By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
At the end of the day, what has happened to suspended Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon over the last 24 hours isn’t about a player leaving his team in the lurches and down a productive wideout just two weeks before the start of the playoffs. It’s not about the Patriots putting their eggs in the ‘wrong basket’ carried by the league’s most troubled player. It’s not even about an ‘I told you so!’ that some people (for some strange reason) longed to scream from the moment the Patriots added Gordon.
It’s really about an addict currently losing his battle.
And if you’re a person with anything even close to a heart, you know how absolutely awful this really is for all involved.
Now, when the Patriots nabbed Gordon from the Cleveland Browns for pretty much nothing, everybody knew the risks involved. Prior to the trade, Gordon showed up to the Browns’ facilities acting strange, and after what was almost three straight years on the league’s suspended list, there’s zero doubt that the Browns were spooked out of any remaining belief in Gordon.
Again, everybody — including Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff — knew the risks at play here.
But the Patriots did everything they could to make Gordon’s transition to New England as easy and helpful as possible.
They gave him the locker stall next to Tom Brady, and Patriots PR ace Stacey James made sure Gordon’s interactions with the media were always direct and to the point. There wasn’t a touch of wiggle room for the distractions (or even the questions about the distractions) that had haunted Gordon’s Cleveland career. There’s also something to be said for Gordon working and essentially residing in sleepy Foxborough opposed to a city with a raging nightlife scene (something that helped Michael Floyd, another player that battled his own personal ‘demons’ upon his arrival to New England, during his brief tenure with the Patriots in 2017 en route a Super Bowl).
If there was ever an environment designed to bring out the best of Gordon, it was Belichick’s operation in Foxborough.
It did just that, too.
Josh Gordon the Patriot seemed as gracious and thankful a talent that’s walked into the facility in recent memory. In addition to his near-constant praise of the opportunity to catch passes from Brady and his teammates’ appreciation for his skills, he understood the Patriots’ plans for him. And he was willing to simply do his part every single step of the way. It may have been laborious at times, especially as the Patriots tried to accelerate his familiarity with the offense scheme, but it was productive nonetheless, as Gordon tallied 40 catches for 720 yards and three touchdowns in his 11 games with the Patriots.
It truly felt as if Gordon was finally back to enjoying the one thing in life that’s given him a chance to shine.
And despite what the gross hot takery of it all will suggest, too, Gordon absolutely didn’t blow his chance with the Patriots.
There was never a moment in his 95-day Patriots tenure where he woke up in the morning and thought, “Hey, how can I ruin my career and potentially my life today?” An addict (or even somebody trying to fight through their own pain and troubles with their form of self-medication, if marijuana is truly Gordon’s preferred way of dealing with his things) has never thought like that. They do anything they can not to think this way.
But there’s an undeniable sickness and affliction at play with Gordon’s struggles, one that’s clearly impacted Gordon’s mental health as well as his own personal wellness, and one that’s obviously grabbed a hold of Gordon yet again.
It’s not a hot take for your show. It’s just plain heartbreaking.
While we lose our minds over Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan having to take on a bigger workload, we’re left to wonder if, when, and where it will all come together for the ultra-talented Gordon as a professional football player. All three hypotheticals are equally disheartening when you realize that not even this opportunity and return to legitimate performance as a viable weapon on a good team were enough to keep Gordon’s demons at bay.
We’re also left to wonder if Gordon will even get another chance, as he could face a potential lifetime ban from the league after this latest indefinite suspension from the NFL. It’s sad to think the league has the power to straight-up banish somebody from doing the one thing they’ve excelled at because they’re unable to stay healthy, as if that will help their life in any possible way. (It’s also borderline insulting to your intelligence as a fan when you consider the collection of straight-up bad people that the NFL has repeatedly let remain eligible for gainful employment in their league.)
And that’s just touching on the football side of things, never mind the human being aspect of it all.
No matter the angle you choose, it’s just plain sad.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.