Bill Belichick seemed to think he could harness Antonio Brown’s immense talents and manage his myriad off-field issues, indoctrinating him into what is commonly called “the Patriot Way.”
When the Patriots’ six-time Super Bowl-winning coach was asked if Brown could become a productive member of the team, Belichick recalled another talented but troubled receiver who flourished in New England.
Not even two weeks ago, when Brown was officially signed by the Patriots after forcing his way off the Raiders’ roster, Belichick suggested there already was a precedent for how things might turn out.
“It’s the same thing you guys said about Randy Moss when we brought him in,” Belichick said.
Belichick indeed worked wonders with Moss after he traded for the Raiders’ ill-tempered receiver. Moss was part of the Patriots’ undefeated regular season team in 2007, a team that went all the way to Super Bowl XLII before being conquered by the Giants.
But Belichick soon found out that even he — the greatest coach of all time — could not deal with Brown, whose irredeemable behavior prompted him to be released after one game and 11 days on the roster.
Between the time Brown was signed (to a deal that included $9 million in salary and bonuses for this season) and Friday, when he was released, Brown’s off-field problems made it impossible for the Patriots to keep him.
Belichick grew testy on Friday when he repeatedly was asked about Brown, walking out on his media session.
Hours later, the team announced that Brown no longer was a member of the team.
Brown was hit with a civil suit by his former trainer, Britney Taylor, who said he sexually assaulted her three times. In a report published this past week, a second woman told Sports Illustrated that Brown made inappropriate advances as she painted a mural at his home in 2017. In a follow-up story, Sports Illustrated reported that the woman received a threatening message from the same telephone number Brown had used in 2017.
The NFL began an investigation into Taylor’s accusations and told Brown on Friday morning to avoid all contact with the woman. He subsequently was released, and the NFL issued a statement saying that it was continuing to investigate him.
Brown is a free agent, but the league made it clear that it reserves the right to place him on the commissioner’s exempt list, which would prevent him from playing.
“Upon the conclusion of the investigation, he may also be subject to discipline if the investigation finds that he has violated the law or league policies,” the NFL said.
At 31 years old and with a history of troubled behavior off the field, Brown may have played his final NFL game.
To which we say:
Brown has been one of the NFL’s most electrifying players, a sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2010 who beat the odds and turned into a star. Raiders coach Jon Gruden thought enough of him to surrender third- and fifth-round picks to the Steelers, who had grown weary of the receiver’s antics.
But Brown’s tenure with the Raiders was marked by a bizarre series of events. He burned his feet during a cryogenics treatment. He insisted on wearing a helmet that had been banned by the NFL because it didn’t meet safety standards. He had to be restrained from going after general manager Mike Mayock after he was fined for insubordination.
Gruden couldn’t take it any longer, fearing that his locker room was being torn asunder by Brown’s narcissistic behavior. He released him a couple of days before the season opener.
Within hours, Belichick reached agreement with Brown on a two-year deal.
And then released him 11 days into his tenure.
Brown caught a touchdown pass in his only game with the Patriots, but they realized that the NFL would have taken him off the field for his threatening text to the second woman who accused him of inappropriate behavior. So they released him ahead of time.
And so ends a most disturbing chapter for one of the NFL’s most troubled players.
He couldn’t make it work with the best team in football, and there’s no reason to believe it will be any different with any other team.
Nor should he get that chance.
Bottom line: Brown no longer deserves to play.