Cleveland Browns Couldn’t Handle Josh Gordon–How Are the Patriots Doing?

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 23: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns stands on the sideliens in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 23: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns stands on the sideliens in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns traded Josh Gordon to the New England Patriots for spare change, and the Patriots seem to be better suited for the wide receiver.

As expected by nearly everyone except the Cleveland Browns, Josh Gordon has started to catch passes from Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, including Brady’s 500th career TD pass last Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts.

Gordon’s Browns career was terminated after Week 1, when Gordon showed up late for practice, and had a pulled hamstring without a clear explanation for how it happened. He was visibly upset, or acting strangely, depending on whose account you are reading.  Browns head coach Hue Jackson went ballistic and within hours the media was reporting that Gordon would no longer be playing for the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns receive a nice, shiny 5th round draft pick, while the Patriots resume their path to the playoffs. For this, Browns Nation tended to support its embattled coach. Football fans are not known for their patience and understanding, so good job, Coach! We’ll show that Gordon who’s boss!

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This is certainly not instigated by John Dorsey, who would never let the press know in advance when a player was about to be traded, for fear of harming his trade value. However, out of respect to Jackson, he complied, making a deal for Gordon on unfavorable terms.

Jackson’s ire had already been aroused due to a disagreement with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who started Gordon versus Pittsburgh, against Jackson’s wishes. Moreover, Gordon played 69 snaps in the opener, which was a lot, considering that Gordon had missed a lot of time in the preseason for another stint in rehab. Gordon at that point was still learning the playbook, and with zero reps in the preseason, conditioning is definitely an issue. It should not come as a surprise that a player who is not in “football shape” would come up with a muscle strain or two.

How awful is it that Gordon showed up late, had aggravated an injury and was acting strangely? Is that enough to get you cut in Cleveland?

Wide receivers are weird dudes sometime. While sometimes you get a guy who is a model citizen like A. J. Green of the Bengals, more often wide receivers are a bit wild. For example, the Steelers’ Antonio Brown actually missed practice altogether around the same time as Gordon, and moreover made some ill-advised comments on Twitter that some took as meaning that Brown wanted to be traded. So the Steelers punished Brown, but did not release him.

And let’s not even get started on Odell Beckham, Jr. These guys are on a totally different level for strangeness than Gordon. It might also be argued that Gordon is not on the same level as a player, either. That much is true.

Gordon will always be a risk for relapsing in his chemical issues, as well as other off the field problems which may continue to interfere with his conditioning and mastery of the playbook. More importantly, he does not have nearly the volume of practice reps as the other wide receivers. This is bound to effect the rapport with the quarterback, especially if it is a guy like Baker Mayfield, who has never thrown to him. Gordon’s stats over five games last year were good, but not sensational. Not All-Pro material by any means, but still clearly better than the other receivers on the team.

More than likely, Jackson was frustrated first of all by all the losing, and then with Gordon’s antics, which have accumulated over the past two years. The latest clash of wills between he and Haley may have pushed him to the point where he snapped. Gordon is gone now, just like that.

Browns fans are not sorry to see him go, after having been let down time after time. However, the Browns have been involved in some very close games, and perhaps one more play might have pushed them over the top, particularly in Oakland. This is going to be a loss on the field, even if Gordon is not available for the entire season.

What kind of message does it send to the locker room, when a talented player is given away to a team in the same conference? It’s okay if the team is sure that they will not meet in the playoffs.  So does that mean that the Browns had no intention to make the playoffs after one game?

Bill Belichick and the Patriots have started to use Gordon very gradually—just a few plays at first to make a catch or two. He certainly hasn’t learned every play in the Patriots’ playbook, but he has enough to contribute as an extra receiver, particularly in the “Hurry-Up” offense. The Patriots are going to make Gordon earn playing time, not just thrust him onto the field 69 times in one game as the Browns did.

The Patriots have given Gordon the locker next to Brady’s. It is a simple gesture, but drives home the point that they need to develop an ability to function together in lock step, like Brady already does with receivers like Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan, not to mention the brother of former Browns tight end Dan Gronkowski. So far the experiment seems to be working, as Gordon was the recipient of Brady’s 500th career touchdown pass, which was actually an under thrown ball that Gordon out-muscled the defender for. It seems like he still has it.

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If Gordon succeeds with the Patriots, and it says here that he will, then the Browns will have to answer why they gave up on him just two games into the season. It’s a good question. Part of the coach’s job is to get difficult personalities to work together. Although no doubt Gordon presents special challenges, it’s fair to say that Jackson was not up to the challenge. Belichick and the Patriots probably are.