Reimer: Unfortunately, Josh Gordon doesn't appear to be in position to help any football team, including the Patriots

Alex Reimer
September 18, 2018 - 12:52 pm

USA Today Sports


The conventional wisdom on Josh Gordon appears to be that he’s another problematic player who may finally be able to control his demons, at least on a temporary basis, once he walks into Patriot Place and sets his eyes on the five Super Bowl banners that hang above Gillette Stadium. 

“The 27-year-old Gordon is a generational talent,” writes Karen Guregian in the Boston Herald. “He’s one of those rare planet players. Yes, he’s troubled, but if the Patriots can get his head on straight and extract that ability, it’s better than hitting a home run.”

NBC Sports Boston's Tom Curran is more blunt, saying Gordon will only achieve success in New England if he "wants to." 

That's missing the point. Gordon's problems appear to go far deeper than self-motivation. You don't think he's wanted to succeed over the last five years?  

Gordon’s history of drug and alcohol abuse dates back to middle school, where he says he started self-medicating with Xanax, marijuana, and codeine to combat social anxiety. Since then, he’s been suspended indefinitely from the Baylor football team, slapped with at least four NFL suspensions, failed numerous drug tests and missed two full seasons. Over the last four years, he’s only played in six contests. 

In an interview with GQ, Gordon says he's been drunk or high before every football game going back to college. 

Despite all of those indiscretions, the Browns re-signed Gordon to a one-year, $790,000 deal this offseason, because he’s freaking good. In case you haven’t heard, he led the NFL in receiving in 2013, with Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer throwing him the ball.

Gordon attended OTAs, but missed almost the entirety of training camp due to mental health and anxiety issues. He showed up at the end of August, and was active for the Browns’ opener, where he caught the game-tying touchdown pass. Just six days later, however, he walked into Cleveland’s facility complaining about a mysterious hamstring injury and reportedly “wasn’t himself.” The Browns announced later that day they intended to cut bait with him. 

As John Tomase notes, the Patriots have brought in hoards of players with far more gruesome and violent rap sheets than Gordon: Aaron Hernandez, Corey Dillon, Albert Haynesworth, Michael Floyd and even Kenny Britt. But in the callous NFL, you are free to play after reportedly assaulting your wife (Dillon), partially paralyzing a motorist after crashing your Ferrari at over 100 mph (Haynesworth) or allegedly killing two people before getting arrested (Hernandez). You aren’t allowed to play if you’re in Stage 3 of the league’s substance-abuse program and fail even one drug or alcohol test, which is the predicament Gordon finds himself in. 

Gordon’s story illustrates the perverse power of addiction. He’s been granted several chances at professional redemption, but has been unable to capitalize on them. In 2016, after being suspended for the previous season, Gordon was reinstated to the league –– on the condition that he would also sit out the first four contests. But in September, just when he was on the cusp of returning, he decided to enroll in a rehab program. Around the same time, Gordon told GQ he was alerted a warrant was out for his arrest for failure to comply with a paternity test. 

He didn’t play a snap that season, either.

The following fall, Gordon’s latest application for reinstatement was accepted, and he played in the final five games of Cleveland’s winless campaign. This season, he lasted one game with the Browns.

If Gordon doesn’t work out, the Patriots can simply cut him and move on. He’ll be another footnote in the 28 transactions the Patriots have made at wide receiver since the start of the league year, opposed to paying Danny Amendola a few more million dollars or holding onto Brandin Cooks. 

That’s how this move is being sold: low-risk, high-reward. But the chances of a reward appear remote. Gordon’s track record over the last five years doesn’t give any indication he’s ready to reliably contribute to a football team, never mind perhaps the most demanding organization in professional sports.

“Pat the Patriot” isn’t a panacea for depression, anxiety, alcoholism or drug addiction. Gordon’s problems are more complex than the need to just focus and start being behaving professionally. It doesn’t happen with the snap of the finger.

Case in point: Last November, he told GQ he knows he's “out of chances.” Then he proceeded to get benched before Week 2. 

Gordon needs more help than a change of football scenery.