The obvious subtitle for this week’s game:
How Not To Run a Football Team, featuring How Not To Run Your Life.
The hapless Cleveland Browns and the hopeless Josh Gordon.
You can’t make this stuff up.
A football team that is wallowing in epically historic degrees of self-inflicted chaos gleefully welcomes back a player whose epically sorry personal history makes Johnny Manziel look like an altar boy.
But here we are.
The worst team in professional sports is hitching its wagon to the most undependable professional athlete, perhaps ever — and vice versa.
That’s what makes this marriage so tragic, so juicy, so TMZ-zy.
A player who can’t stay out of trouble joining a team that can’t get into the win column.
If misery loves company this should be a football Mardi Gras.
All you need to know about the state of both parties in this comic opera is Browns’ coach Hue Jackson’s delirious reaction to having Gordon in uniform for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“It’s like Christmas,” quipped the apparently punch-drunk Jackson, who has been knocked woozy by the crossfire hurricane that quickly engulfs every Browns coach.
What IS true, however — sad, but true — is that, for worse or for worse, the Browns and Gordon need each other. That’s bad news for both of them.
The Browns are 0-11, 1-29, and 4-44. Gordon has been suspended five times since 2013. The last time he participated in an NFL game was Dec. 21, 2014. Who can forget that game? (Pardon me while I raise my hand). Somebody named Garrett Hartley kicked two field goals for the Browns that day.
If you haven’t read Sports Illustrated’s story this week on Gordon, ask the children to leave the room, and read it. The first clue that it isn’t exactly light reading, is the first line of the story, a quote by Gordon: “I didn’t plan on living past 18.”
Gordon also told SI’s Ben Baskin: “If I was going to be a thug or a gangster, I was going to be the best gangster out there.”
In 2013 Gordon had to settle for being the best wide receiver out there. You remember the 2013 Browns, right? Let me jog your memory. That was the Fozzy Whitaker/Oniel Cousins Era.
Gordon chipped in with a Browns-record, NFL-leading 1,646 receiving yards. Gordon caught 87 balls that year, averaging 117.6 receiving yards per game, shattering _ by 32 yards _ a Browns record that had stood for 64 years: Mac Speedie’s 85.7 receiving yards per game in 1949.
In 2013, Gordon was young (22), fast, strong, with soft hands. For him, the sky seemed to be the limit, but instead it was more like the gutter.
He’s only appeared in five games for the Browns since then, all in 2014. Away from football, Gordon’s has been an ugly, violent, law-breaking life, filled with too many bad decisions hatched in, and influenced by the mean streets of his youth.
The Browns, of course, have been the gridiron equivalent of Gordon’s train wreck life. Since 2013, Gordon’s monster, and only productive season in Cleveland, the Browns are 11-48 (.186). They’ve had three general managers, three coaches and 11 quarterbacks.
In other words, business as usual.
Back from his latest suspension, Gordon now has five games left in this season to prove to the Browns, or any other team _ he can become a restricted free agent after the 2018 season _ that he’s worth the headache.
Unfortunately for Gordon, he’s joining a team that is as bad at winning as he is at staying out of trouble.
The Browns are not only winless, but their coaches and front office personnel are, in many, if not most cases trying to save their jobs. To that end, they’re likely to do anything to try to win a game, any game. That includes not just welcoming back a five-time loser (as judged by suspensions), but declaring his arrival is “Like Christmas”.
Yes, it’s every man for himself on the not-so-good-ship Haslam.
Under normal circumstances, a team in as much disarray as the Browns would have zero interest in a professional distraction such as Josh Gordon. Most coaches in Hue Jackson’s shoes would say they’ve got more to worry about than wondering if Gordon will show up for work each day.
Gordon, likewise, couldn’t do much worse _ not that he has a choice _ than having to re-enter the NFL with a team that is 0-11, with all the incumbent baggage that record implies, including suspect quarterbacks, and a staff, both front office and on-field, that knows it may be thrown out with the bathwater after this season.
But it is what it is, and at this moment in time, for the Browns and for Gordon, the last thing each needs is the only thing each has: