In this Week 3 Hard Count, we’re taking a look at three teams who just can’t seem to get it together.
The Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns have been perennial struggle-shows, but a 2017 playoff run for the Bills had fans hoping there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Turns out, there’s just more tunnel.
Losing Ryan Shazier, falling to the Jaguars at home in the playoffs, the Le’Veon Bell holdout, and now Antonio Brown’s actions. The Steelers have been knocked off balance. Will they rebound?
FALSE START: Josh Gordon’s one-game return to the Cleveland Browns.
One game. One catch. One touchdown. Seventeen yards. This was Gordon’s triumphant return to the Cleveland Browns.
Gordon’s story kind of reminds me of Tiger Woods’. A story about an elite athlete at the top of his sport - or at least at the top of his position - when personal demons derailed everything. Then, following comeback after comeback after comeback, everyone sort of stopped paying attention.
Had it not been for “Hard Knocks” visiting the Browns this season, Gordon’s story would have been even more forgotten. It’s not like he didn’t grab headlines, because he did. But they were fleeting headlines. The kind which stuck around for about a 12-hour period before something more interesting came along and everyone forgot about it.
A friend of mine who is a Browns fan actually asked me during the pre-season, ‘Hey, did Gordon ever actually show up?’
Yes, yes he did. And I knew that. Because I Googled it as he was asking the question. I found a few articles about his return. But nothing more.
That’s about as peripheral as it gets for a 27-year old receiver who once led the league in receiving.
And his release from the Browns for this latest, unconfirmed, incident got me thinking about other players in the league who’s personal demons and/or personality got them cut or shipped out.
Guys like Chris Carter, Terrell Owens, and the like. Can Josh Gordon still meet his full potential?
Well, yes. That’s the short answer.
He’s on his way to New England. A team which frankly, just looks no fun to be a part of. Rob Gronkowski could party during a root canal, Julian Edelman apparently had help to get as hyped as he’s been, and Tom Brady is still the sad little bench-warmer from a substandard Big Ten team on the inside.
Outside of them, it just doesn’t look like anyone is living their dream there in New England. The fans enjoy it though.
I don’t know if New England is going to be Gordon’s last stop, but when his story is done and written, it may be the most important.
He really doesn’t even need to blow up the stat sheet for the Patriots for this change of scenery to be successful. Just stay active. Don’t get suspended.
Listen folks, addiction is no joke. And I don’t know Gordon personally, so I don’t know what he’s battling. However, I do know this, even Hall of Fame wide receivers wear out their welcome if they can’t get their lives together.
New England is one of the least forgiving organizations when it comes to extra curricular activity outside of gaining on-field advantages. If Gordon can’t make it work here, his problems may finally outweigh his talent.
OFFSIDES: Sean McDermott sees Hue Jackson’s quarterback handling and raises the stakes.
Nobody could possibly botch a quarterback situation more than Jackson did last year in Cleveland, right? Wrong.
Sean McDermott was hired to lead the Buffalo Bills beginning in 2017. At the time of his hiring, he said his mind was set on winning now. Doing what was best to make the Bills because,
“...winning now helps you sustain success down the road.”
Which is why McDermott decided it was a good idea to bench the NFL’s safest quarterback and one of their team’s leading rushers at the time, Tyrod Taylor. In his place, was fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman.
Because it was what would help the Bills win, now. Right......
We know what happened when McDermott rolled Peterman out against the Chargers. From that point on, it was Taylor’s team. The head coach had no choice. And had he not pulled Peterman at the half against Los Angeles, he may have been left in California himself.
What did Taylor do? The quarterback who wasn’t the right guy to help the team win now to sustain future success? He took his team to the playoffs. Yes. The AFC is the NFL’s version of the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Still, the Bills won. And McDermott was a hero. Nevermind the fact he made decisions based off the type of quarterback he wanted, and not the best guy for the job.
So, after this success, how did the coach and general manager Brandon Beane decide to build upon it? They traded it. To Cleveland.
Ok, not all was lost. The team could re-tool with a handful of draft picks within the first two days, right? Nope. Instead, they traded them all for two picks: Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
Edmunds is a solid linebacker prospect who could develop into a Pro Bowl caliber player. Allen was incredibly inaccurate in college going against bad defenses in a weak conference.
I like Allen. Just not as a starter in Week 2 of his rookie season. Or as the result of multiple trades in which a handful of picks was converted into him on a team which just traded the only quarterback to take them to the playoffs since Jim Kelly.
This team is going nowhere, fast. Despite the fact it had a roster capable of challenging for a playoff spot less than ten months ago. Now, all of the sudden, rebuild is the theme. One year ago, it was not.
In July of 2017, following McDermott’s hiring, Matthew Fairburn of NYup.com posted an article surrounding the coach’s opening statements to the media after being hired. They were disturbing.
The coach spoke about the importance of leadership, and gave no hints as to how he would lead the team. Then, Fairburn mentioned how McDermott was busy bringing in guys who fit what he wanted.
Leadership, ladies and gentlemen is skill, not a chart. Everyone can be great if given the exact people who fit your mold.
Sean McDermott didn’t think Tyrod Taylor fit his mold as a quarterback. Apparently, winning and keeping the ball wasn’t enough. Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman fit his mold. And it’s led the team to an 0-2 start, one touchdown pass, four interceptions, and being outscored 78-23.
It’s ok though, because as McDermott says about building on top of the winning the did in 2017,
“Yeah, that’s a near-sighted view, though...where I came from in Carolina and before that in Philadelphia, we were able to build and do it the right way. We were able to build a strong, solid foundation. And once we did that, we were able to sustain the success.”
Last year, winning now would lead to sustained success. This year, tearing it down and starting over will lead to sustained success.
Bills fans seem to be behind McDermott. Which is good. But honestly, I think it’s more out of necessity than anything, because most teams who see their playoff quarterback run out of town for a record setting turnover machine wouldn’t be so supportive.
The coach will get some time to prove this madness is leading to something. Good luck to him, but from where I sit, I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.
FREE PLAY: A must-win for Pittsburgh in Week 3
At one point in the 2017 season the Pittsburgh Steelers lost four games in a row to the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys. Some questioned whether the team had enough in them to pull it together.
This year, it’s taken only two games to bring up the same questions. There are some differences though.
Last year, Le’Veon Bell wasn’t holding out during the losses and teammates weren’t publicly speaking about how his actions are disrupting the team. Antonio Brown didn’t suddenly disappear without a trace following the first loss. Finally, the team didn’t lose - symbolically - to the Cleveland Browns to start the season.
In 2016, Ben Roethlisberger considered retirement. In 2017, his confidence was visibly shaken after a five interception performance against the Jaguars, the same team which knocked Pittsburgh out of last year’s playoffs.
Thus far in 2018, he looks inaccurate, unfocused, and has connected with star receiver Antonio Brown just over half as many times as he’s targeted him. (18/33)
Following his absence from the team, and subsequent return, Brown had this to say according to NFL.com’s Herbie Teope,
“I’m committed to this program, this organization, I’m fully here. I go to work every day, about my business, and I don’t take it for granted. My business is winning; I come here to win. And if we ain’t winning, you’re damn right I’m pissed off.”
He continued by saying,
“For me, as a Steeler, that’s unacceptable (not winning). I’m not on the sideline begging for the ball or making statements. I’m pissed off; we’re losing. We suck.”
While the words carry meaning and AB is one of my favorite receivers, hes’ not at work everyday. Because he missed Tuesday. And all it’s done is add to the storm clouds sitting over the Steelers right now.
Which is why winning this Monday Night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is absolutely the top priority. And not in the normal way where every team goes in planning to win.
No, this team HAS to win. Or they may very well implode and leave a large black and yellow crater in the middle of Pittsburgh when they do.
Every loss only hardens Bell’s holdout. Every missed pass from Roethlisberger feeds Brown’s frustrations. We’ve seen fighting from the team against Cleveland and fighting among each other against Kansas City. The star receiver has run away - even if he did come back - and the star quarterback has doubted himself or thought about walking away all together twice in the last two years.
Most of these battles seem to be internal, but if the Steelers lose to the Buccaneers, we may not see any more fight out of this team at all.