Antonio Brown fatigue is real. I recognize that, and believe it or not, I respect that. it’s understandable, however, that there has been a cascade of coverage about the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver over the course of the past couple of days since he made the ill-advised decision to criticize his former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster for a fumble in an effort to make himself look—or rather feel—better.
Quite frankly, I haven’t seen one person in the media or in the league make any effort to defend his comments or behavior since this all happened, and that really shouldn’t be surprising. But I thought the comments of former Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio were not only interesting but germane to the topic, so I wanted to share them.
Remember, Del Rio is the coach who finally got the Raiders back into the postseason, before his quarterback broke his leg and everything fell apart. Del Rio was respected and well-liked, but the organization had an opportunity to head-hunt Jon Gruden and they went for him. There is a plausible timeline in which Del Rio could be coaching Brown right now.
But if that were the case, it wouldn’t necessarily be by his choice. He recently participated in an interview with the NFL’s website, covering a variety of topics largely stemming from his time as the Raiders’ head coach and how things have transpired with the organization since then, including the trade acquisition of Brown and their signing him to a new contract.
“I love the talent, but he has clearly shown that he’s going to be a pain in the ass”, was the money quote about Brown. “He’s a very talented guy and I would love to have him. I would work with him, no problem. If [players] have talent, you tend to tolerate it a little bit, unless it becomes disruptive to your team”.
Of course, he has already demonstrated that he is quite willing and able to be actively, intentionally, and maliciously disruptive to your team. Which is how he got to the Raiders in the first place. “He’s going to have to learn that to really help the team”, he said. “If he continues doing the things he’s been doing, just like he upset the Steelers, he’s going to upset the next team he’s on”.
Yeah, Jack. No kidding.
“There are certain things—I mean, this is America and he’s free to do what he wants—but those aren’t the things that are indicative of a good teammate”, and we can all recite the examples at this point. “The working hard and being a good player definitely helps the team, which is why he’ll continue to get chances to be special until his skills deteriorate. That’s when people will get tired of him”.
At the end of the season, Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked if there was a point in which Brown’s abilities no longer outweighed the issues he presented outside of the field. In a now ominous response, he said, “certainly”. The question now is, how long does it take for the Raiders to get to that point, and can they even do anything about it? Remember, the Steelers ate over $20 million in dead money to deal him.