The usual suspects trended in the wake of the latest chapter of the Antonio Brown melodrama. Brown’s name, his former Oakland Raider employers, his new rivals in Pittsburgh having their names cleared…all of them rocked Twitter’s trending algorithms.
But a new contender emerged out of nowhere, as they so often do, to steal the spotlight and victories from AFC competition: the New England Patriots.
New England is seen as football’s instant recovery spa, a place where literally any piece fits to create a championship puzzle. Six Super Bowls would certainly speak in favor of that theory, championships won with a diverse cast of characters surrounding Tom Brady. Such successful free-agent additions include Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, and Patrick CHung (who improved drastically in a second tenure). Lopsided trades have also played a factor– for example, a 2004 trade that yielded star Cincinnati rusher Corey Dillon cost only a second-round pick that became defensive role player Madieu Williams.
Thus, when a talented name with a touch of controversy hits the open market, the common joke is that the said player will automatically go to New England and find his hand filled with rings.
Sure enough, Brown was quickly picked up by the Patriots hours after he was granted his Instagram-requested release. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Brown would ink a $15 million deal, with $9 million guaranteed at signing.
A pair of 2007 trades really popularized the “Pats Save Everyone” trope. That spring, the Patriots welcomed in future record breakers Randy Moss and Wes Welker via respective deals with Oakland and Miami. Welker was primary used as a returner in South Beach, while Moss was seen by many as washed-up and declining on top of his perceived character issues.
Through shrewd coaching and the prowess of arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, the duo would go on to earn a combined 11,363 yards and 87 touchdowns. But a notable goose egg remained in the most important column in New England career box scores: Super Bowls.
Yes, the Patriots have made a lot out of little deals. Yes. it’s painful for fans of other teams watch their former heroes hoist a Lombardi Trophy clad in New England blue. But, with the Patriots already rumored to be circling the AB waters, it’s important to remember that they can’t fix everyone.
Set aside the egregiousness example of Aaron Hernandez. His character issues indeed made him a risk, but no one could’ve foreseen the dark saga he would involve the team in. But there are plenty of cases the Patriots weren’t able to recover. The curious case of Brown isn’t worth adding that to an extensive list.
This is a team, after all, that couldn’t find a place for Tim Tebow, who enjoyed a brief reunion with his Denver head coach Josh McDaniels in a 2012 preseason excursion. Albert Haynesworth was, again, another lost case, lasting a mere fourth months before he physically confronted assistant Pepper Johnson on the sidelines. For every successful Moss recovery project, there’s a Chad Johnson/Joey Galloway/Reche Caldwell piece that fails to live up to his former hype.
Brown is simply too much controversy to handle. He’s a time-ticking bomb that isn’t worth the off-field antics. Winning could certainly be an antidote. But, in an era where it feels like a “Belichick hates Brady” or vice versa story is as much of a December tradition as Christmas and Hannukah combined, he’s simply a match on a fire that will torch the rest of the league if it doesn’t take itself down first.
Of course, the New England brass has proven itself to be quite the demolition experts. But the AB reclamation could be the biggest form of redemption New England has offered since Andy Dufresne crawled through a 500-yard river of excrement and came out clean on the other side.
Belichick was going to the Hall of Fame either way. The Patriots were contending no matter what. With Brown in tow, 2019 could well prove to be their magnum opus.