Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Is Josh Gordon nearing the end of the line?

Josh Gordon, Ike TaylorThe news that Josh Gordon is once again in trouble with the law caught us by surprise – even though it should not have at this point.

When we first heard the reports that Gordon was stopped for speeding and arrested on DWI charges in Raleigh, we immediately thought the worse. We expected reports of radar readings of more than 100 mph and a blood-alcohol level off the charts. Then we read that he was going 50 mph in a 35-mph zone and was just a tick above the legal limit for alcohol in the state of North Carolina.

For a few seconds all we could think was that this kid just can’t catch a break. But the reality is that this is all his doing.

And now we’re worried that he is beyond help.

A little over a year ago at this time, Gordon and the Cleveland Browns were dealing with a two-game suspension after Gordon violated the league’s substance-abuse policy. At the time, we wrote that, “(Gordon) seems like a troubled young man who is struggling with some problems after being asked to leave Baylor over two failed marijuana tests and then failing another marijuana test at Utah without every playing a down for the Utes. If it turns out he knew what he was doing when he ingested the codeine, he has bigger problems to worry about that just missing a couple of paychecks.”

Little did we know.

After Gordon served his suspension and returned to the lineup, we suggested that, “Maybe Gordon has finally figured it out and will no longer run into trouble. Sometimes players just need time to grow up. But Gordon’s troubles may run deeper than just getting into trouble off the field; if it turns out he has an addiction that he can’t shake it may be harder (or impossible) for him to avoid another suspension.”

Gordon allegedly tested positive for marijuana this spring (or missed a mandatory test, which in the NFL’s eyes is the same thing) and the Browns have been waiting for the appeal process to work itself out. Any chance of Gordon avoiding a yearlong suspension certainly was not helped by the events of the past weekend.

Gordon’s latest problems have led to renewed calls for the Browns to simply release him and move on. The most vocal of those voices – and the one that can best put himself in Gordon’s shoes – is former wide receiver Chris Carter.

“I feel for the kid. And I feel for all kids in this situation. My situation is very, very similar but there were some differences,” Carter said. “If I’m the Cleveland Browns, and this is gut-wrenching to say this, but I really believe the only thing that’s going to help the kid is if they release him.

“We’re dealing with addiction, man. We’re dealing with disease. If Josh had cancer we’d put him in a treatment center,” Carter said. “And right now that’s what we need to do for him. No one wants to do the hard thing. Everyone wants to keep coddling him, the same way they did in high school, the same way they did in Baylor – where he had problems – and eventually it’s going to blow up … and his career is in jeopardy.

“Until he gets to that breaking point – and I believe the Browns cutting him, because that’s the only reality to me – when I got cut, I didn’t have a team, I didn’t have teammates, I didn’t have a jersey to put my name on my back and say I’m a part of this team. When they took that away that was my reality and that was the catalyst to get me on the road to recovery.”

As hard as it is to think about, Carter makes a very strong point. Gordon has some kind of problem – at the very least he is unable or unwilling to make better choices about who to associated himself with – and it may take releasing him for him to hit rock bottom.

The worry is, if the Browns cut ties with Gordon there is no guarantee that he will make it back. Losing the one thing he is good at could be a wake-up call, but it could also be the move that pushes Gordon so deep into a hole that he will never make it back out.

We understand that you can’t help someone until they are ready for help, but we have to believe that with all the resources an NFL team has, it is better if Gordon is around the Browns, even in whatever limited role may be mandated by his upcoming suspension. The odds of this having a happy ending if the Browns release him and Gordon is just out there, with no structure and no responsibility, seem pretty low.

“We are aware of the matter and are disappointed to learn of this situation,” Browns general manager Ray Farmer said over the weekend. “We will comment further at the appropriate time.”

Farmer and the Browns are facing a huge decision on Gordon and his future, one that goes beyond just football.

Gordon seems incapable of making the right decision; hopefully the Browns can do it for him.

And for everyone’s sake, especially Gordon’s, we hope they get it right.

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