Should the Browns part ways with Josh Gordon? While We’re Waiting

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Johnny Manziel may be getting all of the attention, but the bigger issue in Berea is that of wide receiver Josh Gordon. By now, you’ve heard that Gordon was pulled over on Memorial Day Weekend. He was only going 74 in a 60—hardly a criminal offense. The touchy part comes in the fact that one of the other three men in his car had a few leaves of marijuana on his person. Yes, Gordon’s technically in the clear, but you have to be all aboard the excuse train if you’re going to put the Pro Bowler in the clear.

The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto penned a solid column this weekend that echoed much of what my feelings are on the matter. The guy can loaf through a week’s worth of practice and then rip off 200 yards. He can miss a year of football all together and then jump right in—at the NFL level—as if he’s playing a video game. In a vacuum, it’s easy to make excuses for the incredibly talented Gordon. The merits of marijuana and the NFL’s rules can be debated, but at the end of the day, they’re rules—ones that he’s very much aware of.

Whether or not he’s guilty of any alleged violations or has anything to do with what went on during the Memorial Day incident mean little in the grand scheme. It’s evident that Gordon’s decision making and priorities are not in line with that of the city or the team which employs him. Cutting him doesn’t make the team better, but damn if he isn’t putting everyone above him in a tough place.

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Check out contact rate heat maps on pitches thrown in the strike zone this season. One of them is Michael Brantley. The other is Mike Trout. Any guesses on which is which? Thanks, FanGraphs!

Mike Trout Heatmap Michael Brantley Heatmap

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Speaking of Johnny Manziel, his boy Drake dropped a new track late Sunday. It’s called 0-to-100/The Catch Up. It’s rare that a hip-hop track lasts six-plus minutes, but this one does just that thanks to some beat changes and a pseudo interlude of sorts. A lot will be made of this in the coming weeks as Drake alluded to a new album this coming spring in addition to referencing himself as “the greatest.” Kendrick Lamar’s new album is set to release this fall—it’s safe to assume he’ll have some thoughts on this matter. In the meantime, pretend that Drake the Person isn’t bordering on insufferable and give this track from Drake the Artist a quick listen. *Money Sign* (Lyrics are obviously not meant for work environments.)

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Lonnie Chisenhall, motivational speaker?

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ESPN The Magazine The World Cup is just a few weeks away from kicking off and WFNY’s Craig, Joe and Mitch have been killing it on our end. That said, you also should know by now that I’m a huge magazine nerd and the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine is fantastic—a must-read for any soccer fans.

There are two long form features from both Wright Thompson (another on Lionel Messi) and Grant Wahl (one on Clint Dempsey). A few of these pieces will leak out over time—as one of Thompson’s did last week—but there is so much more within the confines of those pages (like a two-page image on Cleveland’s own Stipe Miocic, for instance) that it’s worth anyone’s one-day Starbucks money.

You can thank me later.

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And finally: At WFNY, we’re very fortunate to have a quality community of readers that extends well beyond that of most web-based properties. We get a slew of pitches and the occasional submission, many of which we can’t use for a variety of reasons. This, however, was a bit different than most. Titled “On Dads, the Browns, and Cleveland,” Daniel King discusses the ties that bind for generations of Cleveland fans who have lived through the plight of being a fan in this here town. You can follow Daniel on Twitter at @d_king11. In the meantime, please enjoy his words.

“Punch to the gut,” is a cliché used often while receiving difficult news. Never have I understood this more than when I learned that my father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal cancer one year ago this June. I felt our pain was shared. My insides twisted, muscles ached, and eyes burned. Death was not an aspect of life I had ever faced. Death was a headline, a Facebook Status about a grandparent, or losing the family pet. Sitting next to my father in the hospital, holding back tears and feeling my lips quivering were the most difficult hours of my life. I wanted to tell him everything that I was always scared to say because I didn’t want to be a sissy. The certain sentences that existed in the space between us but were never formally communicated. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, but could not utter that sentence without breaking down completely. I was instructed by my sister to “hold it together,” and I did for the most part. I could not look at my sisters or him in the eye. My sisters and I asked him if he had any sort of bucket list: “Well…I’d like to make it to the Browns’ opener.”

After my Dad’s consistent desire to be a hardass resulted in us not getting a ride to the stadium that night for the Browns-Bills game, we settled on parking in the bowels of downtown Cleveland: Underneath Tower City. I had made this walk what seems like thousands of times with him, usually in treacherous conditions with me bitching about not parking closer. “It’s fun to walk through downtown in the weather,” he would say. Yeah, that is the type of stuff he takes pleasure in. This time it was 70 degrees. It was a pleasant walk through the city center as we approached the stadium. The smell of alcohol, urine, and desperation fill my nostrils despite my attempts to strictly breathe through my mouth. Cleveland smells exactly what outsiders think it smells like. My jaded view of the Browns is inescapable. Another death march down Lakeside. I’m sober, which is frustrating. Being sober at a Browns game amongst the scores of drunks is awkward. But my dad is not sober. He’s drunk off of the Browns.

“Run it down their f— throats,” is something my dad says when the Browns get near the goal line last night. “Run it down their f— throats again,” is something he says when their first running attempt gets stuffed at the goal line. I feel awkward when he says things like this, but after awhile I realize I’m the outsider here. I’m sober. I began to let my guard down, and admire my dad’s appreciation for The Browns. It’s so communal. Everyone in our section knows him and it’s hilarious. They laugh when he yells ridiculous obscenities, and treat it as if he said something so expected they hardly flinch. It’s his family, too. I will say something once in awhile to my Dad. “Weeden can make those sideline throws at least,” for example. But I don’t participate in the obscure yelling in the general direction of the field. My Dad sneaks off to smoke a cigarette. He has given up on cancer, but here we are pretending that Brandon Weeden is a capable quarterback.

The beginning of the game is exactly like every other Browns game I’ve been to with my Dad. The excitement is building during the walk to the stadium, the crowd is in a frenzy, and then the Browns start playing football. We’re losing 10-0 quickly, and our starting QB who happens to be a St. Ignatius alum, appears to have the sliding ability of Jason Giambi. This game is different. The crowd is beyond its usual drunken whirl. The Browns are getting lucky, generally getting outplayed in the first half, but making up for it by special teams dominance.

It’s halftime, and the Browns are celebrating Jim Brown’s legacy. My dad says to me twice, “Greatest player I ever saw,” as if I needed to hear it twice so it sinks in. He has said this to me an estimated 10,000 times in my life. He tears up. I think he loves Jim Brown the player because of what he represents to his childhood. This moment is surreal because I see my dad survey the scope of his life in terms of Jim Brown. He saw Jim Brown player when he was 12 years old. Jim Brown has grown old with my father, and here they are for one final salute to each other. It’s a moment. I begin to think of me seeing LeBron when I’m older. I can’t fathom it. He’ll always be 26 year old LeBron; the youthful kid from Akron messing around in the pre-game warm-ups. Kyrie will always be this young. There is no old version of Kyrie Irving.

The Browns win, and we exit the stadium to raucous applause. I imagine my Dad leaving the stadium taking a bow, tipping his hat to the crowd. This is a new memory. It won’t be confused with the many other Sunday afternoons of leaving disappointed and with the feeling of being ripped off. My dad might not go on a profanity laced tirade when we get to the car this time. He keeps smiling and fist pumping, and no matter what I will make this the last memory. This is the memory that will be exaggerated by me in 20 years when I’m telling this story.

We walk up the hill for the last time ever together. The finality of the moment is devastating. He’s struggling to get up the hill, and I want to carry him to the car. We talk about the Browns, and then it is silent again. The words are dancing between us this time, dissolving into the downtown fall morning. Decades of unsaid admiration remain unsaid, but the time for goodbyes isn’t now. The Browns have won and that is all that matters. Ironically, I conclude how the Browns have been such a consistent part of our relationship; a talking point that can break the awkward silence during any time of year. It has been tough for me to justify being a Browns fan, but now I get it—and it’ll never be forgotten.

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    No, the Browns should not cut Josh Gordon. I’m hoping the impending year-long suspension will help him reach his bottom, just as getting cut by the Eagles helped Cris Carter reach his. I think Gordon’s only got one more chance before he is gone from the league for good, so why not give him his last chance? If he fails, the Browns just have to hear people say “I told you so”, but if he does change, the Browns would have assisted in a great story of redemption.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I’m not much of a fan of Drake’s style. His tonality has always bothered me. But having said that, this song is really good, IMO. It’s nice to hear more and more rappers trying to push the boundaries and elevating the artistic side of the genre.

  • boomhauertjs

    That story by Daniel was great. I’m glad that he got to share that memory with his dad and will have it with him always.

  • mgbode

    I agree. It was an absolutely touching and fantastic story that helps demonstrate why we all care so much about something as silly as sport teams and even that much more apt for the rest of us with Father’s Day right around the corner.

    great job Daniel.

  • mgbode

    it gains us nothing to cut him. we’ll do what Jacksonville is doing with Blackmon and Arizona is doing with Daryl Washington. on the roster, but anything he gives us from this moment forward is just a bonus. sad reality.

  • MrCleaveland

    You don’t see many guys get their I.Q. tattooed on their back.

  • Kunal

    Wow Daniel, that was… amazing. Thank you for sharing that story with us Scott

  • Harv 21

    re Gordon, agree with this take. What’s more telling than the guy in the passenger seat holding, though, is that police detected the smell of burning cannabis. Even indulging the probable fiction of passenger-only culpability, posse don’t light up without meal ticket’s permission.

    Looking at the timeline of his violation history, of outright lying to two college programs and the pro team that invested in him, of no sustained period without assurances followed by another failed drug test, there’s little reason to think he’s anything but the Micheal Ray Richardson of this generation, but in an era with real penalties. Forget the fiction of a year-long absence – there’s no reason to believe that he could provide the clean urine necessary to be considered for reinstatement in a year. Still, I keep him. Because rather than a draft pick that would be a special teamer, I’d hold on to the remote off-chance that he rock bottoms, finds himself and can return with that transcendent talent. The Browns can find a special teamer anywhere.

  • BenRM

    As echoed by everyone else (this is why WFNY has one of the smartest comment sections on the internets) cutting him is spiteful and nothing else.

    If he’s suspended, it costs you nothing to keep his rights.
    If he can play, he’s awesome.
    This isn’t Greg Little causing a headache. It’s someone who is an amazing football player.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    You can’t count on Josh Gordon and that hurts, but once you understand that and build a team in spite of it, you just keep him as long as his rookie deal runs. He doesn’t cost a lot and as long as his presence (or lack thereof) doesn’t negatively impact the team (IE Braylon Edwards) then you just hope he can contribute sometime when it’s meaningful.

    If for one second his presence starts to negatively impact the team, you cut him immediately. That’s never seemed to be much of a risk though. He gets along with his teammates and coaches just fine.

  • Greg Popelka

    Enjoyed the article. The story, and also the writing. Efficient, concise style.

  • Bob

    What would he command in trade? Likely top 5 at his position (I say top 5 for now in that I’d like to see a few more seasons for him to demonstrate consistency) at the beginning of his career. Easily could command a 1st rounder, or a 1st and a second, but there’s the whole ‘might not be around for a season due to suspension’ wild card to consider.

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    That’s the thing, when his teammates are asked about him, they all say he’s a quiet guy. If there were any reports of him being a diva, then cutting him would maybe be an option because of his effect on the locker room.
    Too many people want to cut him to “send a message” to the other players in the locker room. But those players probably want him to get help and make the necessary changes in his life, because those players know what he brings to the table.

  • BenRM

    From all I’ve read, it seems the only negative impact he has is not playing. Obviously, that’s a pretty big negative impact. But by all accounts he seems to be a good dude, but one who loves weed more than his day job.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    And that’s the thing about issues with substances. We’ve come to put them in a category of sympathy in this country. Unless the use of those substances endangers other people or results in other embarrassing crimes, sympathy generally rules the day.

  • Natedawg86

    So he is always laid back, calm, laughs a lot…hmmmm

  • Natedawg86

    we would get nothing in a trade

  • Bob

    why?

  • Natedawg86

    Likely out this year. After that, one more year on current contract, and he has yet to make it through ONE offseason without incident.

  • Bob

    But for a team like NE, Denver, Seattle, SF with the infrastructure otherwise in place, they may be willing to punt a first rounder for ~half of 5 years of someone who may be the best WR in the league when he’s around (and absorb the missed time, or think they can fix him).

  • Harv 21

    and the suspension tolls his rookie deal, meaning that if he is ever reinstated he’s still getting paid second round money and he’s not a single day closer to free agency. He won’t be permitted in Berea, Browns won’t be permitted to counsel him, Josh has removed himself from league resources. So it seems the only way he can cause further damage is if the FO is gullible enough to count on him. Move on, and if he returns it’s house money.

  • Natedawg86

    No way man. Smart organizations do not do things like that.

  • mgbode

    there is absolutely no way any team gives up a 1st rounder for Gordon, let alone one of the better run franchises in the league. those teams you mention work just fine with lesser WRs. yeah, they might take a flier on Gordon, but at a huge discounted price.

  • Brick

    If we could get a 1st round for him, he would be gone. But you are way way WAY overvaluing him and undervaluing a 1st round pick.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    …and for what it’s worth, Farmer at least says this is the case. The team isn’t built around any player, and while obviously it hurts to lose or be unable to count on a talented guy, if that’s derailing your team you have bigger issues.

    When Tom Brady went out, they Pats still went 10-6? 11-5? When Peyton Manning went out, the Colts went 2-14. Obviously both are impacts, but it’s not a terrible surprise that the Pats won a few Super Bowls while the Colts won just one.

  • mgbode

    Browns won’t be permitted to counsel him, Josh has removed himself from league resources

    I don’t think this is true. There was a story about it awhile ago and there is quite a bit of rehabilitation available to athletes even while suspended. However, it is all voluntary (though likely a condition of reinstatement). The Browns and NFL will both have a part in his recovery if he is willing.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    He’s not for everybody, especially when he gets all emo. That said, I was a big fan of last year’s album (the features helped, IMO) and I agree on this track. He’ll get a lot of hate because he’s a D-nozzle, but once you step back, it’s a good track.

  • Harv 21

    I haven’t seen the league policy. My source was Grossi about a month ago after the last reported violation. It’s certainly true he won’t be permitted in Berea.

  • mgbode

    yes, not allowed in Berea or contact with coaches.

  • Harv 21

    What I get for relying on Grossi ….
    Here is what may be the current policy. http://images.nflplayers.com/mediaResources/files/PDFs/PlayerDevelopment/2010%20Drug%20Policy.pdf

    On page 23: ” A player banished pursuant to Stage Three of the Intervention Program may not participate with his club in any way except to see his Treating Clinician for treatment purposes on club property, but he must vacate the premises immediately following termination of the treatment session with the Treating Clinician.”

    So bode, looks like he would be able to slink in and out of Berea. That gives me a gleam. But would he even stay in Cleveland?

  • Harv 21

    What I get for relying on Grossi ….
    Here is what may be the current policy. http://images.nflplayers.com/mediaResources/files/PDFs/PlayerDevelopment/2010%20Drug%20Policy.pdf

    On page 23: ” A player banished pursuant to Stage Three of the Intervention Program may not participate with his club in any way except to see his Treating Clinician for treatment purposes on club property, but he must vacate the premises immediately following termination of the treatment session with the Treating Clinician.”

    So bode, looks like he would be able to slink in and out of Berea. That gives me a gleam. But would he even stay in Cleveland?

  • whosevelt

    I don’t see what the big deal on Gordon is. We’ve spend the last few weeks saying that the NFL’s marijuana rules are stupid but Gordon should know to stay away from it anyway. That doesn’t mean he has to drop all his friends and turn into Jiminy Cricket, the way we might expect if his friends were involved in gang violence or dog fighting. Also, according to the media, police “smell something funny” whenever they pull over a black person because that gives them a right to check pockets.

  • Hopwin

    Very contemplative, reflective even. Always deep-in-thought with a glassy eyed stare as if he isn’t in the moment.

  • Harv 21

    Well, the player signed a contract governed by the CBA. The rules under the CBA are that players cannot wear plaid shirts. If they are stupid enough to get somehow caught wearing one – given that he could wear a million other things, a freakin leisure suit if so inclined – they are warned and spoken to. If they do it again they are suspended and made to watch movies and spoken to by queer eyes for straight guys and subject to random closet checks. If they do it again, well, suffice it to say Joshie likes his fashion statement more than he likes his NFL lifestyle. It’s clearly no biggie for Josh. For now, anyway. Let’s see how he feels about plaid when the money runs out.

  • mgbode

    I don’t see what the big deal on Gordon is.

    the dude was facing a potential year-long suspension and even then will have to fight his way back into reinstatement and any mis-step is potentially one that will cost him even more millions of dollars. and yet, he cannot make sure that the people in his car don’t have weed on them?

    and, that is giving the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t smoking in the car or around him earlier and he was getting 2nd (or 1st) hand smoke inhalation from it too. after failing tests at Baylor (kicked out), Utah (kicked out), in the NFL (into program, multiple fails before first suspension – suspended last year and another failed this past season), does he deserve the benefit of the doubt still???

  • mgbode

    thanks for digging that portion up. i looked for the article (it was for Aldon Smith, but same topic), but could not find it. in it, it had also noted that team/NFL officials were allowed to monitor his progress (with his approval) and provide counseling directly.

  • Natedawg86

    His friends must not be Browns fans

  • dwhit110

    If not who will stir up trouble between Kyrie and Dion all winter long? :)

  • mgbode

    he’s not allowed in Berea (other than rehab). no restrictions on Independence.

  • mgbode

    also not Gordon fans

  • saggy

    The Suarez article from the ESPN Mag is amazing. Great story.

  • saggy

    i agree. i bet most readers put themselves in his shoes, like i did.

  • saggy

    do we know if the cannabis was burning or was it just in the bag?

  • Harv 21

    one more comment as the Josh Gordon comet fades: in his brief 2 seasons he had a bigger impact than the longer careers of any recent Browns second rounder. Forget the obvious flops like Veikune and Robiskie, in just 30 games he had far more impact than decent players like TJ Ward and Jabal Sheard.

    This was not a bad draft pick by Heckert. That level of talent was worth the risk, particularly since his absences were more disruptive than his presence. He didn’t bring the team down with him.

  • saggy

    and while it’s hanging by the slimmest of threads, it’s not over yet!