Joe Banner wasn’t named Cleveland Browns president until a few months after the team had chosen to use a second-round pick in that summer’s supplemental draft on receiver Josh Gordon.
But he was there for Gordon’s two most productive seasons in Cleveland, which is why he spent a good chunk of his time on this week’s Business of Sports Podcast with Andrew Brandt talking about the now-former Cleveland wideout who was traded to the New England Patriots on Monday. Here are the highlights:
- Given that Gordon “came to [the Browns] with a challenging history,” Banner was “surprised they gave him as much time as they did,” before choosing to part ways this week.
- Banner was also “really surprised by the Patriots” trading for Gordon. He said, “Josh is now quite open that he has substance abuse problems, both with drugs and alcohol... I’m not aware of [the Patriots] taking a chance on a guy that has this long a history of problems that includes a history of drug abuse.”
- On the one year that Gordon stayed out of trouble (“avoiding positive tests, arrests, suspension”), Banner said that the Browns employed both a psychiatrist and psychologist, and while there were “only a couple of players they were working with... Josh was one of them,” and that Gordon, “did a lot better in that year... in terms of his behavior and his play.”
- Banner said that he has “reason to question” whether Gordon’s problems are behind him. But he also noted that a “clean, healthy, hardworking Josh Gordon [would be at the] very, very top group of receivers in the league.”
- On Gordon’s on-field strengths, Banner noted that Gordon is “not a great route runner, doesn’t get himself open very well, but he’s so big and strong and powerful,” that there simply aren’t defenders well-equipped to stop him. Banner called Gordon “unbelievably athletic.”
- On the thought process regarding Gordon in 2013, Banner said that “at that point, we still had hope that we could not just manage him but get him to a better place... In the year that I was there, that was our goal. It wasn’t just to keep him on the field.” Rather, the Browns as an organization were “trying to work with him to make some life-changing changes and focuses and priorities.” He added, “I think by now, five years later, it’s a real stretch to think that’s going to happen. It’s not hopeless, but I think the chances are a lot less, and maybe we were even kidding ourselves five years ago.”
- Regarding current Browns general manager John Dorsey’s Saturday night statement that the Browns would be releasing Gordon on Monday, Banner believed that it was indeed an invite for trade offers. He recalls talking to another NFL executive at the time the statement was released, saying to him or her, “What are they announcing they’re waiting till Monday for, why don’t they just do it?” He also expected what the Browns ended up getting for Gordon: A conditional draft pick.
- Banner believes that “Josh couldn’t go to many teams” because the high-risk/high-reward factor. He elaborated: “Most teams, no matter how solid you are, some cultural shifts [come] when you bring a guy in with these kinds of problems and sending a message... that you’re willing to put up with this stuff.”
- However, “the Patriots’ culture is so solid and so strong, the truth is it probably has minimal risk to them.” He did add, though, that Gordon is “not the same as other ‘troubled’ players New England have added” in years past. Banner made clear that, “Josh is going to have to change very dramatically, very quickly, or this could be a very short-term situation.”
- On the 2013 trade offer for Gordon from the San Francisco 49ers, Banner confirms that the Niners wanted to send a second-round pick plus a player. He was all for the trade, saying that he “couldn’t see a situation in which you could trust [Gordon] for the long run. How do you build your team for the next year if you’re not sure he’s going to be there? How do you consider re-signing him if you know at any moment he could be in serious trouble and you have nothing to show for the investment you made?”
- Ultimately, the trade was vetoed. Banner didn’t name names but said that, “some people in the building who were consumed by [Gordon’s] talent and the possibility decided that not making the trade was the better decision at the time.”