FOXSBOROUGH — At least, that’s what the destination reads on Antonio Brown’s Instagram feed, where a caricatured vision of Bill Belichick is driving the bus to the wide receiver’s next home in the National Football League.
We have “Foxborough.” “Foxboro.” And now, “Foxsborough.”
Call it a rushed inaccuracy by Brown’s social media team, if you will, a harried post in the midst of a wild Saturday afternoon.
Or perhaps it was merely the first blunder in a transaction that is destined for nothing but failure.
In a move that nobody, expect for everybody, saw coming, in the hours after being released by the Oakland Raiders, Antonio Brown, arguably the most dominant pass-catcher in the NFL, inked a one-year, $15 million deal with the New England Patriots, including a $9 million signing bonus and $10 million guaranteed.
This marriage was inevitable. Either from the moment Brown’s dispute with Oakland general manager Mike Mayock last week led to his suspension-not-suspension. Or, depending on how you like your conspiracy theories cooked, the process began sometime last season when Brown pushed his jackass act to “11” while still with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One way or another, Brown was going to find his way to the New England Patriots. There’s no collusion in being a selfish pinhole.
The circus act is coming to Foxsborough, the same one Patriots fans derided and rolled their eyes at from afar in the past. Frostbitten feet? Hot air balloons? Refusing to wear his helmet? All before Week 1 of the preseason? Yeah, good luck with that, Raiders. Idiots.
But at least, it seems, Brown’s arrival here isn’t being greeted with a sudden, and immediate, reversal of attitude. In the midst of the deserved smugness that comes on the eve of raising a sixth Super Bowl banner, there seems to be a wait-and-see mantra from most Patriot fans, acutely aware of just how badly this can all go, knowing that the moment it does, Bill Belichick will put an end to the experiment.
It’s not like Brown was found on the scrap heap like a handful of other Belichick projects. Randy Moss and Corey Dillion were additions purchased on the decline. Albert Haynesworth was a gamble on par with hitting on 21. Chad Johnson/Ochocinco was a Hail Mary that turned out to be a a season of penance for the yakker, who seemingly had a firmer understanding of anything besides the Patriots playbook.
But in Antonio Brown, Belichick and Tom Brady are receiving a different creature, a wide receiver in his prime who would be an attractive purchase for most everybody in the league. Even in the midst of his disgruntled season with the Steelers in 2018, Brown managed to catch 15 touchdowns to go along with 1,297 yards. Mind you, the year before he became a Patriot, Moss had 553 yards receiving and a whopping three touchdowns. Dillon ran for 541 yards and two touchdowns in his final season with the Cincinnati Bengals. No, this move isn’t exactly in the same mold.
Add Brown to a receiving mix that already includes Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryrius Thomas, and Phillip Dorsett, and the Patriots’ depth chart has gone from a springtime drought to a September bloom. The visions of Brady and friends dominating opponents by consistently airing it out is a salivating thought for Patriots fans, even as the soccer moms among us worry about how running up the score sends the wrong message to the children.
Not like the entire Brown saga hasn’t done that already. In order to get out of NFL purgatory (quite literally, with the eventually Las Vegas-bound Raiders), Brown acted like a rancid toddler until he got what he wanted. Months after the Steelers rebuffed the Patriots’ reported interest in making a trade for Brown, the receiver orchestrated his escape on his own. Maybe New England always was his intending landing spot. He certainly never intended to play even one series for Jon Gruden in Oakland.
It’s a gamble, probably more so for Brown than it is Belichick. Much like Moss, three years into his tenure here, when he no longer could carry the “Earth” on his shoulders, the head coach knew when to send the problem away. If Brown proves to become a distraction that even he, the same head coach who has managed excellence in the midst of Spygate, Deflategate, and Aaron Hernandez, then he’ll end things swiftly. What will it cost him? The Patriots will probably win the Super Bowl with Antonio Brown. They’ll also probably win it without him. Whatever, man.
Thirty-one other teams can’t make such a claim, or at least enough of one to make the excuse that Brown and his antics are a good idea. But even a talent as dominant as Brown has a shelf life, and his could be collecting some dust even as he signs a deal with his new team. If Brown can’t act like an adult for the Patriots, enough that it spells a divorce before season’s end, then where else is there? Jerry Jones would probably chase after him with some vigor, but beyond that, Brown’s welcome elsewhere would be DOA.
In New England? Anyone who hasn’t already done an ingenuous 180 on Brown might only be waiting until his first appearance in a Patriots uniform, perhaps as early as Week 2 in Miami. The last time the Patriots played the Dolphins there, they were the victim of a last-second miracle. As the 2019 season gets ready to begin, they benefited from a different sort of surprise, delivering them one of the league’s most commanding — and belittled — players right into laps already sagging from the weight of their jewelry.
Antonio Brown is a New England Patriot.
Welcome to Foxsborough.