Another Antonio Brown Saga…

Happy New Year, everyone…

The year got itself off on karmic trajectory yesterday when Antonio Brown had a meltdown on the Bucs’ bench, took off his pads; disrobed down to his waist, threw his gloves and shirt into the stands and “pranced” off the field  waving to the fans.  Had this happened after the final whistle signaling a Bucs’ victory, this is no big deal.  The problem is that it happened in the third quarter of a game where the Bucs trailed the Jets.  I presume that there has been something like this in the annals of the NFL – – but nothing comes to mind.  Not even Terrell Owens’ antics reached this level of oddity.

I found three notes in my email inbox this morning and all of them basically asked the same question:

  • Is this the end of the line for Antonio Brown?

My answer is that this probably ends his NFL career – – but we sadly may not have heard the last of Antonio Brown.  Let me explain and try to look at how we got where we are…

Antonio Brown came to the NFL in 2010 out of Central Michigan; he was a late-round pick by the Steelers.  He stayed in Pittsburgh through 2018 and was producing Hall of Fame numbers there.

  • He was selected for the Pro Bowl 7 times
  • He was a first team All-Pro 4 times
  • He had more than 100 receptions in 6 consecutive seasons
  • He led the NFL in receptions and in yards receiving twice.

And then it came apart at the seams starting with him live-streaming on Facebook from inside the Steelers locker room after a big win for the Steelers.  I am not sure why that was in violation of “NFL policy” but it was, and it seems to have set in motion the dismantling of Brown’s Hall of Fame career.  The Steelers fined Brown and he “accepted” the fine but clearly did not recognize what he was doing.

During the 2018 season, Brown got into a verbal tete á tete with Ben Roethlisberger at a practice and wound up throwing a ball at the QB and walking out of the practice.  That display got him benched for a game and that season was Brown’s last one in Pittsburgh.  After his departure, there were multiple reports that this sort of erratic behavior had been noted by the team and the players for several seasons; those two public incidents were not the only “issues”.

Jon Gruden in Oakland needed a WR and talked himself into taking on Brown who had earned the label “mercurial” at that point.  Gruden even said that he had coached Jerry Rice with the Niners and that he thought Antonio Brown was Rice’s equal – – at least.  Well, at least Jerry Rice never had a problem with the helmets that the league used…

In the interest of player safety, the NFL changed the specs on the helmets that players would wear in future games.  Call it PR if you must, but this was a player-safety initiative and it had at least some buy-in from the NFLPA.  Antonio Brown wanted to wear his own helmet and the league would not let him do that; he took that news like a spoiled brat.  He quit practice and even tried to disguise his old helmet as an “approved model”; as you might imagine, that did not work.

Later in the offseason of his discontent, you may recall his “frostbitten feet”.  He bought himself a cryogenic therapy machine and went into it barefoot and got frostbitten.  So, he then had foot problems and head problems because he still demanded to be allowed to play in his old helmet.  As the season was ready to start, it seemed as if all was quiet on the Antonio Brown front; he had a new helmet that he could tolerate and his feet were healed – – but before he could play for the Raiders, he threatened to punch out Raiders’ GM, Mike Mayock.  Even with all that, Brown was ready to play in the Raiders’ opening game until out of the blue, he asked for the Raiders to release him.  In doing that, he voided about $30M in guaranteed money that the Raiders would have owed him.  Really, he did that.  The Raiders must have seen the handwriting on the wall, and they did what Brown asked them to do and released him.

Next in line as a team ready “rehabilitate” the supremely talented WR would be the New England Patriots.  That residence lasted exactly 1 game; Antonio Brown was accused of sexual assault and rape by a woman in Florida.  Bill Belichick probably saw that the rest of that season would be dominated by news of and questions about Antonio Brown causing what for Belichick would be those “dreaded distractions”; so, he released Brown after a game.

The NFL suspended Brown for 8 games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, but Brown signed on with the Bucs in mid-season and helped them win last year’s Super Bowl.  For a change, the last offseason produced no head-scratching revelations about Brown or any of his behaviors until the middle of this season when he tried to present a forged vaccination record and earned himself a 3-game suspension from the NFL.  Note here that the Bucs did not discipline him for pretending to be COVID vaccinated even though their coach is a two-time cancer survivor with a compromised immune system.  And then Brown did his walk-off routine in the middle of a game yesterday.  Bruce Arians wasted no time after the game to say that Antonio Brown was no longer part of the Bucs’ organization.

So, is Antonio Brown finished?  Well, let me ask that question differently.

  • Mike Tomlin, Jon Gruden, Bill Belichick and Bruce Arians have given up on Antonio Brown.  So, what other coach/coaching staff might look at that history and say to himself/themselves, “No problem; we got this covered; bring him on.”?

There are two answers to that query:

  1. If a coach is as secure in his position as someone like Tomlin or Belichick, he might take a shot at this problem-child.  Maybe someone like Andy Reid or Pete Carroll?
  2. If a franchise is so desperate to win, it might take a flyer on Antonio Brown.  Maybe the Jags or the Jets or the Lions?

Personally, I think Antonio Brown has worn out his welcome around the NFL.  His physical talent got him tolerated by the Steelers for several seasons and enticed three other franchises to sign him on – – but there’s a limit.  My opinion is that Antonio Brown has gotten himself so far out on a limb that even a football naïf like Danny Boy Snyder would not take him on.  I think Brown is toast as a football player.  However, he also appears to be someone in need of a life-coach; the trajectory of his life – – not just his football career – – at the moment is pointed in a destructive direction.

Finally, since today’s rant is all about football, let me close with this quip by comedian, Phyllis Diller:

“The reason women don’t play football is because 11 of them would never wear the same outfit in public.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………