With Raiders, Antonio Brown doesn’t have to keep following Terrell Owens path | NFL
How will Antonio Brown finish his football story? That is the question now that the 30-year-old wide receiver has reportedly been traded to the Raiders for a third- and a fifth-round draft pick — and received a hefty raise.
We have read the first half of this book before. A relatively unknown receiver rises to stardom with a popular NFL franchise, only to have a messy fallout with that franchise before he demands a change of scenery. That forces the team to weigh the player’s talent against the potential damage to locker-room and front-office chemistry.
We watched this exact scenario unfold with Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens in San Francisco 15 years ago. Now Brown has a chance to learn lessons from Owens’ career path.
The first halves of the careers of Owens and Brown were almost exactly the same. In Owens’ first eight seasons, he produced 8,579 yards and 79 touchdowns for the 49ers and led the NFL in touchdown catches twice.
Owens, however, eventually wore out his welcome in San Francisco with coaches Steve Mariucci and Dennis Erickson. He was fined for celebrations. He berated offensive coordinator Greg Knapp during a sideline tantrum and was overly critical of quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Now, substitute Mariucci and Erickson with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Substitute Knapp with former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, and Garcia with QB Ben Roethlisberger. Add Brown’s instances of going AWOL and an overdose of Twitter, and you have the Brown soap opera.
Brown has 11,207 receiving yards and 74 receiving touchdowns, including a league-best 15 receiving scores last season. He has led the league in receptions and yards twice. To this point in his career, Brown has been more productive than Owens was, and that says something.
Brown also has been a bigger headache for his team than Owens was, and that says a lot more.
Brown actively shopped himself to other teams on social media and took a steady stream of cryptic, passive-aggressive shots at the organization. (Which, of course, controlled where he would play next.)
It is OK to respect Brown’s wishes to continue his career elsewhere, especially after watching how the Le’Veon Bell situation unfolded in Pittsburgh. It is equally fair to label Brown a self-centered diva who has not handled his situation in a mature fashion.
Now the blame will be pie-charted among Brown, Rooney, Tomlin and Roethlisberger for years to come, and with it, the question will be asked: How did the Roethlisberger-Bell-Brown trio fail to produce a Super Bowl championship?
Fair or not, Brown will take a significant chunk of that blame, and in Pittsburgh, no amount of Twitter ratios or #Boomin hashtags will tilt that perception. There will always be an appreciation for what Brown accomplished with the Steelers, but he will never be universally loved after such an unceremonious exit.
And, like Owens did, Brown will find he cannot change that.
Owens initially was traded from San Francisco to Baltimore, but he protested the trade because it was made one day after he was supposed to become a free agent. It’s an easy-to-forget vignette in Owens’ career given all the additional drama that followed. He ended up in Philadelphia as part of a three-way trade.
Similarly, Brown appeared to work against Pittsburgh — not with it — to find a new destination. He reportedly rejected a proposed trade to the Bills two days before the Steelers and Raiders agreed on a midnight swap.
Now, like Owens did with the Eagles, Brown immediately needs to have a monster season with the Raiders. Like Brown will in July, Owens turned 31 in 2004, a season in which he finished with 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Eagles finished 13-3, and Owens’ one-legged performance in a Super Bowl 39 loss to the Patriots is the fondest memory of his career.
That would lead to the next step. What happened with Brown in Pittsburgh cannot happen again in Oakland.
Owens enjoyed a honeymoon in Philadelphia, but that Super Bowl run is not the indelible image of his time there. It is instead Owens doing sit-ups in the driveway after being deactivated by the Eagles, and the press conference with agent Drew Rosenhaus, repeating that two-word response in every direction: “Next question.”
Rosenhaus, of course, is now Brown’s agent.
Owens’ second departure from a team was worse than his first, and the trend continued. Things went well in Dallas … until they didn’t. Then Buffalo. Then Cincinnati.
Owens compiled 7,362 yards and 72 touchdowns over the last seven seasons of his career. He finished that career third all time in receiving yards (15,934) and receiving touchdowns (153). But his trail of ill will went all the way to his Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy, and voters made him wait to get in.
Owens supporters tried to claim he was a good teammate. Detractors were not having it. The drama never stopped.
That is why Brown should take a different path once his football story resumes. He is talented enough to challenge Owens’ career numbers and perhaps make a run at Jerry Rice at the top of those all-time lists. And he can do it outside Pittsburgh.
But Brown must keep in mind Super Bowl contenders start with the front office, coach and QB. Roethlisberger is loved in Pittsburgh in part for that reason. One can throw any number of nuances at that, but Big Ben showed up in Week 17 last year. Brown did not show up for his last game in Pittsburgh, and these are the consequences.
If Brown pulls another stunt like that, then we will be having the same debates we did around Owens long after his playing days were over: Selfish talent or consummate teammate? Winner or whiner? Does the team work for him, or does he work for the team?
We have done this with Owens for way too long, and we don’t want to do it anymore with Brown. So maybe it’s time for Brown to follow his own advice.
Be clear or be misunderstood
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 18, 2019
We would like a surprise ending this time.