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Why new Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon is an amazing player

And why it probably won’t matter.

Cleveland Browns v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

1,646. That’s how many yards receiving Josh Gordon produced during the 2013 season. An enormous number. How enormous? Enough to clock in at 13th overall when it comes to the single season record for receiving yards. Here is a list of the wide receivers in NFL history who have produced more yards in a single year than Gordon did in 2013:

Calvin Johnson

Jerry Rice

Antonio Brown

Julio Jones

Isaac Bruce

Charley Hennigan

Marvin Harrison

Tory Holt

Herman Moore

9. In the history of the NFL only 9 players have produced more yards in a single season than Gordon. He is in the elite top 10 pantheon, its majority will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame at some point in time. What makes Gordon’s accomplishment all the more impressive is that it occurred while catching passes from Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. Who? Exactly.

So how was Josh Gordon able to produce at such an elite level? The biggest reason is that he is a physical freak: he is 6’3, 225 lbs with a massive wingspan and large bear paws for hands. If you were designing the perfect receiver in a lab he would look eerily close to Gordon. He also posted an impressive vertical and broad jump – impressive, but it is his speed that makes Gordon elite. Gordon posted a pedestrian 4.5 40-yard dash at his pro day. Normally that would be a bit of a warning sign. Pro days already tend to favor the player with generous scores so it would be reasonable to assume he was even slower. Reasonable. But wrong. Gordon possesses blazing 4.3 caliber speed, a unicorn level athleticism for a man of his size. The speed earned Gordon the appropriate nickname “Flash”.

“But PC,” I hear you say, “we already have an elite athlete in Cordarrelle Patterson! You have waxed for weeks that you think Patterson is a gadget player who will not reach his peak. Why do we need another washed up receiver who can’t make good on his athletic gifts?” Patience. I will explain.

Josh Gordon can’t run routes. Josh Gordon has great physicality. Josh Gordon has good vision.

“PC! You are literally describing Patterson.”

Let me finish.

Josh Gordon is great at creating separation. Josh Gordon has great hands. Josh Gordon makes great plays on the ball. These skills separate him from the likes of Patterson and propel him into the realm of elite talents. There are really only two skills that matter for a wide receiver: getting open and catching the ball. Josh Gordon can get open and he can catch the ball as good as any wide receiver in the NFL. That’s why he has posted a 1,646 yards receiving in a single season and Patterson has never cracked 500 yards.

One of the stats that PFF loves to throw around is that when defenses play man coverage against Brady they have a lot more success. Ramsey, in his post game interview of the 2017 AFCC, specifically cited the teams move away from man to zone coverage during the fourth quarter as part of the reason Brady was able to stage a comeback. If they had continued to play man, Ramsey seemed to be suggesting, they would have won the game. The Chiefs are a team that have given the Patriots fits in the past and their defense runs man coverage more than any other in the NFL. PFF and Ramsey would suggest there was a relationship there. Why is man coverage successful against Brady? One of the reasons is that our receivers legitimately are not that good. There isn’t a single wide receiver on this roster who can consistently square up against a talented corner and win. The only exception to that rule is Gronk. You cannot get away with man coverage because Gronk is almost impossible to guard man to man. You need only look at the Steelers game last year to see what happens when you try to put a safety one on one against Gronk. But expecting Gronk to carry the game every single time is unrealistic. Furthermore, you can occasionally find freaks like the Chiefs Eric Berry who can do decent job covering Gronk one on one.

What does this have to do with Josh Gordon? Well, Josh Gordon squared up against one of the best corner’s in the NFL last year and beat him clean for the catch. There is a good breakdown from Football Outsiders reviewing some of the limited snaps Gordon played last season. In one of the clips, Gordon is matched up in man-to-man against Casey Heyward, Pro Football Focus’ top ranked corner’s from the 2017 season. Gordon gets separation and than leaps in the air for a catch. This is what the Patriots offense is missing. That’s why the Patriots traded for him.

Keep in mind that Outsider film is from last year. Gordon has not played a lot of football but it’s clear he has plenty of juice left. He’s only 27 years old. I don’t care that he doesn’t run routes well. Do you think Randy Moss and Brandin Cooks ran complicated routes? No. They ran go routes all day every day and they were excellent weapons. I’m exaggerating some but not by a lot. Gordon can also do a lot of the things Patterson is asked to do but with the added advantage of other teams not knowing he is going to do it because he is capable of so much more. I don’t care that he only has a little over fifty percent catch percentage. Do you remember who was throwing to him? Exactly you already forgot their names. His percentage could easily increase by ten percent with the pinpoint accuracy of the GOAT. To put it simply Gordon can provide the speed of Cooks, the yards after reception of Patterson, and the man coverage busting skills of Gronk.

Let me be blunt: if Josh Gordon keeps his nose clean and returns to “Flash” status the Patriots are almost assuredly going to another Super Bowl. Imagine adding Rob Gronkowski to the 2007 offense with Randy Moss and Wes Welker? Gordon is not as good as Moss and Julian Edelman is not as good as Welker, but Gronk more than makes up for the difference. You might think this is an exaggeration but it really is not. How can defenses possibly defend against an offense putting Gronk, Edelman, Gordon, White/Michel and Dorsett on the field at the same time? There is no defense in the NFL that is equipped to guard that much size, speed, and quickness. If Gordon lived up to his full potential you are not just talking about an elite offense you are potentially talking about an historic one.

1,646. This is not hyperbole. This is an empirical fact. Gordon has empirically proven he can be that good.

It just doesn’t matter.

9. That’s the chance I give of this trading working out. 9 percent. The Browns are 1-32-1 and they were ready to cut Gordon straight up. The most they could get for him, despite numerous teams bidding for the trade and Gordon possessing all the talent in the world, was a basement 5th round pick from a team in the same conference they are. Gordon is a headcase. I sympathize deeply with him. You are talking about a kid who was abusing Xanax at 13. He isn’t beating up women or committing crimes. He has a serious illness that he cannot seem to overcome. I hope he can get better but I don’t think he will.

This is the player who basically bragged about posting 100 yard games while he was drunk. Gordon doesn’t just run bad routes, he runs the wrong routes because he’s high. This is the guy who shows up late to meetings and doesn’t study film or the playbook. Gordon has empirically proven he is a far better receiver than Patterson will ever be but he will probably produce less than him this year because he cannot beat his inner demons and focus on football.

Gordon claimed his goal was to be the greatest receiver ever. With Tom Brady throwing him the ball, Josh McDaniels being the perfect coordinator for his skills, and Gronk drawing attention he could be well on his way to achieving that dream. But I won’t hold my breath. Chances are all this hype will be just that. Hype. With no substance behind it. The best part of the trade will be reading this article and day dreaming about what could be. Gordon is the lottery tickets you buy to dream about an early retirement but fully knowing when you scratch it you will have just wasted twenty bucks. And yet if it works out... this team is going to the Super Bowl. Not a bad trade for a 5th round pick eh?