How many times should the NFL forgive Josh Gordon? He best hope it can do it in Biblical proportions.
The troubled former All-Pro wide receiver recently asked the NFL to reinstate him after his sixth suspension, five of which were for some form of substance abuse violations. He was last suspended for violating the league’s drug-abuse policy on January 15, 2021, 43 days after his fifth suspension was lifted as the Seattle Seahawks were preparing to activate him.
Seattle released Gordon two months later, and he ended up playing for something called the Zappers of the Fan Controlled Football League, whatever that is. There, he says, he began to be “mentored’’ by Johnny Manziel, who has his own troubled past with the Browns and hasn’t played in the NFL for five years after washing out in Cleveland after only two seasons.
Not sure that’s the greatest spiritual advisor for someone trying to argue a seventh time is the charm.
According to published reports, the league has been randomly drug testing Gordon for three months, and he has thus far come up clean. That’s good news for Gordon. But does it mean he deserves another chance after washing out with three teams since he was first drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2012?
That’s up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. But if the Bible is his guide Gordon could be in luck. In the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18, verses 21-22, Saint Peter asks Jesus how many times he need forgive a friend. Peter suggests seven times, which would put Gordon on the Biblical borderline.
But Jesus suggests leniency saying, “…until 70 times seven times.” If applied to the 30-year-old Gordon, that would seem to be enough forgiveness to get him through whatever is left of a once brilliant career. But should another team take a chance on someone who played more than six games only once since 2013?
If the past is prologue to the future, what will matter most to some NFL team is not those six suspensions but rather that 2013 season. Gordon played 14 games that year, his second in the NFL, and was unstoppable. He caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards, an average of 18.9 yards per catch and 117.6 yards per game.
Gordon was named an All-Pro, but his next six years became a checkerboard of suspensions, resurrections, failures and futility. So what should happen next?
Gordon told ESPN’s Adam Schefter in March that he was a new man and that “there’s no quit in me.” He went on to say “knowing how to get back on track has been my strong suit.”
Perhaps, but the problem has been his constant derailments. Gordon claims both personal and family issues have been at the root of his troubles and that he is “striving for progress and being as close to perfect as I can be so I can be able to play.”
Actually, Josh Gordon doesn’t have to be perfect to be able to play. He just has to be drug free.
There is abundant evidence that for whatever reason he can’t seem to do that for long when under the pressure of NFL life. But we all need second chances in life, and some of us need a seventh chance, which even Saint Peter was reluctantly willing to give someone.
So what will the NFL do?
Someone will put on the film and see what Gordon did for one brilliant season in Cleveland and for 11 games in New England in 2018, when he averaged 18 yards per catch before personal problems overwhelmed him again. After the film is done, they’ll become Biblical scholars. They’ll opt for seventh time forgiveness, and why not?
What does any team in need of an explosive wideout have to lose by signing Josh Gordon but a few bucks and a few nights’ sleep? And who loves a redemption song more than the NFL, even if it’s the seventh version?
The answer to both questions is obvious, which is why Gordon will be on someone’s roster this summer. For how long? Probably not for 70 times seven times. But you never know.