Goodell can't win with Gordon ruling after failing so miserably with Rice

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Josh Gordon is Roger Goodell's worst nightmare, though maybe I should rephrase that. Ray Rice is Roger Goodell's worst nightmare. Though maybe I should rephrase that.

Roger Goodell is Roger Goodell's worst nightmare.

There. Better. And accurate, and fair. Hell, some would call it justice that Roger Goodell is forever doomed because of the actions of Roger Goodell. Count me in that group of some, because for some of us -- and this is going to be most of us, I'm sure of it -- every disciplinary action Roger Goodell hands out going forward, starting perhaps with the curious and complicated case of Browns receiver Josh Gordon, will be measured against the discipline Goodell gave Ray Rice. Sorry, there I go again, misstating another phrase. Let's try that again:

The discipline Goodell didn't give Ray Rice.

There. Better. And so very true, because from this day forward, we're going to scrutinize NFL suspensions and compare them to the two games Ravens running back Ray Rice received last week for walking onto an elevator alongside his future wife, Janay, and then moments later dragging her unconscious body out. What happened in that Atlantic City elevator the night of Feb. 15? Something frightening and violent, we know that. And whatever it was -- and what we know is a man and a woman walk in, and only the man was able to walk out -- Goodell decided it was worth a two-game suspension. Half of what he has given players who have tested positive for taking Adderall.

See? There I go already, comparing the Rice suspension to past suspensions, and that's nothing.

Because the Josh Gordon case. That's something. Something complicated, something confusing, something -- frankly -- that will ultimately require a judgment call by Mr. Commissioner. And does anyone trust his judgment today? Raise your hand if you do.

Sorry. Can't type with both hands shoved in my pockets.

The Gordon case -- incredibly difficult. And most of the time, in most cases of a failed drug test, this stuff isn't that hard. Baseball player Ryan Braun will blame it on some poor stiff making a few bucks an hour who contaminated his specimen, or cyclist Tyler Hamilton will blame it on the twin brother who didn't make it to pregnancy but while still in the womb gave Hamilton all that extra testosterone. The excuses an athlete will make for a failed drug test are hilarious and unbelievable, and if I could insert one of those eye-rolling emoji things right here, I'd do it. Because most of those excuses are jokes.

Josh Gordon's excuse is a joke.

Second-hand smoke? We're supposed to believe that a guy who already has been suspended once for ingesting some sort of illegal drug has surrounded himself with pot smokers but -- when the pot smokers offered him a blunt -- Josh Gordon said no?

Where's that eye-roll emoji thing …

Roger Goodell faces scrutiny for his ruling on Ray Rice as he weighs Josh Gordon's fate. (USATSI)
Roger Goodell faces scrutiny for his ruling on Ray Rice as he weighs Josh Gordon's fate. (USATSI)

Only this is different. The NFL, we are learning, has had some of the toughest standards for marijuana testing in sports. There are some numbers here, and on the surface numbers are boring or intimidating, but not in this case. Bear down and get through this. The NFL threshold for failing a marijuana test is 15 nanograms/milliliter (ng/ml). The WADA, which oversees Olympic testing, has a threshold of 150 ng/ml.

The NFL threshold is 10 times tougher than the WADA threshold.

The NFL threshold is too tough, apparently, because the league reportedly will soften it in the future. That doesn't help Gordon, whose numbers in his failed test -- after passing at least 70 tests in a row -- don't necessarily reach the 15 ng/ml threshold. His urine sample was divided into two groups, an 'A' sample and a 'B' sample, and while the 'A' sample produced a result of 16 ng/ml (illegal, if barely), the 'B' sample was 13.63 (legal, if barely).

Combine those two samples -- turn Josh Gordon's one sample into, well, one sample -- and it's 14.82 ng/ml.

That's legal. Barely legal, yes. But legal. And legal in a system that is 10 times more strict than the system for Olympic athletes. And legal in a system that is about to be brought more in line with the WADA. In a few years, a guy like Josh Gordon won't need to appeal his failed drug test because he won't have failed it. Not with numbers like 16 ng/ml.

So you see, it's complicated for Roger Goodell. Because to hammer Josh Gordon for a full year, as his silly rulebook says he must, he's going to have to really nitpick the numbers and focus on something as small as a few nanograms per milliliter.

What's a nanogram? A billionth of one gram.

Is Goodell really going to suspend Josh Gordon for a whole season because of something so imprecise, and small, as those test results -- when something as clear, and enormous, as the Ray Rice elevator incident yielded just two games?

This is the Roger Goodell problem going forward, and unless he and Ray Rice do the right thing very soon -- and announce jointly that two games is not nearly enough for a mistake of that magnitude, and that they have decided to expand his suspension exponentially -- Goodell's discipline of future NFL representatives, from Josh Gordon to Jim Irsay, will be forever compared to what Goodell did to Ray Rice.

Sorry, there I go again.

By what Goodell didn't do to Ray Rice.

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