Just how good can
In his second NFL season, the Cleveland Browns’ talented wide receiver gained a franchise-record and NFL-best 1,646 yards and scored nine touchdowns on 87 receptions and set multiple other team and league marks in just 14 games in 2013.
And one Pro Football Hall of Famer, Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin, said he believes the sky is the limit for Gordon.
“He had a hell of a season, but he’s nowhere near how good he can be,” Irvin said. “Having to miss the first two games and putting up the numbers that he put up, he’s nowhere near his potential yet.
“Definitely, (he can get) so much better. The scary part is right now where we are with Josh Gordon. Josh is a still a baby in understanding what it takes, what it really takes. When all that stuff clicks, oh, my God. With the way the league’s set up right now, Josh Gordon could ultimately end up, numbers-wise, one of the greatest receivers to ever play this game. Bar none.”
In addition to leading the NFL with his 1,646 yards, Gordon led all NFL wide receivers with a 117.6 yards-per-game average, the longest reception (95-yard touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars), the longest touchdown reception, as well as catches of 20 or more yards (30), and catches of 40 or more yards (nine).
Gordon is the first Browns player ever to lead the NFL in receiving yards for an entire season, and also the first NFL player since St. Louis’ Torry Holt to lead in the league in yards and yards-per-game average in the same year. Gordon finished 2013 with the sixth-best yards-per-game average and 10th most single-season receiving yards in NFL history.
“I think Josh is such a phenomenal talent,” Irvin said. “In my day, you’d have the big receiver be the physical receiver. Then, you would have the small, fast receivers, but the league is going toward the big receiver is the fast receiver. Josh is that. I watched the guy on film take a screen play and go the distance. A screen play. He can run right by you if you’re playing off of him.
“You see this kid and you don’t know how fast he is because he takes such long strides and he looks so relaxed. He doesn’t look like he’s running hard, but he’s running fast. Right before y’all were getting ready to play New England, I said, ‘Watch how (Patriots cornerback Aqib) Talib plays him? You’ll see it.’ Then, he caught that slant and it just seemed like he was on a stroll in the park walking. It’s hard to measure it. It’s hard to judge it. In two strides, he’s covering six yards. A stride or two, and he’s already by you. It’s phenomenal.”
In back-to-back weeks, first on Nov. 24 against Pittsburgh and Dec. 1 against Jacksonville, Gordon broke and reset the franchise record for yards in a single game. He followed it up with 151 yards and one touchdown, an 80-yard score, against the Patriots on Dec. 8.
During that time, Gordon set NFL records for the most yards in a two-game (498), three-game (623) and four-game stretch (774). His back-to-back 200-yard receiving games against the Steelers and Jaguars were a first in NFL history.
According to Irvin, the key for Gordon to consistently put up the types of numbers he attained in 2013 is learning the importance of working out in the offseason like Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. That was a lesson that Irvin learned later in his career while competing with San Francisco legend Jerry Rice in the Pro Bowl.
“One of the things Josh has to learn how to do is what Megatron does,” Irvin said, referring to Johnson’s nickname. “Megatron maximizes his skills. When I talk to him, he’s like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to go work on my body.’ He’s going to get massages. He’s going to get a workout in. He’s going to get his legs right. He understands that he is an entity, a corporation. He takes care of his body.
“He has to learn to work out through the offseason in some build-up program so he can sustain through a whole season. He’s just a young kid. At 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, you can handle that. Because you start building a habit, he’ll be able to play the game at quite a level until he’s 30, 31, 32, 33, and he’ll be able touch all kinds of records in this league, all kinds of records.”