Over at the OBR we’ve been running an Email chat/group talk/discussion type of thing on a variety of subjects. Naturally, the subject of Josh Gordon as a potential top wide receiver/diva came up. This was a subject that I touched on last week – basically breaking down Pat Shurmur’s clumsy attempt at trying to motivate his young wide receiver (I guess).
Or you could say that Shurmur just made Gordon’s life exponentially more difficult by outing him as a sloppy practice player.
Anyway, the OBR piece will eventually run. But in the meantime, I thought this was an appropriate time to post my initial response – before Gordon is forever pegged as a “diva.”
The Josh Gordon Post
There are many layers to this prompt.
First, the diva label is certainly a stereotype – one that is unfairly attached to any NFL wide receiver who doesn’t meet some specified criteria set by either fans or the media. The label itself is basically a license to criticize a player for exhibiting any type of behaviors that are simply noticeable. Or, if an NFL player doesn’t meet the standards, morals or values of a given fan or media member, then it’s fair to attach such a problematic label.
In Gordon’s specific case, this diva label is the result of exactly two things that he can’t control:
1. He is playing for the same team that once featured Braylon Edwards. And he’s a wide receiver. Somehow, this combination must make Gordon a diva.
2. His head coach implied that Gordon was a bit lost – as most NFL rookies are at this point of training camp. Again, somehow this implies that Gordon is a diva. Yet, no one in the major Cleveland media has questioned Shurmur’s tactic – which was either purely motivational or an incredibly incompetent display of public communication. If you prefer the incompetent choice, then who is to blame for the Gordon/diva association? Also, does Shurmur even understand that he’s dealing with a 21-year old?
Second, Gordon was closer to finding a college to play for than he was entering the NFL. By most accounts, Gordon was not expecting to be in an NFL training camp when Tom Heckert spent a second-round draft pick on him. For anyone to seriously think that Gordon could be plucked from college exile and thrown into the NFL without encountering some obstacles is delusional. And again, for a still inexperienced head coach to actually call this same player out on such a thing is astonishing.
Third, exactly how does Gordon’s “problematic past” affect his current struggles as a rookie wide receiver in the NFL? Is there some connection between smoking pot in college and trying to figure out NFL defenses, learning routes and adjusting to both the speed of the game and the rhythm of a foreign offense? Again – what exactly did fans and media expect from Gordon? And really – how is someone smoking pot in college somehow an issue in the NFL? Could you only imagine if this criteria were extended to every other profession in society? Are people really that naive – or just mindlessly repeating things that other people say and making careless judgments?
Finally, as for his worth – such a question has to be framed within the context of the current roster. For over 12 years, the Browns have struggled to find both quality wide receivers and any type of play maker via the draft. In all honesty, Kevin Johnson probably remains the team’s best expansion receiver draft pick – along with the aforementioned Edwards. So in spending a high future draft pick on Gordon, Heckert is obviously taking a chance on a player who is clearly still developing. But then again, considering the roster Heckert inherited – which is the result of a decade of absentee ownership – the Browns’ GM didn’t have many options.
Yet, because of the Browns’ thin depth at the position – and surely because of the huge investment – Gordon will have to immediately produce or fall victim to the mindless labels that fans and media will surely attach to him. This much is obvious – especially in a city starved for any type of winning. Fans are quick to turn on a player and media always love a story that is easy to write and will create cheap heat. However, to have his own head coach essentially stoke these fires is absurd.
If somehow Gordon emerges successful from what is an already stacked deck, I truly hope that he takes every opportunity to act as much like a diva as he wants.
Whatever that even means.
Anyway, let me know what you think. I feel this is a worthy discussion – especially given how quickly fans turn on players and media pounce on words that they don’t understand and narratives that are easy to write.
But maybe I’m way off here.