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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