Photo credit: cbssports.com
By London Marq
The Antonio Brown saga is far from over. Brown’s off the field shenanigans and his progress will be marked through every week of the 2019 season. It will only be magnified by the fact that he signed with the most hated team in the National Football League, the New England Patriots. Brown adds to a wide receiver core that already includes Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas, who won a championship with Denver in Super Bowl 50, and is sure to be a nightmare for defenses all season long. That’s without mentioning Tom Brady, or the abundance of talent New England possesses on both sides of the ball. New England was already one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Superbowl before acquiring the Brown. Now, they look like primed to repeat as champions.
Brown is just the most recent of a long line of disgruntled players to leave their team and sign with New England. From the moment of his release from Oakland it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Antonio Brown became a Patriot. No two fanbases have more hatred and vitriol for the New England Patriots than Oakland and Pittsburgh fans and the Brown signing has ripped open old wounds.
For the Raiders, it is story of stolen glory. It all goes back to the January of 2002 and the tuck rule that turned Tom Brady’s fumble into an incompletion, propelling New England to their first Super Bowl. It was an officiating call that will live in infamy and one that Raider fans will never forget. The raiders would make it to the Super Bowl the following year, losing to Tampa Bay and haven’t won a playoff game since. Meanwhile, the Patriots have been to eight more Super Bowls and winning five of them. In 2005, Hall of Famer Randy Moss was traded to the Raiders bringing hope to the franchise. But after posting only 553 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2006 the Raiders traded Moss to New England where his career was immediately revived. In his first season as a Patriot, Moss had over 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns, setting the all-time record to receiving touchdowns in a season. Moss’s effort in New England was a slap in the face to the Raiders who couldn’t get Moss to display any work ethic. In short, much like Antonio Brown, he didn’t want to play for Oakland.
Pittsburgh has also lost significant players to New England and those players have helped the New England win championships. Frustrated with his role, running back LeGarrette Blount walked off the field before the end of game versus the Titans in 2014. Two days later he signed with the Patriots and was instrumental in helping them when the championship three months later. Linebacker James Harrison joined New England only a few days after being waived by Pittsburgh. To make matters worse, the Steelers are arguably the Patriots biggest rival over the past two decades and they are constantly battling New England for the top spot in the AFC. It’s devastating from their perspective to see their former players join their biggest and toughest rivals.
But who could blame the Raiders or the Steelers? Antonio Brown has been a constant headache for both organizations and clearly demonstrated that he didn’t want to play for either team. His actions cost Pittsburgh a playoff berth last season and almost certainly tanked Oaklands chances this season. What choice does a team have with a player who doesn’t want to show up to work. It has been said time and time again, teams only want players who want to be there. Now the Raiders and Steelers must watch New England benefit from their decision to do what was best for their team and let Brown go.
New England’s acquisition of Antonio Brown spells terror for 31 other teams. It’s difficult to see them as anything but a Super Bowl favorites, even at this early point in the season. But for the Raiders and Steelers, two teams who have been victimized so many times by New England on and off the field, this is a recurring trauma.