Yesterday, the NFL began its final stage of the offseason. With last night’s Hall of Fame game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, preseason is officially under way, and opening week is now just over a month from happening.
Keep this in mind as you realize that today, three whole months after reports surfaced regarding a failed drug test by Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, the team still has no idea how the league will decide to punish one of their best players.
Three months. The Browns have gone through offseason minicamp, the opening stages of training camp and now prepare for their first preseason game this weekend without any idea whether or not Gordon will be able to suit up for them this year. Cleveland’s top offensive weapon, someone the team likely tailors a playbook around, could be gone for the entire year. Or, he could be gone for half of the year. Or, he could just win his appeal hearing.
The mystery isn’t the issue here. The problem is this whole situation, from the first reports to the appeal, has been dragged out for far too long.
For too long, rookie coach Mike Pettine has had to respond to questions he doesn’t know the answer to. He doesn’t know what the word is on Gordon’s hearing. He has no idea how long Gordon’s suspension will be, or when it’ll take place. Pettine says these things, proceeds with practice and prepares to answer the same questions again the next day.
Pettine’s quarterbacks, Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, put in work with Gordon throughout training camp despite having no idea if they’ll have the pleasure of throwing to him this season. Pettine’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, installs an offensive scheme which may include Gordon on paper, but possibly not on the field. Pettine’s entire team sits in a locker room which may feature one empty stall for an unknown amount of time this year.
The NFL season is almost a month away, and the Browns still have zero clue whether or not Gordon will be taking part in it. And that is entirely unfair for them.
This is not to turn Gordon himself into a martyr. Whether his failed test was a result of second-hand smoke or not, he knew the rules, and reportedly broke them for the second time in two years. There’s no doubt he’ll receive punishment for this, we just don’t know how severe it’ll be.
And therein lies the real problem here. Gordon doesn’t know if he’s playing this year, despite the season being around the corner. Pettine doesn’t know if he’ll be starting his first year as a head coach with one of the best offensive players in the league. The Browns don’t know if Gordon will be gone for a year, they don’t know if he’ll be gone for eight games, they don’t know if he’ll be gone at all.
Sure, the appeal is currently taking place. But, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, no decision is expected today.
According to reports, the Browns knew of Gordon’s test results before May’s NFL Draft. Why are we just now finishing up the appeal process? Why did it take so long for any progress to be made in even figuring out what the punishment will be? If Gordon is suspended a year, the suspension officially starts the day it’s handed out. So, if it’s issued this week, Gordon won’t be able to return until next August.
And this would be incredibly unfair. It’d be unfair for Gordon, who would essentially lose almost an entire training camp along with this upcoming season. And it’d be unfair for the Browns, who’ve spent the past few months completely unaware of how much they’ll see from Gordon this year.
Three months. The NFL needs to make a decision so all parties can move forward appropriately. This has gone on long enough.