Imagine a young athlete with incredible talent, freakish physical ability, and Hall of Fame potential. Now imagine the same athlete needing to overcome drug and alcohol abuse in order to reach these lofty expectations. Although this description sounds a lot like Josh Gordon, it can also be attributed to Josh Hamilton, outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels.
Hamilton was widely considered the best position prospect in baseball, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays made him the first overall pick of the 1999 MLB draft. From the beginning, Hamilton began quickly climbing his way through Devil Rays farm system. Hamilton’s success would quickly be derailed as he began using drugs and alcohol in 2001. As these thing usually do, Hamilton’s career began to spiral out of control. As his drug use intensified, Hamilton found himself out of baseball for multiple years. The once “can’t miss” prospect had gone from freak athlete to junkie.
There is redemption in Hamilton’s story. In 2007, Hamilton would make his comeback with the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the slugger everyone thought he would be when he was 18. This did not happen without serious change, of course. Hamilton spent time in rehab, had to change his lifestyle, and needed special attention nearly 24 hours a day. To provide this, The Reds hired Johnny Narron to be Hamilton’s accountability coach. Narron’s job description was basically to keep Hamilton out of trouble, by any means necessary. This would include staying adjacent to Hamilton on team road trips, holding on to Josh’s money in order to keep him from buying drugs, as well as being his partner in faith, a central aspect to Hamilton’s recovery.
…And how does this affect Gordon?
It was become very clear that Gordon’s lifestyle during both his collegiate and professional career has become toxic. Between his dismissal from the football team at Baylor, and his failed drug tests in the NFL, Gordon has developed a self-destructive pattern not unlike Hamilton’s. Although Hamilton’s drug use included harder drugs like crack and cocaine, Gordon’s use of marijuana and codeine has become detrimental to himself, and the Browns. Are the Browns doing whatever they can to help Gordon? I’m sure they are, but clearly something is not working as Gordon’s issues persist.
With the possibility of a season-long suspension looming, the Browns appear to be back to square one with Gordon. Does Josh Gordon need a Hamilton-esque accountability coach? Maybe, but ultimately it comes down to personal accountability, and responsibility. Clearly the lifestyle of a football star is full of opportunities to succumb to the “party culture” (see Johnny Manziel). It should also be stated that the NFL drug testing policy is among the most rigid in all of professional sports. Regardless of if this is fair or not, individuals like Gordon need to understand that the stakes are incredibly high, and that any second chances he had have now expired. Perhaps Gordon does not need an accountability coach, but it has become abundantly clear changes must be made if Jimmy Haslem’s wish of seeing Josh Gordon as a longtime Cleveland Brown is to come true.