Browns' approach does not seem to bode well for Josh Gordon's return

The Cleveland Browns have not addressed what they will do if Josh Gordon is reinstated by the league in August.

They may not have to. The team's actions speak loud, and they do not seem to bode well for Gordon's return.

The Browns took an armada of receivers in the draft. The four drafted receivers match the most in a draft in team history (the Browns took four in 1966, per drafthistory.com). Though another talented player is always welcome, drafting four players at one position sure seems to indicate the team is moving on.

More important, another not-so-subtle policy shift (for lack of a better term) by the team also seems to indicate that Gordon's behavior and actions do not mesh with the way the Browns want to operate in the Sashi Brown-Paul DePodesta-Hue Jackson era.

That method was first made public by Jackson at the combine, when he said that certain behavior would no longer be tolerated by the team, that a line would be drawn. On Tuesday, owner Dee Haslam appeared on ESPN Cleveland and said the organization made a conscious decision to focus on high-character players in the draft.

"It was definitely part of something we discussed," she said. "And it was part of the entire football organization. That was an agreed-upon goal."

Could this be called the anti-Johnny/anti-Josh approach?

Nobody will say that, of course, but the Browns did find themselves surrounded by drama associated with the off-field actions of Johnny Manziel and Gordon for the past two years.

Manziel's issues have been well-documented. He is no longer a Brown. Gordon has been suspended by the league or the team for 27 of the Browns' last 32 games. When his application for reinstatement was considered in the spring, the league delayed a decision because of a drug test with questionable results. That just doesn't seem to mesh with the way the current Browns regime is operating.

The Browns have no reason to say anything until the NFL decides if Gordon can play again. At that point, the team could keep Gordon, cut him or try to trade him. It would be interesting to see if the Browns could get a draft pick for Gordon; he has talent, but he has baggage.

Every team talks at some point or other about bringing in character people. The Browns talked about it when they drafted Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft and Manziel 22nd overall two years ago. They did all the background checks and talked to all the people, they said at the time.


This latest rendition of the Browns, though, seems to have backed its words with its 14 draftees. The group of 14 has the juice to back up the "character" claim.

In her interview, Haslam pointed out that the team drafted a cancer survivor (Shon Coleman) and two former walk-ons (Carl Nassib and Joe Schobert). When a third-round pick such as Coleman spends the draft with other patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital rather than at a party, it says something. And when a team drafts the kind of players the Browns drafted, it's an indicator the team wants to stand for something other than numbers and talent.

Every organization is always one slipup from negative publicity. But the chances of minimizing problems increase with the quality of people on the team.

At the NFL meetings in March, Browns executive VP Sashi Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta touched on what they and the team could learn from the two-year experience with Manziel.

"Big question," Brown said. "You got a lot of different directions [you could go]. I'm not sure how much I want to look backwards, but to your point about what you take from every experience is how we can make better decisions, how to make sure that we stay on plan and strategy."

He added that it's important not to get caught up in emotions, to stick with the on-paper and eye-test analysis. Focus on what's important before making decisions, then follow through.

"I think it's a combination of things, certainly what Sashi's talking about in terms of what you value when you're making decisions," DePodesta said. "And then even once you have players, what can you put in place to make them as good as they can possibly be.

"That said, there's no guarantee that this won't happen again. These are human beings and we have to recognize that. We're still going to make mistakes and there's still going to be things that happen that we don't like, but hopefully we can put some things in place that will help prevent those things from happening.

"Nothing's going to be sure or guaranteed. But it certainly makes you take a step back and reanalyze what you did and why you did it and sort of what you valued at the time."

The reanalysis clearly has led to a particular approach.

That approach did not include Manziel.

It's tough to see how it includes Gordon.