August 15, 2014

On Josh Gordon’s numbers and Joe Banner’s word

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I don’t think we’re looking to do [conduct any more trades]. I don’t think that is the plan… I think we feel good about where we’re at and moving forward now.” — Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner, September 18, 2013

With Just under five minutes left in the first quarter of Sunday’s contest against the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns wide receiver took roughly six strides down the left sideline before he was left all alone. The 6-foot-3-inch gazelle of a wide receiver, fresh off of his two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, slowed up his stride, hauled in a pass from the right hand of Brian Hoyer, and left two would-be defenders in the dust. He dropped the ball into the visitor’s end zone, gestured as if he was parting the Red Sea, and immediately provided his team with the offensive play-maker it so direly needed.

As if not catching an in-game pass since December 30, 2012 was not enough of a point-proving moment, Gordon’s 47-yard touchdown provided the Browns with six crucial points roughly three hours after his name hit the trade-based headlines. Despite telling the local media, and in turn the fans of the Cleveland Browns, that the axis tilting trade of Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts would be the last shell shocking move—that the Browns’ new “foundation” would be the starting point for what was to come—rumors swirled that the team’s CEO was looking to part ways with Gordon as well as his positional peer Greg Little.

“He’s been on the trade block for several weeks,” said NFL reporter Adam Caplan. “Banner wants him out, very clear, source said.”

All Gordon would do after seeing that his new boss wanted him “out” would be career-high marks in receptions (10) as well as yards (146); he would add a 22-yard run for good measure. This afternoon marked Gordon’s  second career 100-yard receiving game. His 10 catches tied him for the seventh-most by a Brown in a game and were the most by a any wide receiver wearing a logoless orange helmet since Kevin Johnson hauled in 11 passes against San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2003. Let that marinate for a second.

“It was made (known) to me,” Gordon would say of the pre-game reports. “But I just needed to go out and play. Whatever decision is made, that’s above me. If you go out there and not be focused, you might get your head knocked off.”

Instead, Gordon went out there and left Minnesota defenders’ heads spinning. Deep routes, intermediate routes, screen passes, crucial first-down conversions, Gordon was a part of it all—a big part. When discussing the promotion of Hoyter to starting quarterback earlier in the week, Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski stated that perhaps the St. Ignatius product was the “spark” the team needed to win their first game. While Hoyer threw for a respectable 320 yards, it is difficult to envision any success remotely similar without Gordon on the field.

“He’s a playmaker,” Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas said of Gordon. “He can make any offense better and not only when he gets the ball.”

Gordon’s presence, as insinuated by Thomas, immediately led to other players on the Browns being open for Hoyer. Tight end Jordan Cameron was on the receiving end of three touchdowns, wide receiver Davone Bess hauled in seven of his 10 targets for nearly 70 yards and several first downs.

The risks involved with Gordon are well-documented—one more violation of the league’s policy on illegal substances and the übertalented glider of a receiver could not only be off of the team, but out of the NFL all together. He has an affliction for fast cars and amassing traffic violations. He has, at times, shown a lack of interest in elevated work during training camps and practices. If the team is merely looking to ignite a flame under Gordon by leaking rumors of a desired trade, the move undoubtedly worked. But if they’re looking to trade a 22-year-old play-maker, something that could not be said about any player on the Browns presently or in recent seasons—regardless of position, then we are talking about something completely different.

Forget that the CEO outright said that the Browns are not looking to make any additional moves less than one week ago, the likelihood that the team could receive anything worthy of the chasm in talent that would be created by trading Gordon is miniscule.  With a player of Gordon’s risk, his value with his current team is always going to be higher than what could be had on the open market. But with a player of Gordon’s talent, the impact on his current team is equal, if not greater. Anquan Boldin was recently traded from the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens for a sixth-round draft pick; to expect anything greater than a third- or fourth-round selection for a player who was recently obtained for a second-round selection would be a pipe dream.

“I think Josh has a lot of potential and we are excited about what he can do,” Banner said following the 2013 NFL Draft. “We’re all going to see how he develops and what he can turn into.”

“There are young [wide receivers] who have ability and talent,” added head coach Rob Chudzinski. “We would like to give them the opportunity to develop them and work with them.”

There’s a running narrative that the current Browns regime only wants “their guys” and is attempting to “send messages” and establish a “culture.” Richardson, who was reportedly seen more in headphones and trainers tape than a helmet and thigh pads a season ago, was sent packing. Gordon, having his name in the headlines for his behind-the-wheel antics and a recent suspension could seemingly be next.

It’s easy to see how a player like Gordon may not have much in common with someone like Banner; the two men aren’t likely to hang out at the same establishments following a hard-faught contest. But it is the risk-reward factor in a player like Gordon—or Dez Bryant, or Marshawn Lynch, or Brandon Marshall, or…—that ultimately allows an offense to flourish. Every NFL team would undoubtedly prefer to have high-character individuals permeating the halls of their respective locker room, but if it were not for Gordon’s issues within the collegiate ranks, he wouldn’t even be a member of the Browns today.

For all intents and purposes, Gordon has reportedly learned from his mistakes. He has been apologetic for the incident which led to his suspension and has made sure to tell anyone who will listen that he’s aware of what another misstep would lead to.  Certainly, he’s shown multiple signs of being immature with a splash of poor decision making. Trading a former first-round pick, a running back who failed to live up to immediate expectations, for a first-round pick is one thing. Trading your only legitimate wide receiving option, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-3-inch play-maker who creates separation in effortless fashion, in what is undoubtedly a passing league would be an immense mistake. A top-tier running back is a luxury in today’s NFL. A stretch-the-field play-maker who is yet to turn 23 is the type of player who puts you over the top. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons.

But fear not, Cleveland. Joe Banner gave you his word just a week ago—the team will no longer surprise you with a press release during dinner hours, stating that a member of the “foundation” had been sent packing. While we continue to wait to see just how much said word is worth, it appears that Gordon will continue to slither past defensive backs and pile up the numbers for a team that needs every positive offensive statistic it can get.

(Image via AP/Anne Heisenfelt) 

  • Bill

    “Browns CEO Joe Banner tells PFT that the Browns have “no intention of making any additional trades.”

    Intentions change all the time. It’s all semantics with Banner at this point.

  • Roosevelt

    1. I don’t trust Banner as far as I could throw him.
    2. There is a time to trade away low-character guys. When you have no other players is not that time.

  • razorzips

    If Joe Banner’s ego wasn’t big enough before this weekend, now it is even bigger. He will do whatever he thinks is will be good for the long term. How many championships did he win in Philly, and even with all the football genius in Philly, did he make football decisions that help lead to a winner? Sadly Banner and his yes men (Chud and the very quiet Lombardi) will not field a winning team if they don’t keep some of the assets they already have.

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

    I don’t see anything wrong with Banner making it clear that all options are on the table with respect to a guy who’d put his career at risk for a taste of the purple drank. Looks like Gordon responds well to this kind of feedback, at least for now! Yesterday felt to me like the best Browns win by far since the demolition of the Pats in 2010.

  • woofersus

    It’s impossible to know what will happen, and maybe Adam Caplan has good info, but color me a little skeptical about “inside info” on a team doing more of the same AFTER they shock everybody with a move. People weren’t calling the Richardson trade a week ahead of time, so clearly the talks were kept under wraps. Again, maybe he’s right, but “rumors” always pop up once the press gets an impression of what a team might intend to do.

    As far as the move itself, I guess I can understand why they might want to get rid of a guy who is one joint away from a year long suspension, can’t seem to be responsible with a vehicle, and doesn’t practice hard, but I think it’s the wrong move at the moment. For one thing, as mentioned already he’s one of the most talented players on the team, and we’ve already seen how he affects the offense. (and when teams start game planning for him, it’s only going to help the rest of the offense more) More than that though, it’s bad timing. He’s just coming off his suspension, and other people are looking at him the same way Banner is. If he plays out the season and puts up big numbers, somebody else is much more likely to take a chance and give us reasonable value for him. If he looks like a better talent than some later first round receivers, it gives us more trade leverage for teams who need one. Maybe even use him as part of a trade-up to get a QB (since the team we trade with will obviously already have their QB and might want a target for him) If their goal is to lose games, trading him will help, but I think they should let him impress before shopping him.

    Earl Little on the other hand, I say good riddance. I am out of patience for WR’s who can’t bring in catchable passes, much less have passes bounce off their hands. You can’t waste a blown coverage and a good throw in the NFL. Dropped passes are drive killers. Let him go and give us more of Josh Cooper. And bring back Gurley.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Four conference championships and one Super Bowl appearance in ten years would be a large improvement.

  • JHop

    Keep in mind that Banner is a tiny individual, so you probably could throw him quite far if you tried.

  • Harv 21

    “For all intents and purposes, Gordon has reportedly learned from his
    mistakes. He has been apologetic for the incident which led to his
    suspension and has made sure to tell anyone who will listen that he’s
    aware of what another misstep would lead to.”

    Believe this when we see it. Josh Gordon has said the right things after every incident since Baylor Positive Test #1. Including after Baylor’s investment of drug and personal counseling during suspension which immediately preceded Positive Test 2, which the player knew was mandatory. And then upon transferring to Utah where he trained and knew he would be subject to mandatory testing, whereupon he failed Test #3 before playing a down. And then upon his subsequent flight to interview with pro teams, including the Browns, before being rewarded with second round money and then violating two subsequent NFL drug tests within a year.

    Josh Gordon is as smooth with the sincere apology thing as he is coming out of his breaks. We have zero idea whether he’s learned from his mistakes, whether he’s decided there’s a price to be paid for not exercising any self-control, whether he understands there’s a time his blinding God-given gifts don’t give him another free pass.

    I love watching him play because I love the beauty of sport, But there’s no known intents and purposes here. There’s Josh and his 100 MPH personal life and lots of brick walls. Your move, Josh.

  • CB Everett

    That’s an unfair characterization of Banner’s position. He’s never said “never,” and he certainly never said he won’t trade Gordon. He’s made vague statements about being open to trades, always looking to improve the team, build assets, etc. For ex, an interview published today w Grossi:

    Q: Anything else before the deadline?
    A: There’s nothing planned and I’d be surprised if it happens. But I’ve learned the lesson of not making any absolute statements if you don’t know what’s going to come your way. But we don’t plan on doing that.

    And if he would like to move Gordon, what do you want him to do—make his position publicly known? Good idea?

  • Garry_Owen

    Not really sure what “word” Banner is expected to keep here. I don’t see a promise that needs to be kept, or an assurance that we can (or should) hold over him. Saying “I don’t think that’s what we’re loooking to do” is a pretty open-ended statement – and rightfully so. I don’t want a FO that “keeps its word” for the appeasement of too-easily-wounded fans. I want a FO that does what it thinks it needs to do to build a championship football team. Period. (In case the period at the end of my sentence wasn’t period enough.)

  • Garry_Owen

    *Greg
    Earl Little’s like 40, and if he still played for this team, we would definitely HAVE to unload him. Like now.

  • Harv 21

    Right. And I’d go further: I want the FO to make the right moves. They don’t owe me insight into their thought process regarding roster spots or anything. They can lie to me if it will sweeten some deal with a trade partner. This is all outcome determinative: build a winner and we’ll all be throwing rose petals, not examining past statements for inconsistencies.

    We’ve had this discussion here before. While we wallow in losing fans start harping about Banner’s facial expressions and body posture. Silliness.

  • gct

    I’d like to keep Gordon around. Question for the group, though: why has Josh Gordon earned our trust by saying the right things, but Joe Banner’s Browns have not earned the benefit of the doubt?

  • gct

    I’d like to keep Gordon around. Question for the group, though: why has Josh Gordon earned our trust by saying the right things, but Joe Banner’s Browns have not earned the benefit of the doubt?

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    Feelings

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    Feelings

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    Grinding axes

  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Why anyone would ever listen to and/or believe what a front office exec says to the media is beyond me. If Gordon is on the block, it serves zero purpose for Banner to speak publicly about it.

    Listening to Scott Raab on the podcast after the trade, he kept harping on how nobody in the Browns’ organization said anything negative about Trent while he was here. Well, duh. There’s no upside in that. You don’t get a first round pick for a RB by telling everyone you’re not that high on him and you’re looking to trade him. Same with Gordon. Talking to the media about wanting to trade him just isn’t going to happen. Instead, you say you have no intention of trading him, and you try to use that as leverage in trades. Nobody wants to be the desperate party in a trade scenario.

  • Tim K.

    The problem as a Browns fan is that I feel Josh Gordon’s value on the field is higher than the 2nd round pick that was used to draft him. If they were to trade him, so I think they would be able to replace him with a 3rd round pick or lower?
    No.

    A 2nd?
    No.

    A 1st?!
    Maybe.

    I don’t think any team in the league is going to give up a 1st for him, but that’s all I’d want to take for him, and even that’s iffy. I think even with his character concerns you take the risk in keeping him, especially if all you’re talking about in return is a 3rd or lower pick. I hope he sticks around a while.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    “Right. And I’d go further: I want the FO to make the right moves. They don’t owe me insight into their thought process regarding roster spots or anything. They can lie to me if it will sweeten some deal with a trade partner.”

    This.

  • CB Everett

    Absolutely. If it brings a winner, for all I care, Banner can wear a dress, worship Satan, and lie like a banker all day long.

  • woofersus

    Lol, might have been a Freudian slip. Corrected.

  • mgbode

    grab the ankles, spin like a discus, and make sure to have an up and down and up motion while spinning to get maximum distance.

    not that I’ve ever attempted to toss small individuals before ;)

  • mgbode

    Earl is pretty big and powerful. I’d bet he could play goalline RB for us.

  • Roosevelt

    I have no arms and now you guys made me feel terrible. Thanks for nothing.

  • vespo09

    But can he tank? Can he trade the Joes (Thomas and Haden)? Just curious where the line is. Are you OK with full-on Machiavellian?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    This is why I don’t believe the Schefter rumors. Saying that they want to look into trades is one thing. Saying “Banner absolutely wants him gone” is silliness – there’s no way Banner would devalue a trading chip if he’s looking to trade him!

  • Bill

    Well said. I’ve never understood the criticism of front offices being “liars” when it comes to player personal. Their job is to improve the team and keep all cards on the table, so of course they are going to speak in generalities about players who may or may not be traded/benched/signed/cut. So when people cherry pick quotes about what Banner has said in the past, it’s really shortsighted.

    Side note: Rabb is a hack, get him off the podcast.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I agree about Raab… I know he’s a big get because of his presence in the media, but I just can’t take that much negativity and verbal meandering. I delete those podcasts when they show up on my phone every Monday. The podcasts that I love the most are with TD, Jon, Rick, Scott, Andrew, etc… believe it or not, I like listening to the WFNY guys best because they eat/sleep/breathe Cleveland sports.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    It worries me when I see the quote coming from Adam Caplan. He has good sources inside of the Browns’ front office from what I can tell. He was the first guy saying that Weeden had already won the starting job when the rest of the beat writers were openly wondering if Campbell or Hoyer would be given a chance to win it. He was also letting people know that Banner would be giving Heckert his walking papers long before it happened. He’s a Philly guy and seems to have ties to the front office from Banner’s days with the Eagles. I’m sure he could be wrong on this one, or it could be that he is a patsy being used to motivate Gordon, but it makes me nervous… there’s zero chance Banner can get good enough value for Gordon on the trade market.

  • MiWiBi

    What did you expect this FO to say?

    “You know what, Scott? Glad you asked that question. As a matter of fact, yes, we are going to trade Trent. And Maybe Gordon, perhaps Little. Now we have no leverage because we didn’t want to hurt your feelings”.

    Unbelievable that this, of all things, is your breaking point.

  • J-Bones

    I would say no he can not trade the Joes. Haden and Thomas are harder talents to come by. Thomas is the best LT in the game on a line that isn’t the greatest and Haden is a top CB in a passing league on a weak secondary. If they got traded I would be furious. I think he got rid of Richardson because 1. he wasn’t putting up numbers we thought he would, 2. he didn’t seem to care or work hard in practice (That’s what reports say) and 3. someone offer a first rounder for him.

  • Big Z

    You don’t just trade away elite wide receivers. I think Banner knows that.

  • Sam

    If Banner could handle T.O. in Philly I think he can stomach Gordon in a Browns uni. The risk of another suspension is realistic, but even more realistic is the Browns trading him for a 3rd round pick then watching the offense implode like they did in Weeks 1 and 2. Josh Gordon is the best player on offense and probably the most valuable player to this team.

    Gordon needs a mentor that will constantly remind him that if he stays clear of the wrong crowd and doesn’t screw up, he will sign a Mike Wallace-ish contract in the near future.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Agree completely. However. There is a sizable and vocal group of Browns fans who you can bet would be all sorts of bent if the FO dares ever mislead them. Much like the folks who feel personally slighted when the team doesn’t lay out its free agency or draft plans ahead of time, because “this is OUR team” and “we deserve to know”. So woe to Banner & Co. if misdirection is their intent.

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    I personally like “As a season ticket holder……”

  • sg

    so tired of every regime wanting only their guys. that is so stupid. talent is talent. it’s is like these front office guys only care for their own egos so they can say “i drafted him”. dumb. dumb. dumb.

  • Gunner

    100 percent agree with your first statement. most of these front office guys are p**sies who are afraid of a trouble maker. that usually goes along with talent because they have a bigger heads than most but they need to realize no one cares about how the view of the team is expecially a team like the browns who dont win screw it take all the idiots if it would make us win games which gordon will help us do if we sign him to a reasonable contract. bottom line we need wins and they need to do whatever it takes not trade the talent.

  • shirlW

    Gordon is an excellent player, and why you’d want to trade him while trying to build a great team is questionable to me. Keep him as part of the rebuilding.
    As to the QB question, why not resign him and give Josh Cribbs a chance? He was a QB at KSU and is a fierce competitor. He certainly should do better than Weedon.