July 15, 2024

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The Sports Fanatics

NFL insider notes: Antonio Brown’s disturbing fall from grace a cause for concern, plus more from Week 17

NFL insider notes: Antonio Brown’s disturbing fall from grace a cause for concern, plus more from Week 17

My initial reaction was to mutter a “Slap Shot” joke under my breath, with Antonio Brown choosing to end his season – and career for that matter – by ripping his clothes off like in the final scene of that classic 1970s movie as the Charlestown Chiefs are in the midst of an all-out brawl during their mythical Federal Hockey League title game. But then I caught myself.

There is nothing particularly funny in watching this individual, who has destroyed his own potential Hall of Fame career so many times — often due to the horrible way in which he is willing to treat certain individuals — put forth one last awkward cry for help in the most public way possible. Watching him storm from the sidelines, upset about being benched at a time when his finances are in poor shape and he is chasing more incentives, and begin a macabre dance of disrobing and chucking things into the stands before sauntering, shirtless, off the field and seemingly out of the stadium, is as jarring as it is sad.

No athlete could dream of his playing career ending that way. It wasn’t defiant or iconoclastic. It was sadly pathetic and continues a disturbing trend of behavior from someone who was once on a path to doing things only men like Jerry Rice had accomplished on a football field before. And one could argue that it was karma of sorts for the Bucs, who were willing to take on this object of score despite all of the allegations of sexual assault and abhorrent decisions, all in the name of chasing another Lombardi Trophy. You could say that they got what they had coming for welcoming him back after being caught using a fake vaccination card.

All of that is fair. I wouldn’t disagree.

But it wouldn’t make the specter of this fall from grace, this plummet from someone who once seemed headed for a very different sort of history, any less jolting. For this to be his final act ever in an NFL uniform, in all likelihood, is perversely somewhat fitting but it doesn’t make it any less of a cause for serious concern about Brown’s awareness and faculties and mental health. A diagnosis of some sort would not excuse any of his many mistakes, but it might further explain them.

Tom Brady seemed genuinely concerned and worried for his teammate after the game. No one seemed particularly angry, at least in part because of how at risk this individual might be. He is clearly now beyond more chances in the NFL, but one hopes he is able to get another chance or two to turn his life around and make amends with those he has wronged and to find something else to provide whatever value playing football about as well as any wide receiver ever has to get him to this point. Ideally, this is the last time we hear about Antonio Brown and erratic behavior. And hopefully some member of the Bucs organization is a part of whatever turnaround is possible for him.

Dolphins’ blowout loss deflating 

The Dolphins losing to the Titans would have been no crime.

Sure, it would have provided more evidence to those who say their seven-game winning streak was more the product of who they played than what the Dolphins had become. But playing a decent ball game and falling a little short would have kept attention on their second-half rally, and not their overall inability to get over the hump.

Then they went out and got curb-stomped. And now it’s open season. And fair to wonder that, if owner Stephen Ross is hearing some of the same scuttlebutt many connected in NFL circles are about Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh being coveted by other organizations, might Ross opt to make his pitch as well? Ross has long been a primary member of the Harbaugh fan club, and if he were to ever consider a return to the NFL, it would be hard to see Ross not wanting to be part of that mix unless he had a full and complete belief that his franchise was on a road to glory under current management.

Seven straight wins can certainly get attention. But facing a playoff-bound team for the first time in a few months and having it go as horrifically as this game with the Titans did will give you plenty of pause. How about Tua Tagovailoa going 6-for-16 for 71 yards in the first half? How about giving up just short of 200 rushing yards to a team without its top running back? How about losing 34-3 to a team that completed just 13 passes?

One has to wonder if the 2022 schedule will be as kind to Miami as it has been in the second half of this season. And one has to wonder how close the Dolphins are to joining the NFL’s elite.

More insider notes from Week 17

  • The Raiders could have given up on their season several times. They have been through an emotional ringer in their first season playing in front of fans in Las Vegas, and they bowed up again Sunday and beat a physical and confident Colts team that was on quite a roll. I’ll admit I didn’t think they had it in them, especially when their early lead quickly wilted, but they have managed to stick their heads back up every time I thought this season was about to get away from them for good. And they saved their best win of the season for Week 17, at a time when not many thought they could. Especially with the latest blow coming in all-world tight end Darren Waller ending up on IR – after losing Henry Ruggs to a homicide DUI and head coach Jon Gruden to his offensive emails – I figured they would get run over by Jonathan Taylor and the Colts. And if you had told me Derek Carr was going to throw two picks I’d have said no way. But now a path to the playoffs remains very much in front of them.
  • This season cannot end quickly enough for the Jaguars. If they really are silly enough to force this Trent Baalke thing through the duration of their coaching search you have to wonder about the Khans ever getting it right.
  • The Eagles get Miles Sanders back for the playoffs and they are gonna be a tough out. The NFC isn’t nearly as top heavy as some would have you think.
  • The Ravens had adversity, for sure, with injuries and COVID issues, but losing five in a row, and four of them by a total of five points, isn’t good enough when you sit at 8-3. The Titans and Raiders had plenty of adversity as well. This team never felt as good as its record when it did reach the top seed in the AFC — before more injuries — and the most pivotal offseason in recent Ravens history awaits, with Lamar Jackson about to count about $23M against the cap, and no extension in sight, and this team needing major upgrades on the offensive and defensive lines.
  • FedEXField is a total joke. It’s literally disgusting. Reason number 500 why Washington should be under other ownership. Raw sewage and fans falling into players coming off the field. It would be shameful, if all were capable of shame.
  • Doesn’t it feel like the Broncos are on their fifth straight year of needing to try a new quarterback?