NFL’s foot-dragging hurtful in many ways
If there was any one position on the Browns that could least afford to lose a key player, it was wide receiver. There was All-Pro Josh Gordon and no one else.
And now, there is no Josh Gordon for at least one year after the National Football League on Thursday rejected the wide receiver’s appeal of his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Within his statement of apology to the fans, team and coaches shortly after the decision was rendered by the league, Gordon said, “I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn’t exercise better discretion and judgment in my case.”
That statement, issued through the NFL Players Association, almost certainly was crafted by Gordon’s legal team and/or representatives, but failed to take into account the irony of those words.
The league exercised as much discretion and judgment as Gordon exercised when he chose to flaunt the league’s substance-abuse policy by smoking pot. How ironic is that?
The exact date when the NFL allows him to apply for reinstatement is unknown at this point. The league stated Thursday that Gordon’s eligibility for reinstatement “will be determined following the 2014 season.” Exactly when is anyone’s guess. The league statement is too vague to hone in on the actual date.
Theoretically, he cannot apply for reinstatement until Aug. 27 next year, one year to the date of the suspension.. If he must wait until that date to apply, he will miss all of 2015 training camp and the exhibition season.
News of Gordon’s impending suspension broke initially on the second day of the league college draft in early May. That’s nearly four months ago.
Why did it take so long to reach this decision? We might never know. I’m not quarreling with it, but the original appeal was made before the team began training camp. It could have been resolved far sooner than this.
Gordon’s prolonged absence will have a deleterious effect on the Cleveland offense. Unlike last season, when nearly two-thirds of the plays were passes, the run-pass ratio this season figures to be much closer to 50-50.
The offense most likely will feature conservative football designed to move the chains methodically, produce time-consuming drives and give the defense, the strength of the team, as much rest as possible. It figures to be dull and relatively sleep inducing.
With Gordon out and no other wideout good enough to scare the opposition, quarterback Brian Hoyer will see many more eight- and nine-man fronts, daring him to throw the ball. The running game, despite better talent at the position this season, will be strangled by suffocating defenses.
Can the absence of one man make that much of a difference to the offense? The answer to that one lies in the stunning statistics Gordon produced last season. His presence enabled Jordan Cameron to become a Pro Bowl tight end and opened up an offense that had no appreciable running game.
With Gordon gone for who knows how long and the Browns’ wide receivers corps arguably ranked the worst in the NFL, Cameron can expect many more double teams, rendering him mostly ineffective. If Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins are your best receivers, you are in a world of hurt.
Gordon’s absence weighs most heavily on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who now must come up with some creative and innovative football to counter what certainly will be heavy assaults from opposing defenses.