Tomase: Whatever you think of Josh Gordon's demons, he's leaving Patriots in lurch

John Tomase
December 20, 2018 - 11:49 am
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By the time Josh Gordon announced he'd be leaving the Patriots to address mental health issues, he reportedly already knew he was about to be suspended.

So forgive me if I'm only partially sympathetic to Gordon's demons or the predicament they've left the Patriots facing with only two weeks remaining in the regular season and a postseason berth still unsecured.

It's more than a little disingenuous for Gordon to announce his exit -- perhaps from pro football forever -- without mentioning that the decision was about to be made for him. We can certainly feel for his battles with addiction and depression while also noting that his looming suspension probably had as much to do with his departure as any desire for personal wellness.

In any event, what's done is done, and so now the Patriots must pick up the pieces. And oh what a mess Gordon is leaving behind.

A Patriots squad featuring only two Pro Bowlers lacks high-end talent, and Gordon possesses it. The Patriots were going to lean on him heavily in the postseason, particularly with Julian Edelman banged up, Rob Gronkowski a lumbering version of his former battering-ram self, Cordarrelle Patterson effectively a running back, and Chris Hogan only able to find openings against completely busted coverages.

But this is the risk the Patriots took when they acquired Gordon from the Browns despite the talented wideout's checkered past. The Patriots landed him after losing two of three to open the season, their lack of depth and playmaking at wideout glaring.

Gordon didn't disappoint. He ended up producing 40 catches for 720 yards. That's 18 yards a grab, and good luck finding anyone capable of that on the current Patriots roster.

Dependability was always going to be an issue, though with each passing week, those fears receded. We really hadn't heard a thing about Gordon outside of a disputed story regarding practice tardiness. We could be forgiven for believing that playing in Week 16, as Gordon was slated to do, meant he was home free.

Instead, he leaves at pretty much the worst possible time from a football standpoint, with the Patriots still seeking offensive consistency after consecutive losses to the Dolphins and Steelers.

His loss will be felt in an outsized way, because Gordon represented everything the Patriots currently lack in a downfield receiver, corralling passes in traffic, gaining yards after the catch, and earning the trust of quarterback Tom Brady, who targeted him 12 times alone in a loss to the Titans.

By the end, however, Gordon was basically an afterthought. He caught just one pass against the Steelers on Sunday and dropped another. The team's most gifted athlete and ball hawk wasn't even on the field when the Patriots launched their last Hail Mary.

Speaking of which, the continuation of Gordon's career may require one. His addiction issues have cost him two full seasons already, and there may be no coming back from this final transgression.

The Patriots knew what they were getting into when the acquired Gordon, and they nearly made it work. But some issues are simply too deep-seated to overcome, and whether Gordon departed of his own volition or at the behest of the league is a meaningless distinction to the Patriots, who had left themselves no choice but to count on him.

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