Will Gordon Ever Play Again For Browns? Or For Anyone?
By Steven King
Some additional thoughts on the NFL announcing Wednesday that it had denied Josh Gordon’s appeal and was upholding its year-long suspension of the Cleveland Browns star wide receiver for violating the league’s substance abuse policy:
His future – on and off the field – is very cloudy. After all this, the last thing Gordon needs now is an extended period of time on his own – with no support staff or mentors to keep him out of further trouble – but that’s exactly what he’s getting. By rule, the Browns can have no contact with Gordon and he can’t be at the team facility. He’s free to do what he wants, when he wants.
Gordon can apply for reinstatement after the end of the season, but that would be a waste of time if he has another misstep. And is it realistic to think, based on his history, that he will keep himself clean between now and then?
With that in mind, he could well have played his last game with Cleveland and maybe even in the NFL overall. What a waste of incredible talent and an unfortunate situation. He has just scratched the surface of what he could do if he straightened himself out and played a full career.
But forget football for the time being. More importantly, Gordon’s well-being as a person is in jeopardy. He’s got to get help and stay clean.
Indeed, it is a watershed time for him in so many ways. He could compile some off-the-chart statistics or he could become a statistic. For everybody involved, let’s hope for the former.
The team made a costly mistake. When last year ended and the Browns knew Gordon was just one bad move away from being suspended for the 2014 season, they should have hired him a chaperone, for lack of a better word, to accompany him everywhere and maybe even live with him to keep him away from his demons. They could have offered a handsome sum so as to get the right person for the job. With what Gordon could have done for the team this season and with the way he needs to learn how to live his life the right way, it would have been money well spent.
The reason for that never being done is anyone’s guess – it probably made too much sense, that’s why -- but whatever the case, what is known is that the absence of Gordon will cost the club dearly in wins and offensive firepower.
The team’s priorities are misplaced. While the Browns continue to get wadded up over what rookie QB Johnny Manziel is doing (and not doing) – none of which is criminal – they should have been paying closer attention all this time to what Gordon was doing – at least some of which was criminal. It is yet another franchise faux pas, causing legitimate concern about whether the people in charge of the Browns know what they’re doing.
Life in the fast Layne. Long before there was a Johnny Football – and maybe even before his parents were born – there was a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback with the Detroit Lions in the 1950s by the name of Bobby Layne. Talk about living the high life and being a party boy, Layne made Manziel and another Hall of Fame quarterback who came along just after Layne was retiring, Joe Namath, look like choir boys.
Dick Modzelewski, a defensive tackle who played with the New York Giants during the Layne era and then came to the Browns and was a key starter on their 1964 NFL championship team, tells a great story about the former Lion.
The Giants and Lions were staying at the same hotel as they prepared to meet the next day. Modzelewski and several of his teammates were hustling to get back to their rooms to make bed check. As they were walking in the front door of the hotel, there was Layne, with a beautiful blond on each shoulder, walking out.
“Hey, boys, good night. We’ll see ya tomorrow,” Layne said with a laugh.
As Modzelewski and his buddies went up in the elevator, they were laughing too.
“We were saying to each other, ‘We got him. We got him. He’s going to be so tired tomorrow from staying out all night that he won’t be worth anything,’ ” Modzelewski recalled.
It didn’t quite work out that way, though.
“Layne threw for about 300 yards and four touchdowns,” he said. “They just killed us. I remember sitting on the bench with the guys late in the fourth quarter and we were just shaking our heads as we tried to figure out what happened. How did he do that? He played much better with no sleep than we did with a full night’s rest.”
The next time Browns owner Jimmy Haslam gets all red-faced and ready to explode at Manziel in a fit of rage for his nightlife escapades, he needs to first stop and take a breath, count to 10 and call Modzelewski.
Some people are just built that way, and if Manziel ends up delivering a lot of wins for the Browns in his career, what does it matter?
Déjà vu, times two. The Browns have been down this road twice before with big-time players, both within several years of each other 30 years ago. Ironically, they were USC products. Charles White, a running back who was the team’s first-round choice in the 1980 NFL Draft after winning the Heisman Trophy, played from 1980-82 and in 1984 before drugs derailed his career. He ended up resurrecting it – but only briefly -- with the Los Angeles Rams. His teammate in Cleveland for two seasons, OLB Chip Banks, was drafted by the club at No. 3 overall in 1982. He made the Pro Bowl four times in his five seasons with the team, and if he had not had all kinds of personal issues that drove him out of the game way too early, then he might now be the franchise’s 17th member of the Hall of Fame. Yes, he was that good.