This is a quote from Jon Gruden last season, just months before the Raiders traded for Antonio Brown:
“I’ve seen Jerry Rice. I’ve seen a lot of good ones. But I put Antonio Brown at the top. If there are any young wideouts out there, I’d go watch him practice. You figure out yourself why he’s such a good player.”
Considering the events that have taken place since, Gruden probably wishes he wasn’t so quick to include Brown among the GOATs at the receiver position. Beginning with OTA’s in May, he and the rest of the Raiders management/coaching staff dealt with a player who:
- Stubbornly refused to wear his new NFL-issued helmet, threatening to never play football again
- Had to miss practice time due to frostbitten feet as a result of wearing improper footwear in a cryotherapy machine
- (allegedly) ghosted the Raiders and their attempts to communicate with him after the injury
- Posted a picture on Instagram of a letter from Mayock, detailing $54,000 in fines for absences from training camp
- After about a month of no issues, “got into it” with Raiders GM Mike Mayock at practice this past week, threatening to punch him in the face and saying “fine me for that” after punting a ball into the stands
- Got suspended this past Thursday, issued an “emotional apology” on Friday morning, and was reinstated Friday afternoon. All within 24 hours.
- On Friday night, posted some sort of personal trailer/hype video on Instagram, featuring a private phone conversation with Gruden. Gruden allegedly thought the video was “awesome.”
- On Saturday morning, posted a message on Instagram asking to be released by the Raiders
- Around noon, he was released
- Just before 5 pm, the Patriots picked him up. A one-year deal worth up to $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus. One day before the season opener.
There are obviously two things that stand out most when it comes to this absolute wild card of a human being:
- He’s an egomaniac who is fully capable of a complete mental breakdown if he doesn’t get his way
- He’s one of the most talented receivers in the history of the NFL
Fortunately, the only one that should matter to the Patriots and us fans is number two. Because the minute that number one becomes a factor, this guy is gone and we’re right back to where we were on Saturday morning. Still Super Bowl favorites. This is a classic case of nothing to lose and everything to gain. From a New England perspective, there’s absolutely no logical reason to be unhappy with the move.
The Pats now have three of the best receivers in the NFL over the last six years. Four if you include Demaryius Thomas but he needs to prove that he’s still capable of being half the player he was in 2013. The question now becomes whether or not they can all stay on the field together long enough for any of this to matter. If they can, we’re talking about an offense comparable to ‘07 with a better running game and a much better defense. And if that doesn’t get you fired up then you just don’t like fun.