Josh Gordon becomes bright spot in Browns' dark season

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns catches a Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns catches a pass before a game with the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. (Dec. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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CLEVELAND - It's not often that you hear one of the NFL's best receivers refer to his season as a "crazy roller-coaster ride."

Then again, it's not often that one of the NFL's best receivers breaks franchise and league records even after being suspended for the season's first two games.

It's not often that one of the NFL's best receivers posts his most impressive numbers while his team racks up a five-game losing streak, or while catching passes from three different quarterbacks.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon's description of his season, heading into Sunday's game against the Jets, could just as easily refer to his entire football career.

There have been the highs: Gordon has 74 receptions in 12 games this season, good for a franchise-record 1,467 receiving yards and nine touchdowns for the Browns (4-10). He leads the league in receiving yards, ahead of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who has played in one more game (13) and has 1,449 receiving yards.

And the lows: an arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession and two failed drug tests as a sophomore at Baylor that effectively ended his college football career, a two-game suspension issued in June for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, and distracting trade rumors during the first half of this season.

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Browns coach Rob Chudzinski firmly believes that the 22-year-old has made a "complete turnaround" from the player and person he was last spring. Gordon has learned how to deal with accountability and the responsibility that comes with higher expectations.

"I'm just staying mentally focused with all the motivation I've gotten from all the negative things that are portrayed about me and the perception about me," Gordon said. "I just took that and fueled myself to play on a totally different level. Give the media something else to talk about."

Even though Gordon hadn't played football since 2010, after he was suspended indefinitely by Baylor coach Art Briles, the Browns thought enough of Gordon's talent to give up their 2013 second-round draft pick and take him in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft.

He had an encouraging rookie year, and since his return to the field in Week 3 of this season, he has performed well.

From Week 11 to Week 14, Gordon broke an NFL record with 774 yards in four games. He became the first receiver in NFL history to record back-to-back 200-yard games, notching 237 yards in a 27-11 loss to Pittsburgh and 261 yards in a 32-38 loss to Jacksonville.

But even though Gordon has posted huge numbers, his team has failed to win. The Browns are 0-5 since their Week 10 bye, including a disappointing 27-26 loss to New England that Gordon seemed to take personally despite a 151-yard game and an impressive 80-yard touchdown grab.

"Winning would mean a lot more to the team than just a few people pointing out my individual goals, which is nice, but it really gets forgotten at the end," he said. "If you don't have a winning record, it really doesn't matter what one person does."

That attitude, one that might not have come through a year ago, is one of the biggest parts of Gordon's transformation.

"That says a lot about how he's matured and the type of humility he has," Chudzinski said. "That's not just one of those things guys say and then they don't believe it. He believes it, and you know it by the way he comes to work. Even though he's putting up the kind of numbers he is, he feels like he can do better. I just can't say enough good things in terms of how far Josh has come."

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