Patriots

Josh Gordon leaving the Patriots hurts, on many different levels

Patriots

There will be a lot of “told ya so” activity out there today.

Those who had “Josh Gordon won’t make it to the end of the regular season with the Patriots” can take a bow. Congratulations.

But any pride-swollen people who think they were proven “right?” The ones that thought signing Josh Gordon was a mistake and who are now shaming the Patriots for opening their program to Gordon in the first place?

They can screw.

Because a 27-year-old with a host of hard-to-conquer demons acknowledging that -- a week before Christmas -- he’s once again succumbing to them isn’t cause for high-fives.

And demeaning the Patriots for giving the kid almost 90 days of safe harbor in a system that supported him -- regardless of their motives for doing so -- says more about the people who’ll do the demeaning than it does about the Patriots or Gordon.

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Eleven games the Patriots got from him. Three months. There must have been a lot of good days mixed in there for Gordon. There were certainly a lot of positive reviews that he was picking things up, working diligently, showing up on time, etc.

But the demons are never really gone entirely. They’re just down in the cellar, in the dark, doing pushups and waiting for an opening to muscle their way back in.

And when you think about it, for a man plunked down in an unfamiliar suburban town, living in some rented place with people he just met smilingly eyeing his every move for signs of danger, the pressure of work, the scrutiny of the media, the financial burdens caused by years of fighting this stuff? Three months is nothing to sneer at.

 

I didn’t think bringing Gordon in was an awesome idea. On the field, he gave the Patriots much more than I expected he would. And the Patriots probably gave him more than Gordon expected.

This week was the first time there was any indication anything was off. Against the Steelers, Gordon was targeted just twice. He caught one pass for 19 yards. The other bounced off his forearm from short range. The two targets were the fewest since his first week here.

He’d become less communicative in the past week. Walled off. Even with a locker adjacent to Tom Brady and the often-expressed public support of his teammates and coaches, he was becoming less engaged.  

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Only Gordon can truly answer whether he’s stepping aside proactively to address what he’s dealing with or reactively based on the report he’s facing an indefinite suspension. But he also took time off during training camp with the Browns to address his mental health concerns.  In the final analysis, what difference does it make? He went south mentally. He’s seeking treatment.

As for the football component?

Gordon isn’t going to be around for the end of the regular season or the playoffs.

For a 9-5 team that still hasn’t figured out who it is offensively and had come to rely on Gordon as its best outside receiver, that hurts.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett and Chris Hogan aren’t going to draw coverage like Gordon did. Dorsett and Hogan can't go and get it like Gordon did, nor can either of them make yards after the catch like him.

Patterson is an amazing athlete but the Patriots have all season long been reticent to put too much on him as a wide receiver. Now they may have to.

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The fact is, Gordon was brought in at the end of September because none of those players were good enough or dependable enough through the first three weeks of the season.

Julian Edelman’s foot injuries have robbed him of some speed and separation ability. Rob Gronkowski is playing better but -- with teams now being able to lob extra defenders his way -- that doesn’t bode well.

Josh Gordon was a Band-Aid on a pretty bad cut. The Band-Aid just fell off and -- after all this time -- turns out the cut is still there.

Football-wise, Gordon was a life preserver the Patriots were able to cling to for 11 weeks.

But the reason they were bobbing on the waves in the first place was that -- after losing Danny Amendola in free agency and trading Brandin Cooks before they had to pay him a fat 2018 salary -- they bet on Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Dorsett and Patterson to mitigate the losses.

 

They didn’t.

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Maybe if Brady worked with them at passing camps and voluntary workouts and took everybody up to the mountains in the offseason, things would have been different. But probably not. They’ve all been around the league long enough to have established their level as “meh.”

It’s all hindsight and what-ifs now anyway.

Looking forward?

It’s too bad it went this way. No, it’s not a surprise. I hope Gordon takes with him some of the good days he had here as proof he absolutely has it in him and -- while I think the Patriots could have stocked the position better in the offseason -- I don’t deride them for giving him a chance. And their chances of going to a third straight Super Bowl and an eighth straight AFC Championship Game are now even more slim.

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