Oakland Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden may have read his playbook but he never read Maya Angelou. Same seems true for general manager Mike Mayock. How do I know this?
They hired Antonio Brown., didn’t they?
Simple as that.
The Raiders guaranteed the mercurial Brown $30.125 million to come to their team and play football after acquiring his rights from the Steelers for third and fifth round picks last spring. Football is something Brown does better than nearly anyone on the planet. No one would argue otherwise about a receiver who is the first in history to have six straight 100-plus catch seasons and who has more catches and receiving yards than any player over the span of his nine-year NFL career (2010-2018). So what’s the problem?
The problem is Antonio Brown. And what’s his problem when he has $30 million in guaranteed money lying in front of him? It seems the problem is he no longer wants to play a team sport, which unfortunately for him and the Raiders is what football is all about.
Okay, so what’s Maya Angelou got to do with this? How would reading her soaring prose and poetry have taught the Raiders what the Pittsburgh Steelers learned the hard way the past couple of seasons? That’s simple too because here is what she once penned: “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
Brown showed the Raiders and the NFL who he is the past several seasons of turmoil mostly of his own creation in Pittsburgh. He was a four-time All-Pro receiver but an everyday All-Pro pain in the ass. Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin, who will never be mistaken for Bill Belichick when it comes to discipline, couldn’t assuage him no matter how often he applied his lips to Brown’s butt.
Neither could the guy who threw him all those passes, Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger finally tired of trying to beg and cajole Brown into being a good teammate and blasted him publicly. That wasn’t right and didn’t help the situation but even Brown’s former teammate, Ryan Clark, warned the Raiders and the NFL this year that Brown’s smile was the same as his skills as a receiver. It’s deceptive.
Clark has said he was once friends with Brown. Said his children played together and he’d babysat Brown’s children at times. Yet he still warned the Raiders they were hiring a phony whose smile could not hide what was underneath, which is to say a guy with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mt. Everest.
Some of that comes from being a former sixth round out of a place called Central Michigan, which ain’t the same as being a No. 1 pick out of Michigan. That chip, along with his skills and obvious personal work ethic, helped make him the NFL’s best receiver. It now seems it’s also turned him into a difficult employee who marches to the beat of his own drummer or, in this case, doesn’t march because he hasn’t played a game since he arrived in Oakland and barely ever practiced because of frost bite on his feet (no joke) and a squabble with the league over what helmet he could wear (a joke).
The Raiders backed him on both, bending over backwards to make it sound like this was all very reasonable. The sore feet were but his approach to the helmet issue was absurd because he portrayed himself as a martyr being nailed to the NFL cross by “the Man’’ when many players, including Tom Brady, had been told their aging helmets no longer met minimum standards and had to be changed. Only one took it the way Brown did, which was to imply a crucifixion was underway.
Brown and the Raiders might have survived all that because Brown already had Gruden and Mayock bent over backwards but what they couldn’t survive without a response was his walking out of camp one day in August after learning his helmet appeal had been rejected by the league and then missing a team walkthrough before a pre-season game he wasn’t going to play in in Winnipeg. We’re not talking Vegas or Miami Beach here. We’re talking WINNEPEG! What else was he doing up there? Taking curling lessons?
After a fairly public warning from Mayock that Brown needed to be either “all in or all out’’ Brown continued to be neither. This week he received a standard letter from Mayock informing him he’d been fined $53,950 for the two incidents. All players receive such letters when being fined. Brown, of course, again took it as being singled out by THE MAN.
Who THE MAN is we are not sure but one thing is clear. It isn’t Brown, who has acted like a child most of the summer since the Steelers gladly paroled him to Oakland’s jurisdiction.
Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has been to nearly as many practices in Oakland as Brown it seems. He has all along portrayed this as reasonable men disagreeing over policy instead of what it has become – a singular guy with trust issues and a childish mindset thinking he has his boss over a $30 million guaranteed barrel and so going to do what he wants when he wants.
One problem. He only has them over that barrel if they don’t take action and suspend him, which they would seem well within their rights to do after he allegedly threatened to punch Mayock in the face 24 hours after Brown posted the fine letter on the internet. Had he not done that none would have been the wiser but wisdom seems in short supply in Oakland at the moment.
“We’re doing our best to work this out,’’ Rosenhaus said Thursday after Brown again failed to show for practice and appeared to call Mayock “the Devil’’ in his twitter post that also included the letter. “Trying to keep this relationship moving in a good direction again.”
Hey, Drew, other than the day they forked over $30 mil guaranteed when has this thing been moving in a good direction?
Rosenhaus added he felt Brown is “willing to honor his contract and play for the Raiders.” How about practice with them, Drew? Any chance he could manage that two weeks in a row without appealing for a pity party?
Brown’s latest walkout came after Mayock sent him the following letter: “Dear Antonio: As you know, you did not participate in the Raiders’ walk through on August 22,” the letter begins. “Your absence from practice was unexcused. Accordingly, you are hereby fined $13,950 pursuant to Article 42, Section 1(a)(viii) of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Raiders’ Club Discipline Schedule.
“You were previously fined $40,000 for missing Raiders’ preseason training camp on August 18. Please be advised that should you continue to miss mandatory team activities, including practices and games, the Raiders reserve the right to impose additional remedies available under the Club’s Discipline Schedule, the CBA and your NFL Player Contract, including, but not limited to, additional fines and discipline for engaging in Conduct Detrimental to the Club.”
It was all standard stuff. Former Patriot defensive end Rob Ninkovich once got a similar letter for being two pounds overweight. No joke. He did not turn on “The MAN’’ He went to the sauna, then stepped on the scales. It’s what an adult would do.
WDAD (what did Antonio do)? Just what Maya Angelou predicted.
“When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now devil is a lie. Everyone got to pay this year so we clear,” he posted, along with a screenshot of Mayock’s letter.
Might Mayock, a first-year GM still learning his way around the NFL, have handled things differently? Maybe the “all in or all out’’ comment was unwise and perhaps he could have called Brown in before he sent out that letter and said look, this has to be done but the truth is it’s more of a warning. He could even have said we probably won’t even collect the money if you start going along with the program, although he did in fact collect the money which was chump changed when compared to $30 million, don’t you think?
Sorry, there’s that word again. Think.
Well, he didn’t do those things but the truth is he didn’t have to and when Brown physically threatened him the next day at practice and the two had to be separated by Vontaze Burfect what will follow now seems inevitable. Whether the Raiders suspended him now and thus voided the $30 million in guarantees, which Friday they chose not to do after Brown made what was called an emotional apology to his teammates while surrounded by the team’s captains, or it takes more time and more incidents how this is going to end is clear. Same way it ended in Pittsburgh. Messy divorce.
How do we know this?
Two reasons really.
Maya Angelou is one.
The other is even clearer. When Vontaze Burfect, who is one of the most fined players in NFL history and a guy who a few years backed knocked Brown cold when playing for the Bengals, is the voice of reason all is lost…including that $30 million and the 2019 season in Oakland.
The old boxing philosopher Cus D’Amato used to have a saying about human nature that was similar to Angelu’s position. Sadly, it seems very likely to eventually apply to Brown in Oakland.
“Guys born round don’t die square,’’ Cus used to say. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Antonio Brown seems likely to be the next in a long line to prove the truth of that adage.