Well that was inevitable.
Two days after the Cleveland Browns announced they were cutting ties with Josh Gordon, he landed in Foxborough. A ‘Flash’ new addition to the New England Patriots’ wide receiver room.
Bill Belichick may have refused to talk about Gordon in his Wednesday press conference because the deal “hadn’t been finalised” (he was seen training with his new teammates in a Patriots jersey mere hours later – classic Belichick), but every NFL fan knew Gordon would end up in New England as soon as the Browns announced he would leave. If week two’s games sprung a lot of surprises, this brought us back to reality.
The signing has more than a touch of Randy Moss about it. In 2007, off the back of two unhappy, injury-hit years in Oakland, the Patriots traded a fourth-round pick to the Raiders in exchange for Moss. What happened next? He tore up the New York Jets for 181 yards in his first game, caught an NFL record 23 touchdown passes for the season and the Patriots finished 16-0.
With Gordon, of course, there is one key difference. ‘Flash’ may well boast more raw talent than any other wide receiver in the league, but he’s been plagued with substance abuse issues ever since middle school, when he started taking Xanax and smoking marijuana. Since entering the NFL as a second round pick in the supplemental draft (again, because of drug issues) he’s been banned for more games than he’s played. Last year, he admitted he’d never played a game sober.
Despite his issues, all the talk from fans is that Gordon is a steal, and supporters of each of the league’s 31 other teams wish he was theirs. His incredible talent and the air of mystery surrounding what he could possibly achieve if he overcame his issues have made Gordon one of the most popular players in the NFL, despite him spending the majority of his time nowhere near the field.
And hey, at the price of just a fifth round pick (with Cleveland’s seventh rounder going back to New England, no less), and a cap hit of less than $700,000, he’s an incredibly cheap risk. Who cares if he relapses and ends up getting cut? It’ll barely make a dent on the franchise’s future prospects.
That’s the business way of looking at it – and the NFL is definitely a business – but it’s also a cold an irresponsible way for the Patriots to view this deal.
In actively choosing to take on a player with such publicly known issues, New England take with him a duty of care. Josh Gordon’s future, not just as a football player, but as a person, rests partly in their hands, and it’s right that they invest fully in every aspect of him. It’s important they get him help, if he needs it, and support him through this change in scenery.
Thankfully, while Gordon signing with the Patriots is all levels of tedious for fans of every other NFL franchise, New England might just be the perfect place for him to get his life on track.
The Patriots are the most impressive success story in modern sport. They’ve been utterly dominant for over a decade in a league specifically designed to make that impossible. They have a track record of taking struggling players and turning them into stars, and have bred a competitive atmosphere that is totally unmatched.
If Gordon wants to succeed in the NFL – to win Super Bowls and truly reach his potential – then New England is his best bet at getting there. If this marriage can help turn ‘Flash’ into a healthy, happy football player who makes headlines on the field, I don’t think even the biggest Patriots hater could begrudge it.