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How the Future of the NFL Changed This Past Weekend

by Photo of Sam Cohen

Why one player’s off-field troubles affect himself, his organization, and an entire league.

How the Future of the NFL Changed This Past Weekend

In this article…

The Cleveland Browns have had a rough few days. It was recently reported that the organization asked their new quarterback Johnny Manziel to "tone it down", but a picture surfaced over the weekend of Manziel rolling money in a bathroom. While the picture doesn't show any illegal substances, I don't think Johnny Football was rolling a bill for the sake of rolling a bill. While this picture, along with every other picture of Manziel partying this summer, certainly won't make the Cleveland Browns too happy, this is a non-issue for the team compared to the other incident that occurred this weekend.

Josh Gordon was arrested for driving while intoxicated this past weekend, less than two months after it was reported that he failed his second drug test and was in danger of potentially missing next season. A couple weeks after that report surfaced, Gordon was pulled over for speeding and his passenger was cited for possession of marijuana.

Gordon's off-field issues are nothing new. Ed Werder reported that Gordon's substance-abuse issues started in high school, though these issues didn't deter Baylor from giving the talented wide receiver a scholarship. Gordon burst onto the national scene in 2010 as a sophomore at Baylor, reeling in 42 catches for 714 yards and two touchdowns. The thought of watching soon-to-become Heisman winner Robert Griffin III throwing to the super-talented Gordon for at least another year was a scary one for opposing teams, as Baylor most definitely had one of the most explosive tandems in college football.

However, Gordon couldn't seem to stay away from trouble. He and a teammate were found with marijuana during Gordon's breakout season, though Gordon was given another chance since this was his first team violation. It didn't take too long for a second violation to come. In July of 2011, head coach Art Briles suspended Gordon indefinitely for failing a drug test, testing positive for marijuana.

Gordon quickly made the decision to transfer, taking his talents to Utah. After sitting out the 2012 season, Gordon decided to enter his name into the 2012 supplemental draft, which many players who have been suspended or kicked off their college teams enter. While many teams don't use a pick in the supplemental draft since using a supplemental draft pick means the team forfeits a pick in the NFL draft, the Browns spent a second round supplemental pick on Josh Gordon. This was a huge price to pay, as the Browns lost their second round pick in the NFL draft, but the team had high hopes that Gordon had moved past his legal issues.

Fast forward to this past season, when Gordon was suspended for the first two games for a failed NFL drug test. One more failed drug test would probably put Gordon out for a year. There was originally a lot of worry inside of the Browns organization, but those worries were forgotten after the next 14 games of the season.

Gordon set all kinds of records this past season, his second in the NFL. He became the first (and only) player in NFL history to record consecutive 200-yard receiving games when he put up 237 yard in week 12 and 261 yards in week 13. He set Browns records for most receiving yards in a season with 1,646 and most receiving yards in a game after his week 13 performance. He finished the 2013 season as the leader in receiving yards and was both a Pro-Bowler and First-Team All-Pro. And he did all of this despite missing the first two games.

Needless to say, Gordon became one the bright young faces of the NFL. His talent led many to believe that he could become one of the best players, let alone wide receivers, in the entire league immediately. What he did in that 2013 season was nothing short of magical. Not only did he set all sorts of records in his second season in the NFL, but he stayed out of trouble for the whole year. It finally seemed as if Josh Gordon had moved on from his off-field issues and was ready to become a top three wide receiver for the next decade.

What has happened since May has been disappointing. Nobody wants to see a kid hit rock bottom at 23. While it is certainly true that Gordon's future is up in the air and the Browns' future took a big hit this weekend, I don't think it would be a stretch to say the future of the NFL took a hit as well.

For starters, Josh Gordon was setting all kinds of NFL and Cleveland Browns records at age 22. Imagine what this kid could have done in the years to come. He hasn't even lived up to his full potential, which is freaky considering that he had a better 2013 season than Calvin Johnson had and Johnson is in his prime.

Furthermore, Gordon had this legendary season while being thrown to by three different quarterbacks. Those three quarterbacks were Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, and Jason Campbell. Hoyer is now fighting for the starting quarterback job in Cleveland with a rookie Johnny Manziel, Weeden is the third-string quarterback for the Cowboys, and Jason Campbell is fighting for the backup quarterback job in Cincinnati. If Gordon had a good quarterback in place for the rest of his career, it is entirely possible he could've set more than half of the NFL receiving records.

Gordon's latest arrest also affects the future of the entire league considering who the Browns new quarterback is. Johnny Manziel has the talent and potential to become a star quarterback in the NFL and all eyes will be on him due to how polarizing of a figure he is. The NFL could've made so much money off of the Manziel-Gordon tandem, as this could have been one of the best, most explosive, and certainly most fun quarterback-wide receiver duos in the NFL. But losing Gordon means the NFL will not make that money and Manziel may never have the chance to play with a talent like Josh Gordon, which could affect his career.

The future of the NFL also took a hit because teams will be much more cautious about who they draft. If teams learned nothing from the Aaron Hernandez fiasco, then they will definitely learn from Josh Gordon. Background checks will be as extensive as they've ever been on every single player and any off-field concerns from high school or college for a player may cause that player to go undrafted now.

I hope Josh Gordon can pull his life together and if he does, hopefully the NFL gives him one more chance. This is a talent that has rarely been seen before and if he can turn his life around, he can change a team's future as well as the NFL's future.

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