Josh Gordon unravels Browns' hopes


The Cleveland Browns better enjoy every last second of optimism that comes from having a plethora of selections in this year's draft.

They should dream about quarterback Johnny Manziel someday winning big games while cornerback Justin Gilbert forms a lethal duo with Pro Bowler Joe Haden in their secondary. After that, they better buckle up for a long ride through a dark alley known as reality. That's what star wide receiver Josh Gordon just gave them, as the lights appear ready to dim on his third pro season before it ever gets started.

There is absolutely nothing the Browns can do to change the fact that Gordon just wrecked what could've been a feel-good story this fall. If reports are true that he did fail a second drug test -- a transgression that would result in a yearlong ban for being a multiple violator of the league's substance-abuse policy -- then this is the type of boneheaded move that rips out a franchise's heart. Cleveland was primed to use this draft as a way of jumping into a new era, one in which consistency and reliability replaced futility and stupidity. Now, the Browns are in the awkward position of explaining why their best offensive skill player just reminded us why this organization has enjoyed just two winning seasons since being reinstituted in 1999.

The 23-year-old Gordon is the type of electric talent that teams hope to make the foundation of their futures. Despite missing two games last season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, he caught 87 passes and led the league with 1,646 receiving yards. At times, it was fair to argue that he was playing better than any other player at his position. More impressively, he was doing this while competing with three different quarterbacks over the course of the season.

Gordon was so good that it was legitimately worth wondering what he would do once the drug problems that plagued his career were finally behind him. That's a question that seems foolish to wonder about today.

If Gordon could put his livelihood on the line after producing a career season, then he's probably facing bigger problems than any of us realize. For him to do that at a time when the Browns are on the verge of moving in the right direction makes even less sense.

This is a team that is employing its fifth head coach since 2008. It's a franchise that traded one first-round pick in the 2012 draft (running back Trent Richardson) after 16 career games and gave up on another (quarterback Brandon Weeden) after five starts last season. If that isn't enough, owner Jimmy Haslam is under investigation by the FBI, and the previous general manager, Mike Lombardi, lost his job after a year with the team. And we haven't even gotten to all the frustration Browns fans have endured while watching this team blunder along since the turn of the century.

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