Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was reinstated by the NFL a few days ago and it amazes me that the Browns still kept him on the roster all this time. But will it be worth their while? Gordon was a second round pick in the 2012 Supplemental Draft out of Baylor by the Browns and despite all the talent he had, he was still a big time risk. He started recreationally using marijuana and xanax when he was in middle school and those troubles carried into college. He was suspended by coach Art Briles for falling asleep in the drive thru at a Taco Bell with marijuana in the car in 2010, yet he still managed to have plenty of success that season, catching 42 passes for 714 yards and 7 TDs in his shortened season. However, he was suspended again following a failed drug test in 2011, resulting in him transferring to Utah, where he had to sit out an entire year due to NCAA rules. He never played a snap for the Utes and ended up qualifying for the 2012 Supplemental Draft, where the Browns took him in the second round.
Gordon shot out of the gates fast in his rookie season of 2012, playing all 16 games, starting 13, and catching 50 passes for 805 yards and 5 TDs. He was among the top rookie wide receivers despite not being eligible for the traditional NFL draft, a group where really only Alshon Jeffery and TY Hilton have become established stars, and neither were first round picks. The first rounders in that class? Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Gordon’s Baylor teammate Kendall Wright, Jonathan Baldwin, and AJ Jenkins. Blackmon flashed amazing potential, but he kept getting in trouble for substance abuse, similarly to Gordon. Floyd and Wright each had a 1000 yard season, but neither really took the next step. Baldwin showed flashes as a rookie but never put it all together and Jenkins was a COLOSSAL whiff by the 49ers. Josh Gordon was easily as talented as any of these guys and in 2013, he showed that he may even be the best of the bunch. Gordon was suspended for the first two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, then went on an absolute tear upon his return. He led the NFL in receiving yards with 1646 on 87 catches with 9 TD’s and became the first receiver ever to have back-to-back 200 yard games with 237 yards against the Steelers and 261 against the Jaguars. He followed that up with a 151 yard game against the Patriots. He accomplished all this despite playing 2 fewer games than everyone else. In 2014, however, it was announced that he would miss the entire NFL season due to another violation of the substance abuse policy, but was able to get it reduced to 10 games upon appeal. He ended up playing in 5 games before getting suspended for the season finale for violating team rules. In his 5 games, he caught 24 passes for 303 yards and no touchdowns. He hasn’t played a snap in a regular season game ever since. In 2015, he was suspended indefinitely for violating the policy AGAIN, this time for drinking while under probation for a DUI. He’s applied numerous times for reinstatement, however earlier this week, he was finally reinstated and will be eligible to return in Week 13 against the Chargers.
The Browns stuck by him through all this, even after people were repeatedly calling for them to cut the troubled receiver. He is still employed by the team despite not having played a down of regular season football in 3 years (he did, however, play in the final 2 preseason games of 2016). He is a supremely talented receiver, as evidenced by his 2013 performance, but he also comes with about as much baggage as anybody in the history of the league. He recently stated that he used to get either drunk or high before every game he played in. He says he is sober now, though so it will be interesting to see how he performs once he returns. If I’m a Browns fan, I’d set my expectations low. He’s been out of the league for basically three years and naturally there is going to be some rust once he does return. But given the fact that he is such a talented player, it also wouldn’t surprise me if he has some success. And who knows? Maybe he is the spark this dormant Browns offense needs. He’s had success with subpar quarterbacks beofore, his 2013 season was quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, and Brandon Weeden, so catching balls from Deshone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, and Cody Kessler won’t be too much of a change of pace for him. He’s only 26 years old so he’s well into the prime of his athletic years. Let’s just hope for his sake that this whole ordeal has put his head on straight so he doesn’t waste all that talent he has.