Brett Favre, Jerry Rice offer takes on Antonio Brown as a Patriot
NFL legends Jerry Rice and Brett Favre had very different viewpoints on wide receiver Antonio Brown joining the New England Patriots.
As if superstar receiver Antonio Brown wasn’t already widely considered to be a polarizing figure in the NFL, he will now join arguably the league’s most-polarizing franchise in signing with the New England Patriots. The Patriots are one of the NFL’s most popular teams, but they’re also the most despised; in many ways, they represent the perfect match for Brown.
While both sides have their work cut out for them if the marriage is going to work, the deal is certainly garnering plenty of diverse and impassioned reactions around the country. Most New England beat reporters and fans are split somewhere between unbridled enthusiasm, cautious optimism, and disappointed skepticism.
Ultimately though, the only response that really matters here is Brown’s – specifically, how he responds to being coached by Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, and how he works with quarterback Tom Brady.
If he buys completely into the Patriot Way and goes about his business, business will indeed soon be boomin’. If he continues his shenanigans from the offseason, he probably won’t stick around very long in Foxborough.
Count former Packers quarterback Brett Favre as a member of the first camp: those that believe in Brown’s ability to become a model Patriot. Per NESN’s Mike Cole, Favre joined SiriusXM’s NFL radio show and expressed his confidence in the New England organization handling Brown the right way.
Here’s what he said:
"“If anyone is equipped to bring in a player in a similar situation to Antonio Brown and make it work, it’s the New England Patriots. Now, I’ll be honest with you: If you watched the game the other night, they don’t need him. In fact, I think it almost creates a problem by trying to figure out how to keep him happy and play him and (keep him) quiet. So, if you say, ‘Well, let’s just put him in on third downs’ and that doesn’t work, you’re trying to, as Mike Holmgren used to say, ‘It’s like trying to pound sand up a flea’s ass.’ Pardon my French.”"
It might be a bizarre analogy, but Favre’s point is that the Patriots’ primary challenge with Brown is going to be finding ways to keep him occupied, active, happy, and contributing as a major member of the offense. It’s safe to say that Brown wants to be in New England after posting a video of his reaction to his release by the Raiders, in which he joyously celebrates being “free” from Oakland at last.
That, at least, is a start. Having Brown finally in a mental state of satisfaction with his current team and location is a must; he also must realize he stands his best chance at winning a championship by playing with the Patriots, as opposed to any other franchise in the NFL.
Still, he won’t be relied on nearly as heavily as he was when he was a Pittsburgh Steeler. Brown was the focal point of that offense – especially without Le’Veon Bell out of the picture – and he’ll never become that kind of centerpiece in New England. Part of what makes the Patriots so difficult to beat week-in and week-out (and year-in and year-out) is their ability to constantly adapt and transform their identity.
Favre thinks that so long as Brown understands his new, diminished role in the New England machine, there won’t be any problems from an attitude or culture standpoint.
“(The Patriots are) very equipped to handle Antonio Brown or any other player in a similar situation because they’ve done it and they’ve done it well for so long,” Favre explained. “Antonio Brown, if he runs a route, he’s going to be open. It just never ceases to amaze me how not only does Tom (Brady) throw to the right guy, but they’re always wide open.”
Another guy who knew how to always get open – San Francisco 49ers great Jerry Rice – also went on public record with a reaction to Antonio Brown and his arrival in New England. While Rice didn’t go so far as to speculate whether or not the pairing would work in 2019 or beyond, he did feel compelled to chide Brown for the rope-a-dope he pulled with the Raiders and the Bay Area fanbase at large.
“We all got played,” Rice said on a local radio station, via CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo. “He contacted me, he told me he wanted to play ball here in the Bay Area. I bought into it because I can only take a man at his word, but I think [signing with New England] was already planned.”
The NFL has already stated they have no plans to investigate the bizarre series of circumstances that led to Brown leaving Pittsburgh for Oakland before finally arriving in New England. Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has also repeatedly denied any intentional efforts on the part of his client to end up with the Patriots.
It’s certainly been one of the more memorable starts to an NFL season in recent memory, with Antonio Brown being smack dab at the center of most of the intrigue and excitement all summer long. Now that he’s a member of the New England Patriots, all eyes will be on him once again this weekend as he presumably takes the field for the first time this season in Miami – wearing red, white, and blue, instead of just plain white, black, and silver.