Greg Little is making it incredibly difficult to defend him with his actions this past week. After an offseason where it seemed like Little had made the decision to grow up and really dedicate himself to football, he and the rest of the offense were terrible and then followed that up by another issue in a car, this time with a suspended license. Considering the situation with Josh Gordon, who comes back this week, the Browns have enormous questions at the wide receiver position both in terms of talent and reliability, but there is a larger question about how the Browns should look at character in their talent evaluation.
Obviously, this front office did not select Little or Gordon, but they now have them and need to make the best of the situation. The problem is the best way to handle their situations is unclear. For all of Little’s issues, he has not missed a game due to suspension. Gordon has missed two. So while there are people who are simply suggesting the Browns should cut Little, what message does that really send and is that the message the team wants to send?
And it is worth noting that while D’Qwell Jackson came out and was critical of Gordon, he defended Little earlier in the year. That might not be the case this week, but that is what happened during training camp. As frustrating and stupid as Little’s judgment has been behind the wheel, it is still relatively minor compared to the issues of others on this team. In addition to Gordon, whose next offense with drugs would net him a year long suspension, Armonty Bryant was arrested for a DUI less than a week after being drafted. There were those who criticized the Browns for taking him in the first place, even though he was taken in the seventh round. Some of those same people said that and in almost the same breath, complained the Browns did not select Tyrann Mathieu, the talented but problematic defensive back out of LSU. Mathieu’s issues with marijuana were so bad that he went from getting invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation to off the team. People lost count of the number of drug tests he failed, but it was estimated to be in the double digits. Of course, the Browns should have drafted him.
Rookies with problems tend to behave. The focus on them is overwhelming, so they stay clean and do not misbehave. The issues pop up in year two, when they are left alone more and have more freedom to get into a normal routine. When it comes to these character questions like with Janoris Jenkins or Gordon or anyone else, wait until their second year and then watch what happens. Jenkins, despite a litany of issues at Florida that landed him at North Alabama, has not had a setback yet. Gordon has had two. Everyone loves Mathieu now, but it will be interesting to see if he can stay clean.
And in the event that Mathieu does have an issue, the same people who called for them to take him, will turn around and criticize them for taking him. Many of those same people are now suggesting the Browns should select Johnny Manziel when he comes into the NFL Draft. The same Manziel whose own parents suggest he has problems with alcohol as a coping mechanism and suggested he has substance abuse issues. This is not some random media outlet making an accusation. It is his parents. Perfect. Well, it worked out great for the Carolina Panthers when they selected Kerry Collins.
Not all character questions are made the same and Jabaal Sheard is a great example. While he attended Pittsburgh, Sheard ended up in a situation as an underclassman where he threw a person threw a door in a fight. That does not sound great, but it was one issue, there was never another one and the indication was he learned from it and grew from it. The Browns select him and in his third year with the team, he has never had an issue.
Not everyone can be Joe Thomas, Alex Mack or Barkevious Mingo where the programs they come from cannot find enough positive things to say about them. That is part of why they ended up going in the first round. Still, compared to some of the other options that some in the media are clamoring for, Greg Little still comes out like a choir boy, which is simply remarkable. The fact the guy cannot seem to avoid a stupid decision when it comes to a motor vehicle makes a person want to throw their hands up and just be done with the kid. His performance on the field through two weeks has not done much to help his case either. If he had 10 catches for 150 yards and a couple of touchdowns through two weeks, this would still be annoying and stressing but in a different sense, because everyone would be praying for him to be able to stay on the field rather than trying to get him off of it.
Hopefully for Little’s sake, he can get his life figured out, make better decisions, and play better football, but how the Browns handle him is worth watching. Cut him, trade him, or keep him. Regardless of the decision, it sends a message and how they want to handle their roster. The Browns should put wide receiver relatively high on their board of needs to address in the draft next year to potentially replace Little but also as an insurance policy for Gordon. Beyond that, the Browns should have drafted the guy who LSU had to kick out after he was in the running for the Heisman and they should draft a short, redshirt sophomore quarterback who might be an alcoholic, right?