Lawrence: Irreconcilable Differences Defined Week 2

From Josh Gordon to Vontae Davis to Daniel Carlson, unceremonious goodbyes were an NFL hallmark this past weekend

Amy Lawrence
September 18, 2018 - 5:11 pm

USA Today Images


The second week of the young NFL season will be remembered in a variety ways – for another tie score, six touchdown passes for Patrick Mahomes, Jacksonville's first regular-season victory over New England, A.J. Green's three touchdowns in under 17 minutes, and the Falcons' perfection in the red zone against the rival Panthers. Week 2 will also be remembered for its not-so-fond farewells.

Before the Cleveland Browns ever hit New Orleans, they made the decision to finally part ways with receiver Josh Gordon. The reasons remain fuzzy, but reports include Gordon pulling his hamstring at a photo shoot and showing up late to practice Saturday. Whatever the "last straw" for the Browns' front office and Coach Hue Jackson, they felt like the risk ultimately outweighed the reward with Gordon. No one can accuse the franchise of giving up on the 27-year-old or not supporting him in his struggles with substance abuse. The Browns stuck with him through a pair of season-long suspensions and multiple trips to rehab, including an absence during camp this summer. They gave him every opportunity to put his life and career on a healthy track and rooted for him to succeed.

It's never been about the the talent with Gordon. He's a dynamic weapon in world-class physical shape, and it's easy to recall his dominance in 2013 when he led the league in receiving yards (1,646). The former Pro Bowler is theoretically in the prime of his career, but he's only managed 11 games since 2014. With Gordon, it's always been about trust and accountability. Jackson wouldn't elaborate, but he said Gordon wasn't meeting the team's expectations off the field. He stopped short of using the word "relief," but he admitted the Browns are thankful to have some closure.

Of course, the Patriots inhabit a completely different space as a franchise. They traded a fifth-round pick for Gordon in the hopes he can offer a reliable downfield target for Tom Brady. New England isn't gambling much on this move, and maybe the fresh start is exactly what Gordon needs. Bill Belichick's system demands discipline, professionalism, and attention to detail. Showing up late to practices or meetings will very often get a player benched. While it's not a "no tolerance" policy, it's definitely low tolerance. But maybe the promise of winning is the perfect incentive for Gordon to keep his priorities straight. Maybe the chance to compete for one of the most successful franchises in history serves as the impetus to stay on track. Maybe the structure and leadership in New England give him the advantage as he battles his personal demons.

The talent is obvious with Gordon; his reliability is always the question mark. Will he be available as the days turn to weeks and the weeks stretch into long months? Will the reward outweigh the risk for the Patriots? This football fan sincerely hopes so.

At least the Browns' split with Gordon was gracious. Not so with the Bills and cornerback Vontae Davis. The team was caught completely off guard by his abrupt retirement. He quit football the middle of a game! After starting against the Chargers, Davis was in uniform at halftime, but he told Buffalo coaches he was done. He literally quit without finishing the game or saying anything to the locker room. The players found out when the news trickled down the sideline in the third quarter. As you can imagine, they were stunned. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander labeled the move "completely disrespectful to his teammates," and safety Micah Hyde admitted to a "sour taste" in the wake of Davis' choice.

On Instagram, Davis explained that reality hit him fast and hard, and he realized he shouldn't be on the field. He said he no longer wanted to make the sacrifice and deal with the physical toll on his body. That's certainly his prerogative. No one else can tell him how to navigate his career. It's believable that he considered the decision overwhelming. But he couldn't wait until the game was over?? Was it too physically taxing for him to stand on the sidelines and support his teammates as they poured heart and soul into the second half? It's not his choice to retire that brings backlash, but HOW he did it. He ditched his football family in the middle of a game. Football is the ultimate team sport, and Davis made a commitment to be part of the team. Even if he were hurt, it would have cost him nothing to stand on the sidelines through the final whistle. Instead, he only thought about himself. At best, it's a selfish move; at worst, cowardly.

Unlike Davis, there was no explanation required for the two kickers who got fired after Week 2. Back to the Browns, second-year pro Zane Gonzalez missed a pair of extra points AND a pair of field goals in New Orleans. His last PAT would have given the Browns a 19-18 lead with just under 90 seconds remaining, and the field goal with 18 second lefts would have forced overtime. Ouch. At Green Bay, rookie Daniel Carlson failed to convert any of his three kicks, including a pair of field goal tries in overtime. Both were wide right. Carlson admitted he was nervous as he lined up for the last time as a Viking. He couldn't help but think about his earlier miscues. Kickers are people, too, but the business of football frequently lacks compassion.

Whether a player gets traded or walks out, whether he wants his release or gets unceremoniously dumped, irreconcilable differences are part of life in pro sports. And the divorces rarely remain private. Yet another reason why there's never a dull moment in the NFL, on OR off the field.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.