evaporate for any player, at any height of fame, in the NFL. With his career hanging by a thread after pleading guilty to a dog-fighting operation and serving a 23-month prison sentence, Vick complied with all rehabilitative measures that the league encouraged, got his play back up to an A+ level, and earned a $100 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.
Yes, Gordon hasn’t done the best job with seizing the privilege of being a model NFL player, but the potential for greatness is there if he doesn’t fumble any second chances. In his second year, he led the league in yards with 1,646, caught 87 balls, reached the endzone 9 times, and became the ONLY player in NFL history to post back-to-back 200 yard games. Statistics like that at such an early stage of his career make pulling the plug on Gordon even more difficult for the Browns higher-ups.
Though a grey area looms over Gordon’s third season in the league, and how the Browns and the league will handle his recent off-the-field activity, the league has shown that it will make decisions with an iron hand, but still offer a shot a redemption to those who are worthy. When it’s all said and done, Gordon is simply going to have to want it for himself and understand that his life without the pigskin is not worth a few highs, a few joyrides, or anything else that could jeopardize his playing days. Whether it is his inner-circle that is steering him wrong or him acting out on his own, some new influences surely couldn’t hurt at this point. Maybe he should begin to hang with Brown’s Corner, Joe Haden, who just signed a 5-year $68 million dollar extension for shutting receivers down on the field and staying off of the police radar. He is an example that the Brown’s are interested in rewarding their young talent for doing what they are supposed to do (which is very simple) on the field and off of the field, and investing in the team’s future. If Gordon does the same, one can only imagine his monetary possibilities and the kind of high praise he would receive outside of pass-catching by getting his life back on track. Until then, he better expect to be public enemy #1 in the NFL and among his teammates.