After news dropped that the Patriots were expected to place Josh Gordon on IR and waive him soon after, 31 NFL fanbases began to rationalize why their teams should take a chance on the talented, mercurial receiver.
It’s understandable why. Gordon exploded in 2013 with 87 catches, 1,646 and 9 touchdowns in just 14 games.
It was only his second year in the league, and he looked like the next best thing at the receiver position. A jumbo frame paired with elite long-speed and body control who could put up those numbers with a revolving door of Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell at quarterback? Absurd, good sir.
That season was awesome. It won a lot of lucky Gordon fantasy owners a league title. But even if he still possesses that talent somewhere buried deep within, the locker room distractions he presents would outweigh the potential impact he’d have with the Raiders.
When the Seahawks picked him up off waivers on Friday, some disgruntled fans were surely left wondering why Oakland didn’t put in a claim for him. After all, the Raiders had a higher waiver priority and a need for another productive wideout.
Some fans likely found themselves dreaming that Gordon could fix the Raiders problems at the receiver spot, fantasizing about him pairing with Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller to form a fearsome trio. Other, more rational speculators may have looked at the team’s struggles at the position and thought that if Gordon could bring something, anything, to bolster Derek Carr’s options, the Raiders would be better off.
At some point this past week Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden likely discussed the potential of putting in a claim for him. They clearly decided that installing a package for him on offense, coupled with the constant worries of potential off-field concerns was not worth the time, nor the effort. The conversation (if there even was one) might have only lasted five seconds.
“Oh, Josh Gordon is available on waivers? Yeah, we’re good.”
If the Patriots don’t trust you... wait... scratch that... If Bill Belichick doesn’t trust you, then you probably aren’t to be trusted. Belichick is often willing to bring in guys in need of a second chance. Sometimes it works out for New England, and often it doesn’t. With a strong, well-established culture and unprecedented winning track record, they can afford to take those chances.
It actually worked out surprisingly well for the Patriots in Gordon’s first season there, until his play began to slip this year and he started showing up late to workouts and being mysterious with his whereabouts.
Besides the off-field concerns, Gordon just isn’t as dynamic anymore. He runs an incredibly limited route tree at this point, consisting mostly of slants and go routes. He was still relatively effective in that role, but the predictability of his routes on a play-by-play basis made it difficult to bring him into the gameplan.
His lengthy history of problems with drug use and drug-related suspensions is not new. This story from Boston.com shows how his proclivity to self-medicate began with Xanax way back in the seventh grade.
One could point to the team’s investment in Waller, who has turned his career around and become a premier player after struggling with drug abuse. Perhaps Waller’s good influence and changed lifestyle could have helped Gordon. But a burden like that shouldn’t be put on Waller, who needs to be thinking about how to win football games, not how to change the lifestyle of someone a year older than him.
Locker room drama can affect a team’s performance on the field dramatically. Some can overcome a bad vibe in the locker room, most cannot.
There’s a chance that Gordon turns back the clock and finds his past form with the Seahawks. There’s a higher chance that he ends up taking away snaps from D.K. Metcalf, showing up late to meetings, and fizzling out in Seattle soon.