Putting it in Perspective

Recapping the Antonio Brown off-season

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Antonio Brown's off-season has been one for the record books. From getting frost bite on his feet, to retirement talk over his helmet, to showing up for training camp in a hot air balloon, to publicly posting his fines from Raiders management… it's been quite the ride. That quick summary I just gave doesn't even mention Brown's appearance on the TV show the Masked Singer, his trade demands from Pittsburgh (and Oakland), or his war of words with Ben Roethlisberger.

At the time of writing this article it appears that the story has finally reached its conclusion as Brown signed a 1-year deal to join the Patriots. However, there appears to be a lot of misconceptions out there regarding what happened. In the world of Instagram, twitter, and TMZ; it appears we focused so much on Brown's childish antics that we lost track of some important facts. So, to counteract that I offer the following to help put things in perspective.

1. Antonio Brown was certainly cocky, but did he deserve to be? How good is Antonio Brown really?

On August 19th Brown posted an image on Instagram which shows him to be the #1 wide receiver for receptions, yards, and TDs since 2010. While his stats are true, the approach of "since 2010" is a strange way to compare yourself to your competition. Instead let's look at Brown's first 9 seasons and compare it to some of the all-time greats.

Stats for first 9 seasons in NFL:

  • Antonio Brown - 837 Rec - 11,207 Yards – 74 TDs
  • Larry Fitzgerald -764 Rec - 10,413 Yards – 77 TDs
  • Jerry Rice - 708 Rec - 11,776 Yards – 118 TDs
  • Randy Moss - 676 Rec - 10,700 Yards – 101 TDs
  • Terrell Owens - 669 Rec - 9,772 Yards – 95 TDs
  • Isaac Bruce - 619 Rec - 9,480 Yards – 63 TDs
  • Tim Brown - 495 Rec - 7,180 Yards – 55 TDs

Brown's numbers are in line with and in most cases ahead of some the best to ever play the game. To put this in perspective for us Houstonians; DeAndre Hopkins would need to average 103 Rec – 1,257 Yards – 9 TDs for the next 3 years to match what Brown has already accomplished. Possible, but not easy.

2. Brown threatened to retire over his helmet. Is he insane?

The majority of America heard this story and laughed. The NFL adopted a rule that would force Brown (and other players such as Rodgers and Brady) to wear a newer model helmet to meet updated safety standards. While most players complied, Brown fought back and threatened to retire. He ended up skipping a few Raider's events leading to fines and his eventual leaving of the team. Yes, for most of us this sounds like a stupid reaction. Personally, I thought he had a point.

To offer up a comparison: In 1979 the National Hockey League (NHL) enacted a rule requiring the wearing of helmets for anyone entering the league after that date. This meant that all the current players were grandfathered in and had a choice if they wanted to continue to play without one. Why do this? Because change isn't easy. The league wanted to be safe, but they also wanted to keep up the level of play and knew there might be adverse side-effects to this change.

Now that you have that comparison, try to put yourself in Brown's shoes. Imagine that after 9 years of playing in the league you are told that not only is the helmet you wore not safe (meaning you could have long lasting problems) but that this new helmet could affect your range of vision and comfort on the field. Then when you complained about it, imagine you were basically ignored by NFL management. Wouldn't you feel disrespected? In the end the situation worked out for Brown financially with a helmet company stepping up and paying him to wear their brand. However, Brown's reputation has taken a hit that may one day affect his Hall of Fame chances.

3. Now that he signed with the Patriots, why should we care?

Wide receivers usually get better with age. In the first section I compared Brown to some of the all-time greats. While I was busy manually adding up 9 years of stats one thing became clear, most of those wide receivers had their best statistical season in year 10 or after. Here are a few examples:

  • Jerry Rice (year 11) – 122 Rec – 1848 Yards – 15 TDs
  • Tim Brown (Year 10) – 104 Rec – 1408 Yards – 5 TDs
  • Randy Moss (Year 10) – 98 Rec – 1493 Yards – 23 TDs

The scariest comparison on that list is Randy Moss who Brown appears to be emulating. In 2007 Moss left Oakland, joined Tom Brady and the Patriots, and then went on to be part of the 16-0 patriots. And by the way, Moss' 23 TDs remain the single season record today.

Final verdict - Brown may have come off as crazy in the media (and he certainly might be) but he is a great player who should still have a lot left in the tank. The league should be worried that the aging Belichick/Brady dynasty just got the player they needed to fight off father time.


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Jose Altuve is on a roll. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

And then there were six. Games left in the Astros’ regular season. Three vs. Tampa Bay then three vs. Philadelphia, all at Minute Maid Park. The first three are important for the Rays as they jockey for Wild Card positioning with the Blue Jays and Mariners. The second three games decide playoffs or no playoffs for the Phillies as they try to stave off the Brewers. The Astros have nothing to play for with regard to the standings but it’s still a fun finish to another fabulous season. 102-54! Matching or topping the franchise record of 107 regular season wins would be grand, but it’s not a goal they’re going to push the limits to achieve. There are a couple individual pursuits of note this final week. We’ll hit those then get to truly important stuff to be settled on before the Astros start their postseason October 11.

Crunching the numbers

Three weeks ago I wrote that Jose Altuve needed a tremendous finishing kick to get there, but that his first .300 batting average season since 2018 was within striking distance. He promptly went one for eight over his next two games, lengthening the odds against him. In 15 games since Altuve has sizzled, banging out 21 hits in 54 at bats for a .389 average. So with six games to go he’s at .297. If Altuve gets 20 more official at bats he needs eight hits.

Yordan Alvarez’s assorted maladies sure cause some indigestion. The knee history, the hands, and now an ankle roll. Yordan is still four RBI short of joining Kyle Tucker with 100+. They’d be the Astros first 100+ tandem since…just three years ago when Alex Bregman (112) and Yuli Gurriel (104) did it.

Setting the playoff rotation

The playoff schedule is stupid in spots, dictated by television. The Astros against To Be Determined in their best-of-five American League Division Series will have game one Tuesday October 11, then a day off before game two Thursday, then a day off before game three Saturday (same is true for Yankees vs. To Be Determined). That’s ridiculous, and gives longtime Astros fans Kevin Brown nightmares (see 1998 NLDS). Unless there’s a three game sweep, game four would be Sunday. Should the series go to a decisive fifth game, there is no off day between games four and five. This impacts starting pitcher planning. Obviously the Astros go Justin Verlander in game one and Framber Valdez in game two. Almost certainly Lance McCullers gets the ball in game three. Then (unless the series is a sweep) there is a decision to be made. First, with the two off days Verlander would be available on four days rest. Up 2-1 last year, after a rainout the Astros brought back McCullers on a shorter four days rest (game one was a night game, game four a day game) and Lance blew out his arm again. If up two games to one, pitching Verlander on “normal” four days rest to go for the kill would take him out of the American League Championship Series until game three, and that would be his only starting availability in the ALCS unless you’d foolishly bring him back on three days rest if there was a game seven. So, if up 2-1 the smarter play is to start Cristian Javier in game four which has Verlander ready to go in a do-or-die game five or if the Astros advance in four, game one of the American League Championship Series. If down 2-1 and you pitch Verlander, if there’s a game five it’s the guy you passed over in game four, or Framber on three days rest.

Yes, Javier in game four, over Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia because quite simply, Javier is better. Unless Verlander or Valdez gets knocked out early, committing Javier to a bullpen role where he’d throw two or three innings vs. the six or so you’d expect out of him as a starter doesn’t make sense, definitely not with the first round schedule. Presumably Urquidy or Garcia will be on the roster for long reliever duty (carrying both would be poor roster management). The Astros have the best bullpen in the Major Leagues. Getting cute and using Javier over Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, or Ryan Pressly would be silly. Over Hector Neris or Bryan Abreu? Maybe. When Javier is vulnerable it’s walks and home runs that typically get him, so bringing him in in a tight seventh or eighth inning spot would be a dubious choice given the high caliber alternatives.

As for the roster, teams can change it round by round. Carrying 13 pitchers in a best-of-five with two scheduled off days is impractical. The Astros should carry Yainer Diaz or Korey Lee as a third catcher and David Hensley as an extra utility option. 12 pitchers: Verlander, Valdez, McCullers, Javier, Urquidy OR Garcia, Pressly, Montero, Stanek, Neris, Abreu, Will Smith, Hunter Brown OR Phil Maton.

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