Making the Case: Why Josh Gordon Can Still Play

As you all know Josh Gordon, 1x Pro-Bowler and 1x First Team All-Pro, was reinstated yesterday. In this post I’ll be making the case for why he still has has a chance to be a star in the NFL.

Gordon’s Career so Far

The controversial wideout from Utah was the only player selected in the Supplemental Draft in 2012. The draft reports of Gordon at the time called him a raw and unpolished physical wideout with good hands. This was overshadowed by the fact he ran a slower 40 yard dash time (4.5) than expected, and his 1 year suspension for marijuana use while at Baylor.

2012-13 After being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Gordon signed a 4-year deal. In his first NFL game, he caught 2 of 4 passes for 32 yards against the Eagles. In week 5 against the Giants, he caught 2 passes out 8 targets for 82 yards and 2 TDs. The following week against the Bengals he caught 3 receptions for 99 yards and 1 TD. In Week 12 against Oakland he caught 6 out of 7 passes for 116 yards and 1 TD. Overall he finished with 805 yards 50 receptions and 5 TDs. A very good rookie year being surrounded by little talent beside Joe Thomas on the offensive side of the ball. Keep in mind Brandon Weeden, the 29 year old rookie, was throwing to him that year.

2013 This year the Browns quarterback snaps would be split by Jason Campbell and Weeden–not HoFers obviously. In June of 2013 the NFL announced that Gordon would be suspended due to violating their substance abuse policy. In week 3 (his week 1) against the Vikings he caught 10 of 19 targets for 146 yards and a TD (pass from Brian Hoyer) along with 22 rushing yards. In week 6 against Detroit he caught 7 of 9 passes for 126 yards and no TDs. In week 8 against the Chiefs he caught 5 of 10 passes for 132 yards and a TD. In week 10 against the Bengals he caught 5 of 15 passes for 125 yards and a TD. In week 11 he had Jason Campbell throwing to him. Gordon caught 14 of 17 passes for 237 yards and 1 TD against the Steelers. The next week against the Jaguars Gordon caught 10 of 15 passes for 261 yards and 2 TDs from Brandon Weeden. He is the only NFL player to ever have back to back 200+ yard games. The following week, the Browns played the Patriots and Gordon caught 7 of 10 passes for 151 yards and 1 TD with 34 rushing yards (while being covered by Aqib Talib). That’s 774 yards and 5 TDs on 26 receptions from two different QBs. All of this in 5 games! Of course Josh Gordon was invited to the Pro Bowl and named First team All-Pro. He had a league-best 1,646 yards on 87 receptions and 9 TDs, averaging 117.6 yards a game with 7 100+ yard games. All of those stats with the exception of TDs and receptions are franchise records for the Browns. Gordon did all this in 14 games with 2 mediocre QB’s throwing to him. Josh Gordon had just shown the league he had the talent to be a star, now he just needed to stay sober.

2014 Josh Gordon got arrested for driving while intoxicated in North Carolina on July 5. After this the NFL had suspended him for 1 year for violating the substance abuse policy. It was later reduced to 10 games. On Week 11 when he returned against Atlanta he caught 8 of 16 passes for 120 yards and no TDs. Gordon played only 5 games this year because the Browns suspended him for the final game of the season due to a violation of team rules. Gordon finished the year with 24 receptions and 303 yards with no touchdowns.

2015 Gordon violated the NFLs substance abuse policy and was suspended the whole season. Starting to see a pattern here?

2016 Gordon applied to be reinstated in January but was denied due to a failed drug test. Gordon was later reinstated once again on the condition that he serve a four game suspension. 3 weeks into his suspension he decided to check into rehab for a year and stay suspended.

2017 Gordon applied for reinstatement again and the NFL denied him, although they eventually granted his appeal and Gordon was cleared to play for in week 13 against the Chargers, grabbing 4 receptions for 85 yards and no touchdowns with DeShone Kizer as his QB. Next week, Cleveland played the Packers and Gordon caught one pass for 18 yards and TD. He finished the year with a stat line of 335 yards, 18 receptions and 1 TD

2018 Browns This time Josh Gordon wasn’t going anywhere, he was ready for his next year with the Browns. In week 1 against the Steelers, Gordon caught 1 of 3 passes for 17 yards and a TD from Tyrod Taylor. This TD was important too, as it tied the game at the end of the 4th quarter. The Browns finished that game with a tie, and snapped their losing streak and more importantly their Week 1 losing streak but that’s a whole different story. Now back to Josh: apparently he had wronged the Browns in a way that I wont get into here. Originally the Browns wanted to release Gordon but decided to trade him instead. He was inactive for Weeks 2 and 3 until he was traded on Sept. 17 to the Patriots in exchange for 2019 5th Round pick. The Browns later used this pick to draft Kicker Austin Seibert who is now on the Lions.

2018 Patriots Josh Gordon made his Patriots debut in Week 4 against Miami. He caught 2 of 2 passes for 32 yards and no touchdowns but things were looking up, as Gordon finally has a good QB–the GOAT! His very next game against the Colts, he caught 2 of 4 passes for 50 yards and his first TD as a Patriot. He had his first 100 yard game with the Patriots not long after on Week 7 at Chicago where he caught 4 out of 7 passes for 100 yards. Gordon also stopped the Bears hail-mary in coverage. In week 9 against the Packers, he caught 5 out of 9 passes for 130 yards and a 55 yard TD. In week 12 against the Vikings, Gordon caught 3 of 3 passes for 58 yards and a TD. The next week against the Dolphins he caught 5 of 9 passes for 96 yards (so close) and no TDs. On December 20th Gordon was suspended indefinitely from the NFL, guess why? Violating their drug policy. Gordon’s season was over. However, the Patriots weren’t done. They went on to win Super Bowl LIII. Even though he didn’t play, he still got a ring. He finished his year with the patriots with 720 yards on 40 receptions with 3 Touchdowns.

2019 Patriots The NFL reinstated Josh Gordon for the fifth time before the season started. So he would play Week 1 against the Steelers where he caught 3 of 4 passes for 73 yards and a TD. He played 4 more full games for the Patriots tallying 214 yards on 17 receptions and no touchdowns. In week 6 he suffered a knee injury against the Giants and was placed on IR, and soon after he would be waived by the team.

2019 Seahawks In week 9, Gordon was claimed off Waivers by the Seattle Seahawks. He suited up the very next week against the 49ers and caught 2 of 2 passes for 27 yards and no scores. On week 15 against the Panthers he caught his only target for 58 yards. The week after, he was gone. Suspended again for… you know what. Gordon had finished his incomplete year for the Seahawks with a stat line of 138 yards on 7 receptions with 0 TDs. Despite the disappointing suspension, Russell Wilson said he thought Josh Gordon had gotten along with the team, was a good teammate, and that he himself liked him and wanted him back next year.

2020 Josh Gordon re-signed with the Seahawks during the off-season. Gordon applied for reinstatement and got it on December 3rd. Gordon was back on the Seahawks roster on Dec. 21st, however the season was basically done at this point. One day after his suspension was rescinded, he was suspended again. The Seahawks then waived him.

2021 Gordon has been reinstated once again as of Sept 24th.

Why do I still believe in Gordon? I think he still has something to prove; maybe football is what makes him relapse or maybe it’s been bad luck. Gordon has said the reason he relapsed in the 2018-19 Patriots was the death of his brother. We all know he still has the talent to play in the NFL, or they wouldn’t keep reinstating him.

Justin Blackmon is a similar player to Josh Gordon: immensely talented but substance abuse has held them back. But there’s a difference: Gordon has kept coming back. Does this show he has more talent or drive? Gordon has more than enough talent to be a starter on any team besides maybe the Buccaneers. The fact he has played under so many quarterbacks and still produced is baffling. He has caught passes from Thaddeus Lewis, Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Deshone Kizer, Tyrod Taylor, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. 6 out of those 9 are not good at all. All of this turmoil on the pre-Baker Mayfield/Kevin Stefanski Browns and he was still able to produce.

The record he set for back to back 200+ receiving games was with two different QBs. Gordon was also only 22. He put up yards, touchdowns and broke records until the day he left Cleveland. When he got to the Patriots he did well in a system that many wide receivers cannot adjust to. Look at Mohammed Sanu, for example. He couldn’t figure the system out.

Gordon had 720 yards in 11 games with the Patriots his first year at the age of 27, just three seasons ago. He was on pace to get 1047 yards while learning a brand new system.

People may bring up his numbers with the Seahawks, so to that I’ll say: show me a WR that can put up good numbers in his 3rd system in 2 years and fresh off of a knee injury. In the game against Carolina, he looked like his pre-injury self back with the 58 yard catch, but the week after he was suspended. Gordon has done nothing but prove he can still play almost every year he plays, regardless of the off the field issues.

He is now 30 years old. Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are all 2 years older than him. I can argue he has shown just as much talent as the first two with a smaller sample size and over a longer period of time. Julio just proved he isn’t washed with 6 receptions for 128 yards against the Titans in Week 2. AB did the same in Week 1 vs. the Cowboys with 5 receptions for 121 yards and 1 TD. Who’s to say Gordon cannot do the same?

Per a report from Adam Schefter from earlier today, Gordon will sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a great situation for him, playing with arguably the best QB in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes, and in one of the most explosive offenses in league history.

The Chiefs wouldn’t have signed Gordon without the approval of Andy Reid and Mahomes, so that probably tells us they believe Gordon can still get it done. Teams wouldn’t keep signing Gordon if he didn’t still look capable of contributing.

It’s early enough in the season where Gordon can learn the offense and become an major weapon for Mahomes.

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