5-11 starts this Sunday, am I right?
The Cleveland Browns, still winless heading into Week 13, are a hot mess once again. But help is arriving in the form of wideout Josh Gordon, who returns from suspension this weekend. As a result, you should go ahead and expect the winning streak to start Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
…are you picking up any sarcasm? It was subtle, I know. It’s no disrespect to Gordon, as I really am looking forward to seeing him in a regular season game for the first time since December of 2014.
However, there are many fans who are blatantly assuming his return will automatically make the Browns look like a competitive football team. As fun as it is to hope the addition of one player will end the constant losing we’ve grown accustomed to with this latest regime, I would suggest you pump the breaks on that hope.
Gordon may indeed make an impact Sunday, but there’s just as much of a chance of this not occurring. As a result, it would be best to temper expectations for Sunday, along with the rest of the season.
Yes, I’m well aware of the year Gordon put forth in 2013. I remain in awe to this day about his ability to break NFL records despite being suspended for the first two games of that campaign. Throughout said season, it looked impossible for any opposing secondary to prevent Gordon from making an impact.
I’m also well aware of his return from suspension in 2014.
Browns fans were just as giddy then as they are this time around, and what we saw that time certainly failed to live up to the hype. Gordon returned for five games of the 2014 campaign, only netting 100+ yards once. His effort disappeared, and he was eventually suspended for the final game of the year.
This also marks the last time we saw Gordon in the regular season in general.
To be clear, I’m not saying expect Gordon to replicate his 2014 performance as opposed to what he did in 2013. I’m just noting that we can’t assume he’s going to be Pro Bowl caliber from the get-go Sunday. We did this before, and it proved to be quite a let-down.
Again, I know Gordon is in great shape. I’ve watched footage of his recent practices with the team, and he’s clearly the most talented wideout on the field. He certainly appears capable of making an impact Sunday.
At the same time, we can’t just assume solid practices equate to a great in-game showing. Remember, Gordon hasn’t taken a real hit in almost three years. Yes, he participated in the preseason last year. However, no one is going full speed in exhibition games.
Despite his conditioning certainly looking up to par, we won’t know how football-ready he is until he takes the field.
It’s also worth noting that, per Gordon himself, he was on some sort of substance before every game of his professional career. This would imply Sunday will be the first time he plays in a game while sober.
Sure, common sense says not having drugs or alcohol in his system will only improve his chances of having a great game. At the same time, these were substances Gordon had been dependent upon for years. It goes without saying he’s going to be enduring a notable adjustment in playing an NFL game without them.
I’m not here to rain on the parade for anyone who’s eagerly awaiting Sunday’s game solely because of Gordon. It just needs be noted there are a few reasons why expecting a 200-yard, two touchdown performance right out of the gate is quite lofty.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly hoping he does just that. I’d more than happily admit I was wrong after watching a vintage Gordon performance on Sunday. This Browns season has had very few positives, so having something, anything to get excited about would be quite refreshing.
Just don’t feel let down if Gordon instead isn’t able to make a gigantic difference this weekend. It’s been a long road back to the field for him, and his road back to Pro Bowl form could potentially be just as long.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook