Josh Gordon’s Selection Signals Sense of Urgency in Berea

josh-gordon

When it comes to the Urgency Alarm in Berea, Ohio, I’m admittedly torn on the visual. I like to believe that it’s a full-go, all on sirens and lights show; bright orange and white, orbiting strobes that, when shining in your rear-view mirror make your stomach fall to your ankles. The blaring of the sirens could be mistaken for an air raid or, at worst, a get-to-the shelter type storm. 

But then I’m forced to think back on the last 12-plus seasons of football, and I picture an old “ah-ooo-ga” horn ripped from the bowels of a 1929 Ford. The kind fit for ice cream shop auto shows and cheesy suburbial late-summer parades. They always get a laugh, those horns. You know, because they go “ah-ooo-ga” and that’s a funny sound. Fist fulls of orange and brown packs of Reese’s Pieces for added pleasure.

Even if the Cleveland Browns’ version of said alarm falls somewhere in between, that thing was all systems go on Thursday morning when the Browns selected former Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon with their second-round selection in the supplemental draft, thus forfeiting their pick of identical round in the 2013 NFL Draft. It could even be argued that the Alarm was warming up upon the completion of what was a dreadful 4-12 season, rife with coaching faux pas and alarming inconsistencies on both sides of the ball.

“We are obviously really excited [to have drafted Gordon],” said Heckert on Thursday afternoon. “He is a guy we targeted and felt really good about.”

After years of trading down and essentially ignoring the free agency period, this off-season has been noticeably different. Aggression has taken the seat formerly held by an otherwise passive approach. Locking up select free agents1, trading up for Trent Richardson, using a first-round selection on Brandon Weeden and shoring up the offensive line with arguably the best right tackle in the NFL Draft are all moves that, while potentially not popular, were essential to immediate improvement. Richardson and Mitchell Schwartz play two positions which are arguably among the easiest when it comes to a transition to the NFL level of play. Weeden, despite the argument of giving Colt McCoy a chance to see if he can grow, addresses a need that has plagued this team since the end of the Tim Couch era. And the willingness to use a second-round selection on Gordon, a player who most fans were unaware of leading into this past week, screams that this team is aware that they have a gaping hole that was still not addressed despite the addition of Travis Benjamin on the third day of the recently held NFL Draft2.

There is no telling what these new additions will mean to the 2012 Browns until they step on to the playing field in roughly two months. At base leve, this is a very young core after years of shuffling out the aging veterans and being outbid for not-so-old ones in the free agent market — how will this factor in when patience is wearing thin? On paper, however, the measurables crack up and the upside and fantasies couldn’t be larger. This team just added another player, at a position of dire need, who fans can be excited about. And rather than waiting another 16 games, essentially taking another year of the much-discussed five-year plan, the Browns opted to attack their weakness at the receiving position before training camp kicks off.

Gordon is undeniably a question mark. The size, athleticism, hands and speed make scouts and general managers salivate. Having not played a game in a year, however, will lead to a bit of a learning curve for a player who the team sees as an eventual starter. Those worried about the incidents which led to Gordon’s eventual dismissal from Baylor will be forced to realize that not only were these more than one year ago, but that the player himself has remained clean since and has been the subject of rigorous analysis — both physical and mental — by general manager Tom Heckert.

“I couldn’t find anybody to say one bad thing about the kid,” said Heckert. “I drilled him pretty hard when I was with him. He didn’t back down, and he told me everything that I thought I needed to hear from him.

“When you see him, you’ll see what we were excited about. He is a big kid. He can run and he has huge hands and long arms. To me, he seemed pretty fired up about [potentially] being a Cleveland Brown. When he left [our interview], he said he hoped we were the team that picked him.”

Understandably knowing that he will have an opportunity to contribute right away, Gordon’s alleged excitement makes sense. The 6-foot-3-inch Gordon’s numbers were right on par with those of Kendall Wright, a player who the Browns sought after during this spring’s NFL Draft. His size and play is something that the team was attracted to when they were scouting defensive tackle Phil Taylor just one year earlier. Comparable to last year’s second-round selection Greg Little, Gordon, a physical receiver, was forced to sit out a season. What is different is that Gordon did practice with his team and will not face a lockout-shortened summer.

Gordon attacks the ball at its higest point, is not afraid of contact and has open-field speed that some have compared to Calvin Johnson, averaging 17 yards per reception. Even in the event that the route-running and playbook become an issue, one of his biggest attributes is something that the Browns had sorely lacked with regard to the rest of their receiving corps in run blocking3. The fact that he really wants to be in Cleveland is all an added bonus.

Heckert says that the team looked at the wide receivers who would be available next season and the team decided that selecting Gordon with a second-round pick was a prudent move, especially considering that he would get the player a year earlier than the pick they will be forced to give up would have allowed. Their eventual starting quarterback is closing in on 30-years old so time is literally of the essence; professional training, coaching and mentoring, all at least 12 months earlier than planned. Heckert assures Cleveland that the entire front office, including Randy Lerner, was on board with their decision to select Gordon.

The research was done, the interviews were conducted. There is a fine line between panic and desperation and calculated gambles. For all of their behind-the-scenes effort, while most fans were merely counting down the days to when the newest members of the Browns were take to Berea, the team’s front office was working diligently on adding one more name to that list. The 2012 schedule will not be easy. The fans are understandably getting restless after nine wins and 23 losses over the course of the last two seasons. But with the Urgency Alarm steadily increasing in volume, Tom Heckert and company made a move, an aggressive move, at making this 53-man unit incrementally better than it was just one week earlier.

 (Steven Leija/Southcreek Global/ZUMAPRESS.com)

  1. D’Qwell Jackson and Phil Dawson can’t be ignored here []
  2. No longer can we count on this team backing into improvement in the passing game []
  3. With Richardson and Schwartz in tow, this is a huge benefit []
  • TSR3000

    I really didn’t know much about Gordon before the selection. After watching some videos, he looks like the real deal. I appreciate our GM showing some urgency. I don’t know if this team is building something good, but I know that Heckert is trying to make it happen fast.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    WR has been a bust out position for how many years now? Not sure if urgency is the right word or not. Maybe they watched the early camps and realized they needed more help for Weeden I don’t know.

  • Is_this_a_pimple_or_a_boil

    This doesn’t sound like a sounding the alarm pic to me…..you had a need….you had an opportunity to address that need. You could have waited till next year but you would probably be using a 2nd round pic on a WR anyways. So you might as well get the guy in a year early while your offense is growing together. Lets say Little make improvement (catch the ball), and Gordon is able to produce around what Little did last year, I think it’s a great move…..I think about 2 or 3 years down the road….could be nice.

  • mgbode

    I believe this is a picture of the Browns Urgency Alarm about to blow:

    http://waitingfornextyear.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Holmgren-Speaks.png

  • mgbode

    well, the only positions of “need” that we have not addressed with a significant investment (FA, re-sign, or draft) this offseason now is:

    FS (just have to hope Hagg plays well and stays healthy I guess)
    CB2 (unless Dmitri beats out Sheldon Brown and proves worthy)

  • mgbode

    note: I don’t think we’ve ‘solved’ all of these slots, but we have at least ‘addressed’ them.

  • Hopwin

    Pretty sure “suburbial” isn’t a word, try suburban o_O

  • DontbringLBJback

    We haven’t had a perennial Pro Bowl wideout in a long time (although Braylon did make it back in 2007)… but all the sudden, things are looking up! Little can be a SOLID number two WR, Benjamin could be the field stretching burner, and Gordon by all accounts is a better bet than Kendall Wright…. I think we have a WR corp that could grow into something special over the next few years. Fingers crossed.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I smell what ur cookin’ lets hope so because it would be a great compliment to TRich and the infantry to have some aerial support!

  • http://twitter.com/oribiasi oribiasi

    It should be “panic” time for this regime. They have made some serious errors in judgement/coaching and they really do need to show serious improvement this season. They looked like fools out there at times in 2012 and no one can deny that. This front office has put some powerful tools in the hands of the coaches. They better utilize these tools correctly and not try to force a round peg in a square hole or they will find themselves out of a job. If we’re lucky.

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    I think he is
    going to help for sure. Mix him in this
    year and by next year we should have a legitimate WR corp. Little/Gordon number 1’s, MoMass/Benjamin
    number 2’s, Norwood/Cribbs number 3’s.
    Not to mention Cameron/Watson/Moore at TE. Then you think of the Great Plains Gun
    Slinger Brandon Weeden flinging the ball around to these guys then handing off
    to Trent Richardson?!?!?!?! OMG its happening!!! In Weeden We Win!!!

  • Ike

    Given the timing and the potential of this pick, I think this may be my favorite transaction of the H&H era. I believe Heckert’s time in Cleveland will be defined by this particular offseason, and that he just pulled a major move at the 11th hour. I wanted Gordon, but ultimately didn’t think the Browns would make it happen. After the April draft, the Browns STILL had the worst WR corps in the NFL. Why wait another full season to address the position? Heckert saw an opportunity to improve on his solid draft while saving a year and money (vs. signing a big-time FA WR) and did exactly that. Getting Gordon also makes the already solid Mitchell Schwartz pick at 37 look even better. Extremely shrewd move by Heckert. I won’t speak for everyone, but no Browns fan should have a problem with what happened yesterday.

  • TobaccoRoad

    Something to think about; Tom Heckert is the one that drafted DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant in Philly. Yet, since he’s been in Cleveland, I’ve never heard him gush about a WR the way he did about Gordon yesterday. Heckert’s resume shows he knows how to draft WRs, if nothing else. I have full faith in him and in this pick.

  • Harv 21

    After swigging the koolaid of pure joy yesterday, today’s more sober appraisal leaves me some nagging thoughts:

    – many questioned how Kendall Wright would adjust to the WCO’s precision route running after getting to float while Griffin scarmbled around. Fans need to grant Gordon a learning curve and not evaluate this move immediately as has been done with Phil Taylor. There may be some pick 6s while he rounds off cuts and Weedon takes an extra moment to decide. His upside may be huge, but he’ll have to adjust to a more horizontal passing game with better db’s.

    – He sounds appropriately chastised from his year off, but still wish there was a respected and accomplished professional among our receivers. This kid’s mistake was not minor: he jeopardized his college career, was undergoing counseling and subject to drug tests, and than half a year later failed a drug test he knew was coming. Braylon and Winslow’s immaturity seemed to feed off each other, Eric Wright and Brandon MacDonald were supposedly bad together. Maybe Gordon and Little will be fine but I like that Rubin and others seem to be role modeling for Shear and Taylor and ready to pounce on any reversion to knuckleheadedness and wish the kiddie receivers had the same.

    With all that, still love this move. Excellent calculated risk.

    Also, anyone know Eric Steinbach’s current status? Didn’t see news he signed elsewhere and training camp draws near.

  • JK

    But it is just pot….. I bet if we knew the % of players in the NFL that smoked the devils lettuce at least once a year you’d be shocked.

  • BenRM

    SUPER BOOOOWL

  • ClevelandFrowns

    You forgot LB.

  • Harv 21

    I’d be the least shocked person who visits this website. But the type of drug is not the issue, it’s the immaturity and selfishness. If the rules forbade swiss cheese, and you knew that by eating it you’d screw your teammates, coaches, fans, family and yourself, would you do it? I don’t think his actions were intended as a statement in support of legalization (which I do support).

    [as an aside, think about this: in his first violation he smoked enough pot for a 240 pound man to pass out. In his car with the engine running. In a fast food drive-thru even while the smell of his Taco Bell munchies wafted near his nostrils. Doesn’t sound like a quick “hey man, check some of this out.” And the teammate busted with him in the car was committing his second violation and was run out of the program right then.]

    Nicest spin is that in the past he has been susceptible to negative peer pressure. I wish the Browns had an established influential veteran group, because his temptations are about to multiply.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cut the cheese!!!

  • Steve

    I really, really hope this move wasn’t made with a sense of urgency. Wide receivers are notoriously slow developers at the next level. This is a move made with 3-5 years down the line in mind (hopefully). And even if Gordon was a solid receiver from day one, the Browns aren’t one piece away from contending.

    I like this move, its an aggressive plan to get back to contending in the near future, just not this year.

  • mgbode

    we addressed LBer. LBer generally is addressed in the mid-rounds of the draft. And, I was very high on JMJ going into the draft, so I’m likely a bit biased on that front (plus we signed DQ long-term, which counts).

    again, I don’t think we solved everything, but we at least addressed it.

  • mgbode

    for your aside: I don’t know for certain, but I would guess that he was mixing his pot with his alcohol.

  • JK

    I was about to say the same thing.. Unless that was his first time every participating it would take a substantial amount of cannabis to make a man of his size pass out. And Im just guessing….. that probably wasn’t his first time.

    That being said, I didn’t even know that that’s how it happened. That’s quite ridiculous & I think you’re right shows a lot of immaturity. Then again it was a kid in college, so we’ll see, the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t think its a huge (or even big) deal. But it is something that should be monitored.

  • saggy

    nobody (i don’t think) has touched on this:

    I’m proud and impressed by the Browns’ brass doing their diligence. Think about it: I bet they KNEW this kid was coming in the supplemental draft, and, therefore, chose to pass up WR in April to snag this kid.

    I don’t like to give these guys too much credit but many signs point this way, if you will.

    Ironically, I am listening to Peter Tosh right now. Wait, is that Irony?

  • mgbode

    Heckert & Holmgren said they were looking at a WR w/ our 2nd 1st round pick though and we took Weeden because he was gone (would have targeted him at #37 otherwise – or a trade-up from there).

  • TobaccoRoad

    Immature?? Selfish??? Sounds like a 19 year-old to me…

  • paulbip

    This was not a difficult pick. In fact, after a few joints everyone was giggling and having a great time. The deal was closed when Gordon went out for the munchies. A small problem arose when he fell asleep in the car at the take out window. But hey, we’re talking Browns football.

  • Vagabond

    Scott,
    Can you provide any insight as to what kind of contract we could expect Gordon to receive? Is the logic (by either the Browns or Gordon’s agent, I’m not sure) that he should be paid commensurate with what a 2nd round pick is this year, a 2nd round pick appraised at next year (essentially a 3rd this year), or some other value? Could this selection also be a financial windfall for the Browns, assuming Gordon is a starter-caliber player, in that they pay him less because he was a supplemental draft selection instead of a typical draftee?

  • Dee P

    Harv, your second “nagging thought” is exactly my reason why I am against Bynum coming to Cleveland and being around Waiters.

  • cleveland__rocks

    what videos?

  • Rizzle

    If the moon was made of BBQ ribs, would you eat it?

  • Team Brady

    What sanctimonious fans the Browns have…!

  • NonDairyKreemer

    I don’t think it shows any more urgency or panic than any other move this offseason. I think they identified a market inefficiency (the opportunity to get a potential top-20 pick for a future 2nd rounder) and jumped on it. If they evaluated his talent that highly and passed because it’s the “supplemental draft,” I would hope we’d all be furious about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Murphy/30101207 Joe Murphy

    Love the article Scott, but when you say “Gordon attacks the ball at its higest point,” I have found most scouting reports differ. Per Sigmund Bloom: “Gordon is not a high-wire-act/jumpball wide receiver because he is not a natural when it comes to high-pointing the ball.” He’s got immense potential, but will have to master these finer points first.

    As for the commenters basing our WR corps on this guy being the #1WR, and/or claiming he’s better then Kendall Wright.. Those are all nice thoughts to think, just realize there’s a less then 50% chance they’ll come to fruition.

  • Petefranklin

    I want Fritz’ son put on a very short leash this year. He needs to at least get an offense thats in synchronization. I know mistakes with the players will happen, but constant miscues from the coaching staff should be dealt with severely this year. After all shurmer has done practically nothing to deserve a head coaching job. The thing I want to see most this year is Weeden winding up at launching it as far as he can at least once a half, down and distance be damned!