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Why Josh Gordon Matters

The future for Josh Gordon and the Cleveland Browns is largely unknown but he still very much matters.

Some Facts:

  • Josh Gordon is not on the active roster.
  • Josh Gordon can reapply in August to be reinstated to the league after not getting approval in the Spring.
  • Josh Gordon was a top flight wide receiver before running his career straight off the road.
  • Most Cleveland Browns fans have turned the page on Josh Gordon, with most saying he doesn't matter.

But Josh Gordon does matter, today for the Cleveland Browns. While fans, and even media, want to move passed him and his history, his present (and presence) is important. While most do not want to get their hopes up about a deep threat talent with both size, speed and hands, the Browns organization has a player in limbo that they must account for.

So why does Josh Gordon matter?

First, there is the constant media coverage both locally and nationally. A player of such talent is bound to garner a ton of attention and we have seen it all over:

Jim Brown telling Cleveland.com that he has spoken to Gordon and Brown's belief is the wide receiver's ability to return:

"I've talked with Josh twice on the phone, and the last time I talked with him he sounded very motivated and I think he was in rehab and feeling good about it and discovering some things about himself,'' Brown told cleveland.com at the Browns Foundation golf outing at Westwood Country Club. "He really seemed ready to take responsibility for himself.''

"His way of expressing himself, the responsibility he was taking made me feel really very motivated about his chance of getting back,'' said Brown.

With the Browns recent attempts to re-engage former greats from the team's past, with Jim Brown being the greatest, these words mean something.

On ESPN, Pat McManamon tries to read the tea leaves regarding a possible Gordon return:

"Nothing's going to be sure or guaranteed. But it certainly makes you take a step back and reanalyze what you did and why you did it and sort of what you valued at the time."

The reanalysis clearly has led to a particular approach.

That approach did not include Manziel.

It's tough to see how it includes Gordon.

Pro Football Talk noted last week that no one knows what the results of Gordon's appeal might be but that something bigger might be at play:

At some level, Gordon could be a pawn in the broader power play between the league and the NFL Players Association, with the NFL yielding broad power because it can and the message to the union being clear: If you don’t like it, change it at the bargaining table. Regardless, he remains on the outside — and there’s simply no way of predicting if or when he’ll get back in.

Finally, local blog Dawg Pound Daily yesterday stated that Gordon has no place on the team:

The four rookie receivers are likely being looked at as the group to lead this Browns offense into the future, which means certain players from the past must be let go in order to move forward. Josh Gordon is one of those players.

While media attention shouldn't influence a team, we have all seen that it has. At the worst, media attention can lead to a team making decisions. At the least, media attention can sway a fanbase and their expectations.

Because of the media attention, Josh Gordon still matters but it isn't only that.

As DPD noted, the Browns are trying to turn the tables around from a past that isn't fun to look at. Gordon is a part of that past and a part of a losing culture that has led to continuous changeover at all levels of the team. The Browns have cut ties with most of the past already, in one offseason. There are few players that remain that have been with the team for more than 2 seasons. After cutting Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby while letting go of Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Tashaun Gipson

After cutting Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby (among others) while letting go of Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Tashaun Gipson and Travis Benjamin (among others), the Browns seem intent on a fresh start. Yet none of those players had the combination of talent, youth and problems that Gordon has. 

Adding to the issue for the Browns is the school and personal relationships between new (likely) starting QB Robert Griffin III and 1st Round WR Corey Coleman. The 3 Baylor stars know each other and RG3 has already talked about wanting to help Gordon turn it around. Having a connection to two important members of the Browns offense could help bring Gordon along but will the Browns want to have Gordon's influence on Griffin and Coleman?

Gordon's possible return also leaves 1 player on the 53 man roster in a tenuous position. While the NFL, especially at the bottom of the roster, is a week to week league, having the shadow of Josh Gordon hanging over could be troubling.

Looking at the roster turnover and the two former Baylor stars connection to Gordon means Josh Gordon still matters to the Browns.

Finally, there is the struggle between talent and culture. Some are already trying to create tension between new HC Hue Jackson and the "analytics" Front Office after Jackson talked about the FO's concern related to padded practices. We don't know what side Jackson and the FO stand on Gordon but there is validity on both sides.

On the talent side, Gordon is young (25) and showed in the 2013 season that he could be one of the best wide receivers in the game. At 6'3" with long strides and long arms, Gordon is a weapon all over the field. With RG3's deep ball prowess, he and Gordon could be the best pass-catch combination in decades. At 25, there still should be some hope that Gordon can change.

On the other side, the Browns are trying to set a culture. McManamon noted this as a big reason he believed Gordon would be gone. This wasn't a first strike for Josh. The Browns need to have players who live and breath football. They also can't get their hopes up and make decisions based around a player who is one poor choice away from breaking their hearts. After letting go of so many hard working, loved veterans this off-season, keeping Gordon could send the wrong message.

It is possible the coaching staff and front office are on the same page, either way. It is also possible that one side or the other wants to keep Gordon around. For Jackson, who had A.J. Green with the Bengals, Gordon represents a chance for a very special offense and to rebuild RG3 quickly. For the Front Office, Gordon represents a young, talented player who will be a restricted free agent after the season, is cheap and could have trade value at the worst.

Because of the conversations that have gone on, are likely going on and will go on if/when Gordon is reinstated, Josh Gordon still matters.

While many fans are done with Gordon, and others are done with the NFL's policies, he looms large for the Browns. The easy answers are either "cut him" or "play him if he is reinstated," the Browns organization have a much more nuanced and likely difficult process going on.

Because of all of that, Josh Gordon still matters for the Cleveland Browns.


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