Sayonara, Puff…

Note: In my pre-season newsletter, I went into the issue of “Puff” Gordon at length. I’ve excerpted it here. There might be a few cases where some of this idoesn’t work (it was written in Mid-July) but most will still hold.
Can you believe the news about the NFL’s drug test policy, Geoff?

The policy is very poorly written. It’s standard procedure for an employer to collect a single urine sample and divide it into two segments. Samples have been known to be ‘lost’ or ‘damaged’ (especially when the results might cost the person being tested a lot of money).

If the ‘A’ sample tests positive; you test the ‘B’ sample for confirmation. That’s also standard.

But the notion that (a) one segment can pass while the other fails and also (b) the outcome is different depending on which gets tested first? That a failed sample and a clean one is as bad as two fails?

That’s appalling. A lawyer should be able to do something with that. Clearly this is why the NFL didn’t act immediately. They’ve been trying to figure out how to proceed, given that Puff led the league in receiving yards and that a year off will be a tough sell to the media.

Do you think all the off-the field stuff will have an effect on Josh Gordon’s play? 

As I explain later, the Browns do not have a player named “Josh Gordon”– they have a drug addict named “Puff.”  And, yes, I assume it will, since he should be suspended for the full season.

Also, even if you go 100% in the tank for Puff and say he shouldn’t be suspended for the sample, after Puff failed his drug test, he got a DUI. That’s  also a violation of the drug policy that earns a year’s suspension.

And, needless to say, we’re only having this conversation because people want to see Puff play– not because anyone cares about his drug problem.

Geoff, he really didn’t fail the drug test.

Yes he did. There was a written policy, which was negotiated by management and the union. This is one of the great things about having a union shop: every situation that either side can imagine will be in writing. Puff knew what the rules were. Goofy as they are, he still failed.

Do you understand how unreasonable the policy is?

More than 10 times the WADA limit; I gotcha. That’s a point the players union should have made during the last contract talks,  They can insist on the change in the next contract. Meanwhile, Puff violated the drug policy and he deserves a year off.

Didn’t you pay attention? This could be second-hand smoke.

Yeah, it could. Or it might be that the urine purifier Puff uses worked pretty well– but not quite well enough.

Let’s discuss a concept any trial attorney is familiar with:consciousness of guilt. It’s a rule of human nature:  if a crime has been committed, an innocent person will behave differently than someone who is guilty. A person who is sure he did nothing wrong, and has nothing to fear from an investigation will cooperate. People who know they are guilty won’t.

A simple example: a week after you’ve reported your wife missing, the police knock on your door and ask if they can come in:

  • An innocent man will say “Of course”– or maybe “I have to take my kids to Little League– can you come back?”
  • A guilty one will say “Do you have a warrant?”

An innocent man, if his credit card receipts show that he bought work gloves, rope, a shovel and a hatchet three days before his wife disappeared, will say “I was planning to chop down the tree behind my house this weekend” and can show them. A guilty man will say he bought them for a friend and not be able to remember which friend. Or, two or three days later, a friend will contact the police and say “they’re mine, but I can’t find them.”

If Puff hasn’t been using drugs– if knew the test had to be wrong because he’s been clean– why didn’t he say so right away? That’s how an innocent person responds: “I didn’t do anything.” Often, as my friends who are defense attorneys say, people who believe they are innocent are so eager to clear themselves that they volunteer all kinds of information that the police can use to build a phony case against them.

Puff said nothing when the charges were announced. He went to a “country club” for a few weeks where he wrote “I will not do drugs” 100 times a day on a whiteboard. His agent told the person he plants stories with that Puff was so fragile– so close to the edge– that he might not be able to come back if the NFL suspended him for a year.

Only now, after he talks to an attorney who knows what he’s doing, do we get the “second-hand smoke” defense?

Three words: Consciousness of guilt.

You don’t think it’s possible?

Sure it’s possible that you can get high from second-hand smoke– but not if the person claiming it is Puff. There are too many incidents to believe this is happenstance. This is the thing that drives me up the wall about sports fans and the media– the credulity they display when convenient.

Puff failed at least two drug tests in college; he was also arrested for drugs. He used codeine last year. He was stopped for speeding with a passenger who was carrying dope– then stopped again when he was drunk.  Every time he gets caught, he has a story that sounds plausible– assuming that you apply the full presumption of innocence and put your thumb on the scales a bit.

Of course the story sounds convincing– telling stories is what successful crooks and addicts do best. What do you imagine they do– say “Ya got me, coppers?” like a Jimmy Cagney movie?

Jimmy Haslam has cheated people not once but three times— he’s done it to his employees, to consumers and now to corporate customers–  over a period of a decade. (It’s in here later.) Every

single time, he offers an excuse, an apology and offers to pay the money back. At what point does that behavior cease to be an  accident?

The NFL might not want to do anything about Puff’s drug problem, because this gun isn’t really smoking. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a drug problem.

How can they possibly suspend him when–

I’m not listening to the Waner-Haines defense. Only biased people and idiots employ it.

Who the hell is Waner Haines? I was going to say that the–

The Waner-Haines rule states The existence of a terrible decision must be used, in perpetuity, as the standard every time I desire. It’s named after Lloyd Waner  and Jesse “Pop” Haines, who are (respectively) the least qualified hitter and pitcher in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Since the Veterans’ Committee selected them in the early 70’s, fans of unqualified candidates (e.g., Jim Rice, Bert Cryleven) have been saying “How can you keep my guy out when he’s so much better than this guy?”

I realize Donte Stallworth got a one-year suspension for killing a man while he was driving drunk. I realize that suspending Puff for 16 games suggests– if you’re really stupid– that league considers them equally serious. It’s far more probable that the length is there because:

  • It takes between 6 and 12 months for someone with a substance abuse problem to get into a good rehab program, complete it and rejoin society. The length gives a player time to complete rehab.
  • The player will have to miss some of the upcoming season to resolve his problem, and the owners don’t want to have to pay him for any part of it.

Don’t ask me if concern for the player is the primary reason the suspension is 12 months– the cynical part of me says it probably isn’t.

The Stallworth suspension was a bad decision– Roger Goodell makes a lot of those when he isn’t dealing with football issues. The Ray Rice punishment sends exactly the wrong message, as well. If Aaron Hernandez weren’t in jail, I’d hate to see what Goodell comes up with.

But my question is: Because Goodell handed out 16 games for getting bombed and running a guy over five years ago, are you seriously suggesting that everything else has to be relative to that?

Actually I was going to say that violence against women– 

Ahhhh–different logical fallacy. Here’s the reason Ray Rice got two games. Violence against women is absolutely immaterial to the revenue stream of the National Football League. issued to Ray Rice.  It’s the same reason– to name three other examples of defective thinking– that:

  • Pete Rose was punished for betting on baseball games, while Ty Cobb was not sanctioned for being on outspoken racist.
  • Voters overlooked players who drank or used amphetamines (which doesn’t have a documented benefit on performance), but have shown zero tolerance for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
  • The Walt Disney Corporation suspended Stephen Smith for being an asshat, while Rush Limbaugh, who said far more offensive things about Rice’s victim, got nothing.

A business will always take the strongest action against people who damage its ability to make money. If fans believe the games are fixed, they’ll stop coming– or stop caring so much. Fans think it is unfair when some players are taking steroids (which give them an unfair advantage at the risk of permanent damage) while other stay clean.  If they get angry about the cheating, they won’t come

Women were offended by Smith; Disney has a lot of TV channels that they can choose not to watch. The stations that play Limbaugh are pretty much filled with people who say the same things– Laura Ingraham, Shaun Hannity, Michael Wiener– so people who might object to his remarks probably aren’t listening to anything.

I guarantee you that if (a) a substantial percentage of NFL fans were women, (b) women fans began a boycott against the NFL due to the short suspension, and (c) the boycott had an impact– that Goodell would sentence future offenders who beat their girlfriends to be waterboarded.

And you really think this is fair to Gordon?

Yes. Let me begin with a few general statements:

1. I’m done calling him “Josh Gordon” I’m going to call him “Puff.” This is a technique used in some rehab places– it’s a way to remind the patients that this guy is no longer a Shaker Heights stockbroker and this woman isn’t a crack addict from Buckeye and Woodland. Everyone here is just an addict fighting a disease that they can’t control.

There are too many people treating Puff as a if he’s a player who is temporarily unavailable, due to an issue that will have no impact on his ability to play. I’m even hearing people point out that marijuana is no longer illegal in the two states who sent teams to the Super Bowl last year,

It misses the point: He’s an addict– a person engaging in life-threatening behavior who won’t stop his behavior of his own accord.

2. Many people speaking now are not qualified to talk. I hate to be mean, but a lot of people talking about this subject need to stop:

  • The people who thought it was a great idea to take Puff, despite the three drug incidents in college, with what turned out to be the seventh pick in round two in 2013) were wrong.
  • The people who wanted to keep Puff last year, rather than trade him, after he failed another test were wrong.

As a consequence, their opinion about what is best for Puff from this point forward is to be presumed wrong. Some of them don’t understand addiction,. Some have let their connection to the team (actual or emotional) influence their thinking. But if you’re looking for good insight, you don’t ask people who have been wrong on the subject before.

A quick aside: if they also think Johnny Football was a good pick because he’s bound to settle down they’re probably wrong on that issue, too. The behavior profile is different, but the error they’re making is fundamentally the same.

One of the problems we have as a society is the failure to hold people who give their opinions– consultants, pundits, stock analysts, draftniks–accountable for bad recommendations. To the degree that someone is mistaken (both amount of error and frequency), you adjust your opinion accordingly.

For example, if you have ESPN access, you can see that Mel Kiper is right as rain about QBs. He lists the 15 players at each position that he rated most highly since he began doing his draft guide. 14 of the 16 QBs (there was a tie at #10) were stars. (He missed on Ryan Leaf and Andre Ware). On running backs, he isn’t bad; receivers are somewhat questionable (although he had the sense not to rate The Randy Rules highly). On offensive linemen, Tony Mandarich is his #1 and he has 4-5 other doubtful picks (Robert Gallery was another guy he had high).

And he’s just hideous on defensive linemen– Ken Sims, Tony Casillas, Darrell Russell, Jon Hand and a lot of guys who flamed out due to injury. Linebacker is a string of marginal players, and Lawrence Taylor (1981) isn’t even listed. (He’s pretty good on DBs. )

It’s not surprising– most scouts are better at grading some positions than others. Why should Kiper be any different? But because people don’t make the adjustments that folks who bought his draft guides for years learned to, they don’t grasp it.

When someone says things that turn out to be badly wrong, and they (a) acknowledge the error, (b) discuss the process that led to it and (c) make changes designed to prevent further errors, that’s one thing. It’s not wise to trust them too extensively until they rebuild their track record. But it’s at least evidence that the person is responding to a failure. If someone shrugs off an error and goes blithely forward, they’re probably not worth trusting again.

3. A person’s fame (or lack of it) is not a credential. Neither is their athletic ability. Howard Cosell called it the “jockocracy”– the belief that athletic skill qualifies you as an analyst. Jim Bouton references it in his two books, pointing out that when he was 21-7 and 18-13 in seasons two and three, he was “outspoken” and “refreshing”, but after he blew out his elbow, he was a “malcontent” and a “complainer”.

Bouton blew out his arm, by the way, after pitching 249 innings at 24 and 271 at 25.Now we wouldn’t blame the player– we’d be hollering at manager Ralph Houk.

We need to be very careful in general with about who we listen to. Cris Carter’s original comments about Puff nailed the issue:

“It’s fairly obvious that (using substances) is more important to him than anything else,” the former Ohio State star told cleveland.com in a phone interview. “It’s always been very, very important to him. It’s well-documented that it’s been primary since early college. Maybe it even goes back to early high school.”

Carter’s qualifications to make the statement are that (a) he had a drug problem, (b) he beat his addiction and (c) he has helped other players beat their problems. His 1,101 catches, 13,899 yards, 130 touchdowns, 8 Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pro teams and election to Canton do not qualify him as an expert in any respect– other than to prove you can come all the way back from a problem.

Jim Brown is not an expert. Bernie Kosar is not an expert. Sam Rutigliano– who had a drug problem break out on his team, claimed he fixed it and then spent a #1 pick on a player who died of drug use– is not an expert. D’Qwell Jackson is not an expert.

Other than having a drug problem Michael Irvin’s qualifications to speak on this issue are nonexistent. He’s angry that Carter told his wife that she shouldn’t stay in the house with an addict and enable him. Carter’s advice was correct.

And you’re an expert because?

Two parents who were social workers, who lectured the kids about it. Family members who went through rehab. Alcoholism and drug use on both sides of the families (including divorces, bankruptcies and felonies committed as a result of addiction). I knew three people who killed themselves due to drugs, alcohol or gambling. I’ve done my reading and been through the counseling they give to people close to the addict to remind you that you can’t fix someone else’s problems.

Plus, I sent out a newsletter predicting that Puff wasn’t going to stop. And I was correct.

On the whole, it is a good thing that people refer to an addiction as an illness that needs to be treated, rather than a choice people make because they are unintelligent or lack will power. It is bad because people don’t grasp the critical difference between physical illness and a mental illness.

If your dad gets cancer, he never stops being your father. The cancer can kill him, it can take him from 210 pounds to 70, leave him without the energy to walk or read, or talk or eat. His behavior will change as he faces death– a cold and distant man might open up; he might regret his deeds. He might become bitten. But the person inside — and their relationship to you– does not completely vanish.

That isn’t true with an addict. Addiction is a progressive disease. At some point, the addiction takes control, and the person’s behavior, as you knew it, vanishes. Everything, at some point, becomes less

important than feeding the addiction.  A loving husband and father– a partner in an accounting firm with a raft of Fortune 500 clients– can disappear. That person will, if the addiction isn’t checked, be replaced by a gambler who has only one interest– getting access to money or property he can use to accumulate a stake in an attempt to keep to win his lost fortune back.

There are three stages of an addiction, and you do not need to be a therapist (or have been raised by two) to identify where a person is along the scale.:

  1. A type of behavior (eating, drinking, drugs, gambling, sex) stops being recreational and becomes a concern when the behavior is visible to everyone. When casual acquaintances, or people at the store where you buy beer can see you drink often, you aren’t a social drinker any longer.
  2. The behavior becomes an addiction is when it interferes with activities of everyday life. The day you can’t get up to go to work due to a hangover– the day you need to call in sick– is the point you’ve become an addict.
  3. The point that the addiction is in control of the personality is when it overwhelms the instinct for self-preservation. When you know that you’ll be fired if you don’t show up– and  you still don’t show up– you’re no longer in charge of your life.

“Josh Gordon” has been gone for some time.  He’s been at stage 3 for some time now. When the league announced he violated the drug policy, he earned a  lifetime suspension.

People keep misreporting that fact. Puff can apply for re-admission after a year– but Goodell doesn’t have to re-admit him. The commissioner never has to let a player return– he can keep the player ineligible forever, if he deems the violation severe enough.

Bear in mind that Puff lied to the commissioner a year ago. When he got caught using Purple Drank, Puff insisted that there had been a mistake– that he’d caught strep and had somehow managed to find the only doctor on planet earth who didn’t know that professional athletes aren’t allowed to use codeine– even under a prescription.

Another point I noticed when I was checking the correct usage of the term: According to Wikipedia, Purple Drank originated in the hip-hop community in Houston. Guess which member of the Browns was born in Houston? Hint: He’s a wide receiver who has led the NFL in receiving yards.

Knowing he was in serious trouble– with the severity of the penalty still not decided– Puff got caught speeding. And he had someone carrying drugs in the car.

And does anyone believe the passenger in the car was carrying without Puff’s knowledge? Isn’t it more likely that he was Puff’s designated carrier– the guy he said “Here, take this, man” when he heard the siren?

We don’t know what happened– if the state police gave him a drug test or it he failed. For all we know, he failed the test.

After that, he gets a DUI– yet another violation. Which is yet another violation of the drug policy.

Source note: Mike Florio is a gossip columnist turned football writer and broadcaster, and I have no more regard for his opinions about football than I do for any other fan. He thinks Jason Verrett is a better corner than Justin Gilbert? I couldn’t care less.

But Florio used to be a lawyer– he practiced employment law, in fact. His opinions about league rules and contract provisions are almost always spot-on. Puff can now be suspended for the drug test and the drinking.

Even if Puff’s agent hadn’t warned him that a DUI would count as badly as a drug test (hardly likely), he had to guess it wouldn’t help his appeal. But he still drank, he still drove and he still exceeded the speed limit.

He’s incapable of controlling his behavior. The addiction is in complete control.

What should the Browns do with him?

There are two sensible options the Browns can pursue. One would be better for the player. The other would be better for the team.

  • Help the Player: In this scenario, the Browns keep Gordon for the remainder of his contract, demand that he get into inpatient rehab and try to help him straighten his life out, with the goal of keeping him on the team.
  • Help the Team: Support him publicly– say and do the right things– but unload him ASAP. They should not consider letting him onto the roster again.

The correct choice is option #2.

How is getting rid of Josh Gordon better for the Browns than helping him recover?

Because I don’t expect him to recover. He’s not as out of control as Justin Blackmon (who couldn’t even manage to keep his addiction under control until he got signed). But he’s close.

The day the news about his ticket broke, Dave Chudowsky of Channel 3 made this same mistake. In a discussion, his anchor pointed out that they could have had a high draft pick for Puff last year. Chudowsky kept yammering that Josh Gordon was worth more than what anyone was offering– completely forgetting the difference between what a player can do and what a player will do.

Chudowsky is correct– a #2 pick (or a low #1) isn’t good compensation for a player who makes 87 catches for 1.646 yards and 9 TDs year in and year out. But what about trading a #2 pick for a player who:

  • Misses the entire 2014 season because he is suspended.
  • Comes back fat and a step slower and immediately begins talking about needing a long-term, top-dollar contract.
  • Doesn’t get it, from the Browns, and spends the 2015 season trying to avoid injury and make big plays.
  • Leaves to join whichever team offers him the most money.

If that is the player you’re trading, a #2 pick is a steal. And that, in all probability, is the player the

Browns have. What if he just never comes back? That does happen. This is why it’s so important to scout character.

If Darrelle Revis shows up in New England and plays like he did in 2008 or 2009, when he was hungry to establish himself, the Patriots will get their money’s worth. If he’s decided that it’s time to win a few rings– if he goes pedal-to-the-metal, like Corey Dillon did– they’ve made a great deal. If Revis plays like he did in 2010 or 2013– at 50-70% of his ability– they have a very overpaid player.

The same thing is true with Jonathan Paul Manziel. If he buys a home in Brecksville, and behaves like an adult, he could be a great pick. If he charters a plane so he can attend the Longhorns-Aggies game during the season– as Braylon Edwards once did– the Browns made a mistake.

Right now the Browns can still get something for Puff. People are always blinded by potential. Or they delude themselves into thinking they can reason with an addict. I don’t know if the NFL permits the team to trade a player who is suspended or facing suspension (they don’t make the full basic agreement

available to peons, so I can’t be sure), but if it is permissible, someone will offer them picks or players for him.

They should take the best offer.

If Puff doesn’t overcome his problems– he gets suspended, has a few more incidents– maybe gets arrested– Cleveland ends up releasing him or losing him to free agency. If so, they receive nothing.

Which would you prefer to have– compensation at less than than market value? Or is it better to have nothing? Talk to someone in Jacksonville– the team that traded up to get Blackmon– before you answer.

How do you know he can’t beat his problems?

There are two metrics you use when you’re assessing the scope of addiction. One is the severity of the problem– the degree to which it has control of him. We have just covered that. The other is the length of time it has been happening.

This has been going on for at least six years:

2009-10: These are the years he spent at Baylor. We know there were at least two drug incidents. He got arrested for marijuana possession in October of 2010, so there isn’t any doubt about that one. There are reports that he failed a drug test (some say in 2009; others say after the arrest in 2010). Rather than get clean and rejoin the team, Puff decided to transfer to Utah after 2010, even though the transfer rule meant he’d miss one year of football.

2011: When he was sitting out 2011 in Utah, he failed another test. Coach Kyle Whittingham didn’t buy his alibi and decided to toss him off the team. When Puff realized he was staring at the possibility of a transfer– and missing yet another year– he decided to declare for the supplemental draft.

2012: Puff went into the supplemental with limited statistics: 22 games played, 43 starts, 721 yards (16.7 yards per catch) and 7 TDs. The Browns still took him in the second round, and gave him a 4-year, $5.3M contract with $3.7 big ones guaranteed

2013: After his rookie year, Gordon failed another drug test. Given his past, it put him on the “no tolerance” list immediately. He should have have missed four games and been ineligible for the Pro Bowl. But he appealed, claiming he’d gotten codeine prescribed for medical reasons, and persuaded Roger Goodell to cut his suspension in half and still permit him to receive the honor.

2014: He fails another drug test, earning him what can be a lifetime suspension. Before his appeal can be heard, he gets ticketed for speeding with drugs in the car. He then gets arrested for speeding again— while he’s drunk. That’s three incidents.

Two things about the behavior are really striking:

  • This behavior has been going on for more than 25% of his life. If Carter is correct about this beginning in high school, the period is even longer.
  • The volume and type of incidents is getting worse.

The behavior is so bad that even Drew Rosenhaus is freaked out. He’s the source who told Mary Kay that Puff might not make it if he were suspended.

You need to understand something here. NFL agents are, compared to the ones in MLB or the NBA, by far the biggest scumbags. MLB players are by far the best at managing their careers– surprisingly, NBA players are not far behind. MLB figured out the benefits of a union the quickest, but basketball players grasped how important they can be.

NFL players still don’t fully grasp the value of having a union– a lot of them oppose it– and they’ve never bothered to hire competent people to run the NFLPA. That’s why NFL contracts still aren’t guaranteed and the basic agreement is by far the worst. They treat their agents badly; they also have the shortest careers. Nobody who has alternatives represents NFL players.

And, of all the scumbag agents in the NFL, Rosenhaus is by far the biggest scumbag. He seems to actively seek out scumbags– his list of present and former clients includes DeSean Jackson, Dez Bryant, Plaxico Burress, Chad “Ocho Stinko” Johnson and “Terrible” Owens. How Joe Haden ended up with him, I don’t know. Maybe he was an affirmative action hire– the one semi-sane guy.

When Rosenhaus is worried about the player, you know you’re in trouble. (Although he’s probably just worried because Puff is in danger of blowing a huge payday.)

Let me ask you some questions. Has Puff held a mea culpa press conference? Has he admitted he has a problem and sought out help? Has he done any of the insincere, self-serving nonsense that players normally do when they’re in trouble and trying to make a problem go away?

So why would you think he’s going to turn things around?

OK, so why don’t they just cut him?

Cutting him is by far the worst option. Obviously, you don’t get anything in return if you cut him. But you also don’t help Puff at all. This is the only point that Cris Carter has been wrong about.

Look, one of the reasons Puff hasn’t stopped and isn’t penitent is that he figures he can ride things out. Every time he’s gotten into trouble, someone has always been there to let him move forward at little or no cost:

  • At Baylor, Coach Art Briles gave him at least two chances
  • Utah’s Kyle Whittingham accepted him
  • The Browns overlooked his past and made him a millionaire
  • Roger Goodell bought his “strep throat” story and cut his suspension in half (though he did take all 4 checks).

The lesson Puff has learned is “As long as I can still play, it’ll be OK. Somebody will be there for me.”  If the Browns cut him, Puff won’t be upset– he’ll assume another team will sign him.

This is why, by the way, the careers of the guys who give teams grief almost always end suddenly. The performance is sliding; the amount of resentment they’ve caused has built to critical mass. The player assumed the next opportunity will be there, pulls the same stuff he’d been doing for years– but suddenly the next chance doesn’t appear.

When 34-year-old Ocho Stinko got cut during an episode of Hard Knocks, after his arrest on domestic violence charges, you could see the stunned expression on his face. “I’m being cut for this? You gotta be kidding! I’ve done way worse!” The only reason he didn’t do a John McEnroe was that he knew it was being filmed.

When 30-year-old Braylon Edwards was short-arming balls and complaining about the routes he was being asked to run in the Jets’ training camp in 2013 (he thought Santonio Holmes should have been going over the middle), he had no idea he’d already played his last regular-season game in the NFL. Rex Ryan decided “Who needs this?” and that was it.

Puff isn’t at the end yet, so his assumption that someone else will give him a shot is 100% correct. The only question will be the amount of money he gets up front. And once Puff has the signing bonus in hand, he has the whip hand. A signing bonus is non-refundable– it’s yours forever. Once the team cuts him the check, all it can do is ask him nicely and hope he says “OK.”

The best argument for the Browns keeping him is that Cleveland is  the only team who has any leverage over Puff at the moment. They have him under contract for two more years– they can keep him from playing for anyone else. But all the guarantees have been voided. If he doesn’t do what they tell him, they don’t have to pay him a cent.

If he’s going to beat the addiction, Cleveland is his best chance. Plus, as Rosenhaus suspects, if he’s out of the league for a year with no supervision, he probably won’t be back. Blackmon went downhill in a hurry after his suspension.

But you still want to get rid of him?

Absolutely. I want to liquidate the asset and get what I can for it.

And you don’t care about Gordon as a human being at all?
How heartless can you be?

Please. If you want to show compassion to someone with a drug problem, do prison ministry or volunteer at a clinic. You’ll find a few thousand people with drug problems. Pick one who isn’t a world-class athlete– who hasn’t had people making excuses and cutting him slack– and then I’ll believe your concern for Puff isn’t self-serving and hypocritical.

Puff will get more than his share of chances to rebuild his life, Some people in jail for drug possession never even get one. The Cleveland Browns are under no obligation to provide chances to Puff. Especially since it probably won’t work.

Didn’t you see the news that Josh Gordon went to a rehab center?

I heard the reports that he spent two weeks at what people who understand drug treatment call “a country club.” So what?

Continual drug and alcohol abuse over a period of time destroys a person’s body chemistry. Eventually they’re so full of toxins that they can’t sober up with a nourishing bowl of soup, a good night’s sleep, a hot shower, a cup of coffee and a nice breakfast.

When you have someone as addicted as Puff, they need to go into an inpatient rehab facility and detox. That can take months, and it often requires locking the addict up– even putting them in restraints when they get violent, After you have the drugs out of the system– so the personality is present–

then you can start therapy. That typically takes a few more months.

A facility where you can check in and check out is useless.

Terry Pluto’s suggestion is partially correct: You can’t fix this problem with outpatient work. Puff has to be in-house 24-7 and he can’t have any control over his life for a while. (He’s wrong about cutting him.)

Look, you’ll have plenty of time to read up on this when the commissioner gives Puff the year off.

You really don’t believe that people can change, do you?

I believe they can– it’s just much less common than people believe. There are only three reasons that people mature:

1. Someone demands that they do. This is the most common trigger, and it usually happens when someone is a child. That someone can be a parent, grandparent, older sibling, coach, neighbor, teacher, religious leader– even a friend. But it is someone they admire and want approval from– and that someone says “Knock this crap off”, sets high expectations for the child and insists that they meet them.

2. They adopt it, by choice, as their goal. This is very rare, but it can happen. It also begins when the person is young. LeBron James is a bastard child. Were he not so tall and so gifted athletically– traits that are inherited, which let us eliminate possibilities– his mother would have absolutely no idea who his father is. James could have responded to that by having a chip on his shoulder and going the outlaw route. Instead, he went the opposite way– he has a desperate desire to meet the expectations of authority figures, and to be admired by the most conventional elements of society.

Isaiah Thomas would be another example– nobody signs up to play for Bobby Knight by accident. Bill Clinton is another one; Barack Obama another.

3. They’re forced by circumstance. Meaning something bad happens to show them that bad things can happen, and they need to work to get where they want to be. It can be a birth defect or an illness. It

can be a family member dying. One or both parents could lose their job or business. Or it can be a run-in with the authorities (or a friend or family member).

Usually maturity don’t happen just because of one factor– it’s often two or even three. LeBron James had circumstance (growing up in poverty), but he wanted to be accepted, and the only person in his life who wasn’t a strong role model is his mother.

Since this applies to another member of the Browns, let me pivot a bit and apply this to Johnny Football:

  1.  As we can tell from Johnny Football’s response to criticism while in Cleveland, he clearly doesn’t set much stock on being mature– he thinks that people who do their jobs and play by the rules are dumb squares.
  2.  As the Patriots’ scouting report explains, Johnny Football doesn’t have any role models– and that’s at least partly by choice. (According to the Patriots, his mom did try her best, by getting him away from his dad. But the Texas culture is “A man never lets a woman tell him what to do”, so…).
  3. 3. As for circumstances forcing him… he won a Heisman, he came close to a national championship and was a first round pick.  From his perspective, doing what he’s been doing has gotten him pretty much where he wanted to be.

That last point is what is really disturbing about Johnny Football. Maybe Texas A&M didn’t have enough horses to win a BCS title… But he didn’t do his homework, he played terribly against LSU (ranked sixth) in 2012 and they lost the game. The Aggies played six ranked teams in 2013, lost five and he played badly in them all. Johnny Football could have been a top-five pick but he wouldn’t dial back the lifestyle issues and he nearly slid out of round one.

It appears that “That’ll do ‘er” is his motto– that he’ll have to get beaten a few times before he has any chance of changing his ways. And it’s not a guarantee that he will change– lord knows that Matt Leinart and Vince Young never did.

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3 thoughts on “Sayonara, Puff…

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