If you’ve been paying any attention to the National Football League over the past several years, you know that wide receiver Antonio Brown is one of the league’s brightest stars, but he’s also one of the biggest distractions that the game has ever seen. In two of the last five seasons, Brown has led the NFL in receiving yards, while he has tallied at least 100 receptions in each of the last six years. But Brown’s talent comes with a price as he has rapidly become one of the biggest “divas” that the NFL has ever seen.
Brown’s toxic personality led to the Pittsburgh Steelers parting with him following the conclusion of the 2018 NFL season. And in doing so, Pittsburgh was content with receiving just a third and fifth-round pick from the Oakland Raiders to take on a player of Brown’s talent.
At first it seemed that Brown would have a new lease on playing football as there would be no more distractions in regards to his on-again, off-again relationship with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But we have not even reached Week One of the 2019 NFL season for the Raiders, and already Brown has worn out his welcome in Oakland.
Upon joining the Raiders this past March, Brown agreed to a new three-year deal for $50 million with $30 million of that money being guaranteed. But already Brown backed the Raiders into a corner due to his “me-first” antics.
Last month Brown got into a battle with the National Football League over his style of helmet. Recently the NFL decided to ban the Riddell helmet that Brown has worn throughout his career as they are committed to improving player safety. And as other players around the league have decided to comply with the NFL’s edict on the matter, Brown decided to battle them tooth and nail on the matter.
This resulted in Brown filing two grievances on the matter, and in a surprise to no one, he lost each of them. But aside from filing the grievances against the NFL, Brown also missed multiple practices with the Raiders over his helmet issues, and at one point threatened to retire.
And if this was not enough, Brown suffered frostbite on his feet this summer due to the fact that he failed to wear the proper footwear during a cryotherapy session.
In all, Brown was practically non-existent at Raiders practice throughout the summer, and his presence was missed because he was never able to develop a rapport with quarterback Derek Carr, while his hefty contract figure brought along with it the expectation for him to be a leader.
Right before our very eyes, Brown is doing something that I never thought that I’d see which is to challenge former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens for being the biggest “diva” that the league has ever seen.
Throughout Owens’ NFL career, he did cause problems at every stop along his Hall of Fame career as each team that he played for saw a divided locker room by the time that his tenure there was done. But even as divisive that Owens was which included clashing with head coaches and quarterbacks, he couldn’t hold a flame to Brown.
Brown’s first known trip to “jerkville” came after the Steelers playoff victory win over the Kansas City Chiefs in January 2017. In Pittsburgh’s locker room, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was addressing his team when Brown decided to go live on Facebook, and make a private matter public. After the incident Tomlin and the Steelers failed to properly address the matter with Brown who was then off to the races.
The rest of Brown’s time in Pittsburgh was marred by him clashing with Tomlin and Roethlisberger several times to the point that he failed to suit up for the Steelers Week 17 game last season which they needed to win in order to stay alive in the playoff hunt. During the game Brown was not in Steelers gear as he was sporting a fur coat, and at halftime he subsequently left the stadium. Brown has also been at the center of several off the field incidents which included allegedly throwing a couch off of a balcony that nearly struck a 22-month old baby. But even with all of this thatas Brown has done to put himself in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons, the Raiders were willing to put all of that aside as they felt that he could help them win some football games.
However what appeared to be borrowed time that Brown was on last week in Oakland is now done. Brown’s clash last week with the Raiders general manager Mike Mayock following the Instagram post of the letter that he received from the franchise confirming the $40k fine that was being levied on him for missing practices and a team walk through, was just what Oakland needed to get the wheels in motion to get him out of town.
Yes, Brown’s contract was guaranteed, but the Raiders had several outs in the deal which included “conduct detrimental to the team”. Brown also didn’t help his cause when he got into a shouting match with Mayock over the suspension, and had to be restrained by Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict. And isn’t it ironic that it’s Burfict who became the poster boy for being suspended by the NFL for illegal hits and unnecessary roughness during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals which included once knocking Brown out of a playoff game, is the one that had to be voice of reason during this latest incident.
Make no mistake about it that Brown is one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, but he is quickly playing himself right out of the league. The Raiders were willing to take a chance on Brown because their head coach Jon Gruden fancies himself on taking on reclamation projects, and he also wanted some star appeal with the team set to relocate to Las Vegas next year. But with so many teams around the NFL looking to get younger, and build around their quarterbacks, I don’t see too many teams that’ll be willing to give Brown a third chance; especially since his new issues in Oakland have been made public.
There was a time when the Bengals or Dallas Cowboys would be willing to give a player such as Brown a look, but each franchise has done an about face on that open door policy which means that Brown could be a man without a country.
Brown falls into that category of attempting to make all of his self-inflected wounds the fault of another party when the majority of his issues have been caused by him alone. Nobody forced Brown to go live on Facebook when Tomlin was attempting to address the Steelers in a private setting. The NFL gave Brown ample time to get adjusted to a new style helmet, but he refused. And instead of Brown going out of his way to ingratiate himself to his new team in the Raiders, he has made it point to illustrate that they need him more than he needs him.
But the actual reality for Brown is that he is not the biggest star for the Raiders as Gruden gets that accolade. Upon returning to coach the Raiders last season, Gruden agreed to a ten-year deal for $100 million which means that he is not going anywhere anytime soon. And as Gruden has one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, he cannot afford to have a 31-year old malcontent in the locker room such as Brown who would be the antithesis of what the head coach is attempting to establish with his program in Oakland.
Initially the Raiders were expected to suspend Brown following his dust up with Mayock, but things escalated out of control so quick when the star wide receiver got a fine for more than $210k which allowed the team to no longer guarantee his contract. And when Brown found out that he was no longer getting a guaranteed deal with the Raiders, he gave Gruden an ultimatum to release him.
However Gruden cannot play the victim role in all of this as aside from seeing how Brown was with the Steelers, he also traded wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys last year. The Raiders did receive a first-round pick from Dallas for Cooper, but what they lost was a receiver who had tremendous chemistry with Carr as together the “AC/DC” duo helped Oakland reach the playoffs in 2016.
And while Dallas may have gotten the missing piece to the puzzle that they are hoping results in a Super Bowl Title in Cooper, the Raiders just parted with a guy in Brown that helped to keep them as one of the laughing stocks of the NFL, while the Steelers and Tomlin were able to find a sucker to take him off of their hands. But if that isn’t bad enough, several hours after Brown’s release from the Raiders, he agreed to a deal with the New England Patriots as the richer could get richer if the Pro Bowl wide receiver is ready to buy into being on a “team”.
However this doesn’t mean that Brown is out of the woods yet as the Patriots organization under head coach Bill Belichick do things a little bit differently which includes zero tolerance if Brown fails to comply with their “team first” mantra. And as Belichick has cut or traded Hall of Fame caliber players in the past, Brown is no different. So now Brown must accept the fact that he won’t be the guy for the Patriots, and if he cannot accept his role in New England, this will be the end of the line for him in the NFL.
The Raiders and Gruden wanted to make a splash upon going to Vegas, but they are left with egg on their faces as this is another classic example of “I told you so”. And if Brown does not get his act together with the Pats, this will be his final hurrah in the National Football League.