Today’s breaking news that Josh Gordon will be leaving the New England Patriots and football to focus on his mental health, might signify the end of his career. Gordon’s talent has made coaches and fans drool for years, but his troubled life off the field has kept him from ever reaching his full potential on it. At the time of this writing there are conflicting reports as to whether Gordon might potentially be facing a suspension for substance abuse from the NFL, but it’s fair to wonder what’s led to this drastic measure. The 27-year-old seemed to finally be in a good place both off and on the football field in New England, but bailing on a perennial Super Bowl contender just as the stretch run is coming up, will make it hard for Gordon to get another shot in the NFL. No one has had more “second chances” than Josh Gordon, but this might have been his last one. Let’s take a look at the talented, but troubled receiver’s career timeline.
Middle & High School
Born in Houston, Texas, Gordon’s troubles started as far back as we can document. In an interview with GQ, he admitted that he began using Xanax, marijuana, and codeine in middle school. He was expelled from two different middle schools for stealing. After receiving a basketball scholarship to a private Houston prep school, Gordon was kicked out for marijuana use in 10th grade. He eventually landed at Houston’s Lamar High School, where he starred in football, basketball, and track…all while increasing his drug and alcohol use. Gordon also began selling drugs in high school and was involved in numerous illegal activities, which led to a felony credit card theft charge when he was 17-years-old.
Gordon was recruited by several Division I programs, but his main reason for choosing Baylor University was an odd one…his probation for the credit card theft wouldn’t allow him to live outside the state of Texas.
After flying under the radar his freshman year, Gordon would soon find himself in trouble during the middle of his sophomore campaign. In October of 2010, police officers found Gordon and a Baylor teammate passed out in a car at a Taco Bell drive-thru with multiple bags of marijuana. The teammate, Willie Jefferson, was kicked off the team by then-coach Art Briles, while Gordon was only suspended. He went on to play 13 games in his sophomore season, flashing his speed and talent while recording 42 catches for 714 yards and seven touchdowns. At this time, Gordon was also selling drugs at Baylor. Not your run-of-the-mill dimebag operation either, as he admits he was bringing in around $10,000 a month from selling drugs while at Baylor.
Gordon was suspended indefinitely in July of 2011 before the start of his junior season. The suspension was due to multiple failed drug tests. In August of 2011, Gordon transferred to the University of Utah, where he tried cocaine for the first time and began using Adderall on a daily basis. He never played a down for the Utes and declared for the NFL’s supplemental draft in 2012.
Gordon was selected in the second round of the NFL’s 2012 supplemental draft by the Cleveland Browns. He signed a four-year, $5.3 million contract with the team.
Gordon’s rookie season in 2012 would be the only time in his career that he played in all 16 games, racking up 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns.
Prior to the start of his second season in 2013, Gordon got in trouble with the NFL for the first time, drawing a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Gordon came back from the suspension with a vengeance, leading the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in just 14 games. He earned All-Pro honors and made the Pro-Bowl. This is the season that put Josh Gordon on the map and had those in the football world salivating at his potential.
Problems came fast and furious after Gordon’s breakthrough season. He was arrested for DWI in the summer of 2014 and just over a month later he was suspended by the NFL for one year. That suspension was later reduced to 10 games by the league and Gordon appeared in only five games in 2014 before being suspended for the final game of the season by the Browns. This would kick-off a seemingly never ending string of suspensions from the NFL. Following the final game of the 2014 season, Gordon wouldn’t see action on the field until Week 13 of the 2017 season.
The gap between 2014 and 2017 included numerous trips to rehab and relapses. The Browns stood by Gordon during this time, including in 2016 when Gordon was set to return to action, but voluntarily checked himself into a rehab facility. He applied for reinstatement to the NFL in March of 2017, but was denied. The league eventually granted Gordon a conditional reinstatement. He then returned in Week 13 and finished out the 2017 season.
In March of this year the Browns signed Gordon to a one-year, $790,000 contract. With Gordon seemingly past his troubles, excitement was high for him to team up with number one draft pick Baker Mayfield. However, Gordon announced he would miss the start of training camp to focus on his recovery and personal well-being. He showed up to camp three weeks late and struggled with a hamstring injury. Gordon caught a touchdown pass in Week 1, but prior to the Browns Week 2 matchup with New Orleans he was ruled out after showing up late and injured from a non-team photo shoot. The Browns announced their intentions to part ways with Gordon on September 15, citing trust issues.
On September 17 the New England Patriots completed a trade for Gordon that had them sending a 2019 fifth-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for the star. This seemed to be the perfect situation for Gordon. New England has a successful track record of dealing with troubled players and castaways. Gordon hit the ground running, starting 11 games for the Pats and logging 40 catches for 720 yards and three TDs.
There has been no indication of problems for Gordon in New England, which makes today’s announcement so shocking. One thing is without doubt, Josh Gordon is a very talented football player, but a very troubled person. We can debate the NFL’s marijuana policy until the cows come home (I think it’s ridiculous and outdated), but I think this goes much deeper than smoking weed. Gordon began getting into trouble as a child and has struggled at every stop throughout his life. He’s not been able to stay clean, even with the promise of millions of dollars if he does. We can call him an idiot, a drug addict, or a tragic figure and probably be correct on all three accounts, but the most accurate description for Josh Gordon also happens to be both the saddest and most frustrating…a waste of talent.