Josh Gordon, in many ways, seems to be a man without a country right now. And he played that way on Sunday as he was the best player on the field in the Browns-Vikings game. There was a ton of joy for Gordon as he caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown along with 22 yards rushing, but one cannot but think he is playing with a great of conflict within himself, maybe anger at the people who criticized him and never believed in him including some in the Browns front office, and then determination to prove to his teammates he is reliable and will be there for them.
The current front office does not seem to be enamored with him. Mike Lombardi was extremely critical of the pick while serving in his role in the media. Now he is the team’s general manager. The President of the team at the time they drafted Gordon, Mike Holmgren, said that Trent Richardson was the best offensive player on the team with he and Joe Thomas on the roster in response to the news they had traded Richardson. The team made it pretty clear they would not have picked them had this front office been in place at the time, suggesting that Gordon had a short leash.
According to Solomon Wilcots, he thought Gordon was extremely contrite and understood the mistakes he has made in a conversation he had with him. This suspension also worked to make a large of fans and the media criticize him. There have also been media people (Daryl Ruiter among others) who have suggested that Gordon is not a hard worker. Certainly, there has to be a level of satisfaction within Gordon when he comes off of the field after a big day for him personally and a win.
With this week and the trade of Richardson, there has been increased speculation that the Browns were trying to trade Gordon and had not just fielded offers, but were actively trying to find a team. If that is true, then it is because the Browns do not like the risk with him off the field. One more drug issue and he is gone for a year. If they are not extremely confident in an attitude shift, it is a big risk to keep him. If the rest of the league is not convinced, his value is little. Santonio Holmes, in a similar circumstance with the Pittsburgh Steelers, fetched a fifth round pick; a horrid value for Holmes and potentially for Gordon with all they can do.
Whether a case of using him before he’s gone, showcasing his talents for potential buyers or perhaps a suggestion about how much they want to keep Gordon, the Browns coaching staff featured Gordon heavily. In all, Brian Hoyer threw 19 of his 54 passes attempts Gordon’s way and they gave him an end around. It paid off as Gordon was able to total up 168 total yards. If teams want to add a potential big time receiver, he had the day the Browns would want in terms of trying to raise his value. Gordon also made it a little more awkward to move him as fans have been testy since the Richardson move. Trading Gordon after this game would only increase that rabble, even if it is the right move in the long run as Richardson appears to be.
There is also the fact that he might really like playing football. Not getting to play like he did the past two weeks was probably not as fun as going out and playing incredibly well on the way to winning a football game. And Gordon is clearly quite good at it. Hopefully, he realizes that he is messing with his own football mortality and could potentially lose something of which has such an incredible talent.
Perhaps the most important for Gordon was the faith of his teammates and getting them to believe in him. D’Qwell Jackson was vocal about where Gordon stood with the locker room and how much of a leash he had left with the team in light of his suspension. It is easy to for an individual player have an ‘us against them’ mentality as players against the higher ups in positions of authority, but these are the guys in the locker room and his fellow players that he is working with and has to see every day saying this is a problem and one that cannot and will not be tolerated. Maybe that is what it took to get the message across. He may not have ever faced that in his football career.
It is also possible that the money is what got him and he realized he would like to keep receiving a pay check. Either way, if he can work his issues out off the field, he is an absolute stud on the field and he is just scratching the surface of what he can be. The fans, which Gordon may or may not care about as they are fickle as it gets, will embrace him and champion him as long as he stays on the field and keeps playing this way. Look what they did for Peyton Hillis.
Gordon has a ton to be excited about, but the reasons for why may vary depending on which group of people or even himself. Anger, spite, or joy for himself or maybe the satisfaction of being able to have such a big impact on his teammates, there are so many reasons for Gordon to feel good about his game today. The hope for Gordon is that he makes the decision that this feeling, that having the game of football and a locker room full of teammates that believe in him, is more important than the stuff that will cause him to lose them.