In 2013, Josh Gordon was the NFL’s best wide receiver. Despite catching passes from the immortal trio of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, the 22-year old finished the season with 87 receptions for 1,646 yards – 30.4% of the Cleveland Browns’ offensive output that year – and nine touchdowns. In the five years since his breakout campaign, however, Gordon was never able to come close to the same production.
His inability to stay on the field is the main reason for that: between 2014 and 2017, Gordon appeared in just 10 of a possible 64 games while missing more than two whole seasons due to various suspensions. Despite all that, the Browns held onto the immensely talented but troubled wideout – until last month that is: in mid-September, Cleveland put the 27-year old on the trade block after he had hurt his hamstring during a promotional photo shoot.
Having plenty of issues at the wide receiver position, the New England Patriots decided to take a shot at Gordon. The team traded a fifth-round draft choice in 2019 to the Browns to acquire him and a conditional seventh-rounder – and with every new game, the trade keeps looking worse for Cleveland. One month has passed since the team shipped Gordon away, and by now he is an integral piece of one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses.
Yesterday’s contest against the Chicago Bears was the latest example of just how absurd it is that New England was able to acquire a player of Gordon’s caliber for the price of a day three draft pick. Playing all but two offensive snaps, the 6’3, 225 lbs wide receiver caught four passes for a combined 100 yards – his first 100-yard performance since joining the Patriots, and only his second since the 2014 season.
Along the way, Gordon made two of the biggest plays of the game. In the second quarter, he caught an impressive 19-yard pass to convert a 4th and 1; the Patriots scored a touchdown five plays later. In the fourth quarter, he caught a deep pass on a crossing pattern and, after breaking two tackle attempts, took the reception 55-yards to the Bears 1; the Patriots scored a touchdown two plays later.
Both catches illustrate what Gordon brings to the Patriots offense: immense athletic ability paired with a natural feel for New England’s schemes and a high football IQ. On top of all that, his chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady also keeps growing by the week. “We are just going to keep developing our confidence in one another,” Brady said during his postgame press conference yesterday. “He’s making great plays when I throw him the ball.”
Brady is not the only one of Gordon’s teammates to praise him after his first 100-yard performance in a Patriots uniform. “He’s working extremely hard,” running back and team captain James White noted after the game. “He’s buying in. Just paying attention to everything that the coaches have been talking to him about and he’s playing hard and he’s been making big plays for us.”
“He’s a threat. He goes down the field and makes plays. He’s come in and he’s worked hard,” fellow wide receiver Julian Edelman, who caught five passes for 36 yards and a touchdown against the Bears, said about Gordon. Edelman, one of the more outspoken members on the Patriots, also had some words for the rest of the NFL: “I just want to say thanks to the league. It’s pretty cool to have a guy like him and play with a dynamic player.”
The first team that needs to be mentioned when it comes to “the league” has to be the Browns. While they reached a dead end with Gordon, shipping him away to a team like the Patriots – a conference rival with the NFL’s best quarterback and coaching staff – for a fifth-round selection needs to be second guessed. Then again, personnel decisions are a big reason why Cleveland has won a combined three games over the last three seasons.