<
>

Josh Gordon joins Johnny Manziel as big, looming Browns decisions

One of Hue Jackson's first major decisions as coach of the Cleveland Browns will come soon enough, in light of the news that Josh Gordon has applied for reinstatement following his one-year ban from the NFL.

The decision on whether Gordon can return belongs to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who will hear from Gordon and the league's medical director before ruling.

If he's reinstated, the Browns have a decision to make. Does the team bring back a talented player who has been suspended by the league or the team for 27 of the Browns' past 32 games, or do they start fresh and let Gordon go elsewhere via release or a trade?

Jackson was noncommittal at his introductory news conference.

"What I'm anxious to do is evaluate him just like we're going to evaluate every player on our roster and see if they are the right fit for the Cleveland Browns," Jackson said. "That's what we have to do with every player, whether that's Josh Gordon to whoever the last guy is on the roster."

Jackson said the same of Johnny Manziel, although everything he's said since indicates the team will move on from the quarterback.

With Gordon, the temptation is to start fresh -- let him go and don't saddle the new coach with the old one's problems.

That temptation may fade once Jackson watches video from Gordon's 2013 season, when he had 1,646 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and averaged 117.6 yards per game. And when he had three games in which he totaled 649 yards.

The one tape that may intrigue a coach like Jackson: a loss to the New England Patriots in which Gordon torched Aqib Talib for seven catches, 151 yards and one touchdown. This kind of talent does not come along often.

But then he was suspended by the NFL for the first 10 games of 2014, by the team for the season finale and by the NFL the entire season in 2015.

Gordon has done his best to present a positive front during his suspension. In an interview on Pro Athlete TV on YouTube, Gordon said that the yearlong suspension was good for him because he had "been ripping and running too much, too fast."

Gordon has been tested while suspended. The NFL's Greg Aiello said in an email that "to be reinstated, a player must demonstrate sustained abstinence. In support of their applications, players generally put forward verifiable testing records and/or submit to periodic NFL testing during the banishment period."

Positive substance abuse tests forced Gordon to leave Baylor and Utah and enter the supplemental draft. He was suspended two games in 2013, 10 in '14 and all of '15 -- all for violating the league's substance abuse policy. If he is reinstated and fails a test, he will be banned indefinitely.

The question Jackson and new director of football operations Sashi Brown must answer: Is the talent worth the risk, and the baggage that goes with it?