Tom Brady is about to have one of the most talented weapons in the NFL step into the Patriots receiver room.
But given Josh Gordon's history, he's also one of the most unreliable. And now, after being traded to New England on Monday, he's being inserted into one of the most complex passing games in the NFL.
That's why when Brady spoke to Westwood One on Monday night, he kept expectations low.
“We’ll see how it goes this week," Brady said, "and hopefully he can work hard, put the team first, and end up helping us in any role that he can find for himself on the team."
Gordon is the latest experiment in a long line of bigger wideouts the Patriots have tried in 2018. Malcolm Mitchell couldn't get healthy. Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews and Eric Decker all misfired. Recent acquisitions Bennie Fowler and Corey Coleman (who was released to make room for Gordon) were quickly cast aside.
The Patriots have made almost 30 transactions at the receiver position since the start of the league year. They're getting Julian Edelman back Week 5, but right now they're desperate.
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"Any time you get someone in the middle of the season, there’s obviously a lot of things that have happened that have got the team to a certain point that they weren’t a part of," Brady said.
"So you know, I’m not sure how many of those things matter, but you’d like to try to get up to speed as quickly as possible and it’s really up to the individuals. You know all these things need to play themselves out. I’m not going to project anything. I’m just going to try to go be the positive, enthusiastic leader that I am and try to be a great quarterback and try to embrace whoever’s on the team. And we’ve all got to play a lot better than we played [Sunday] and that’s really where our focus should be."
Gordon won't be asked to memorize the Patriots playbook. Instead he'll be given game-plan specific plays and asked to do his best with those. But in practice, and in games if given the opportunity, he'll still have to earn his new quarterback's trust if he wants to see the football.
At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and with the type of freakish athleticism that forces other freak athletes to call him "freakish," Gordon could be a contested-catch, jump-ball expert as well as a down-the-field option. But Brady has to feel good about him before he gives him those types of chances.
“I always think trust is whatever receiver is out there, you know, you tell them to run a certain route and they run it the way that you talked about it, the ball is thrown, it’s caught, it’s a positive play and then you do it again," Brady said. "If it’s a flip of the coin and 50-50, sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong, I mean nobody can really depend on that.
"The coaches don’t want to see that, the players don’t want to see that. You want to know that the guys you’re lining up next to that they got it. They’ve got their responsibility taken care of and that frees you up to think about what your responsibilities are. But if you’re worried about this guy or that guy or this or that, you know, it just takes away from what your focus needs to be as an individual. Everybody wants good teammates that can focus on, as an individual, what they have to do in order to help the team."