As a fan of the Cleveland Browns, you have to learn to win the little battles as they come.
Fortunately for Browns fans, a big battle was won today.
A silver lining of hope for the winless, dismal season of the franchise appeared today as wide receiver Josh Gordon made his return Wednesday afternoon. Gordon has been suspended for the last two seasons due to several violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, and saw his career and personal life plummet out of control rapidly as he became another “what if” of the opportunities the team has missed. Making his first appearance in practice since August of 2016, comments from head coach Hue Jackson after the workout explained that he felt a “different spirit at practice” with Gordon on the field, and rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer remarked that “the guy is an ultimate talent.” Gordon was a literal monster for opposing defenses in his first two seasons in Cleveland, leading the league with 1,646 yards, 87 receptions and 9 touchdowns. The most staggering part of those numbers? He managed to accomplish the feat in only 14 games, a statistic that had never been accomplished prior and is regarded as one of the greatest single season stretches of all time. At the time of his first suspension in 2014, Gordon was looked upon as the most promising young receiver talent in the game, and seemed poised to ascend to the ranks of other freakishly athletic deep threats that were dominating the league at the time.
Unfortunately, we will never know what Gordon’s career would look like currently if he hadn’t fallen victim to the substance abuse problems that plague so many promising young stars in sports today. But there is always hope for a fresh start, and a finally sober Gordon may be the lightning rod that the franchise needs to change directions. A young quarterback combined with the playmaking ability of rookie receiver Corey Coleman and veteran experience of someone like Gordon could spell trouble for defenses around the league in a few seasons, and could propel Gordon in the right direction as both a professional athlete and as an individual looking for a second chance at life. After all, Hall of Fame wide receiver and former Eagles and Vikings great Cris Carter has been open about how his second opportunity in Minnesota was exactly the right thing for him at the time of his personal life crisis, and allowed him to become the second leading pass catcher in NFL history behind only Jerry Rice.
The Browns season has once again been unsuccessful, and they are seemingly on a crash course for the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. The rebuild has been a grueling, decade long process that has included a variety of coaching changes and more quarterbacks than Billy Joel could write a song about. With the return of Gordon however, the franchise and city now have a truly generational talent on their side moving forward, and with the right guidance from the organization he could truly become one of the greatest receivers of all time.
Cleveland fans are used to the little battles though, so the eyes of an entire city will be watching one game at a time to see just how successful this endeavor may be.
One quick favor though, Josh? Listen to the wise words of Stephen A. Smith, and stay off the weed. You might just save a team, franchise, and community if you do.