Background: EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 02: Antonio Brown #81 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up prior to the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on January 02, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey
As a long-time Cardinals’ fan, I immediately intuited what happened to Bucs’ WR Antonio Brown this past Sunday in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
You see —- when things started unraveling for Bruce Arians in Arizona, there was another situation of what a Brown could do for BA. When John “Smoke” Brown was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, the team doctors administered accommodations for Brown, one of which was to limit the number and frequency of full speed reps he should be expected to perform in practice.
Apparently, Bruce Arians didn’t get the memo from the team doctors —- or —- Arians deliberately chose to prescribe his own treatments for John Brown.
As we know, John Brown’s production dropped significantly while he was being treated for his disease —- while at the same time Brown’s relationship with Bruce Arians became strained to the point of becoming untenable.
John Brown left Arizona feeling betrayed by his own head coach.
It’s no secret that Bruce Arians has a long history of putting his players in jeopardy —- one of the main reasons why he was let go by the Pittsburgh Steelers as their OC, was the concern for QB Ben Roethlisberger’s longevity in Arians’ “no risk it, no biscuit” style of offense.
As Cardinals’ fans, we sat and watched Arians dial up some big numbers offensively, but those numbers often came at a pyrrhic cost, primarily because more often than not, Arians’ QBs were sitting ducks in the pocket in zero protections and were expected to hang in there and deliver passes in the epicenter of a tornado.
This is one of the reasons why in Arians’ first playoff season with the Cardinals, having by then lost Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to season-ending injuries, the team was forced to play the Carolina Panthers with Ryan Lindley at QB —- a player whom Arians had previously cut and then, out of desperation, claimed off of the Chargers’ practice squad.
To Carson Palmer’s credit, he kept rehabbing injury after injury in the hopes that he could take the Cardinals to their second Super Bowl. And he dang near did in 2015. But, the wear and tear of playing QB in Arians’ system was taking its perilous toll.
You might recall that late in the 2015 “All or Nothing” season, Palmer smashed his index finger on a helmet while once again hanging in a pocket where, as Ron Wolfley would say, the “fur was flying.”
With the #2 seed in the NFC wrapped up (which back then earned the team a bye week), in the last game of the regular season versus the Seahaws, Arians chose to start Carson Palmer, a game in which the then 13-2 Cardinals were beaten to a pulp by a Seahawks team looking to avenge their earlier home loss to the Cardinals, one that helped cost them their then annual claim of the NFC West title.
Yes, the Cardinals had a chance to claim the #1 seed, in the highly improbable case that the Panthers were to lose (which they did not) —- but by then the Cardinals were a banged up team, they had lost their defensive MVP, Tyrann Mathieu to a freak ACL tears late in a blowout win over the Eagles, where it had made no sense whatsoever to have Matthieu and any other key starter on the field.
To Carson Palmer’s credit, he played a good game versus the Packers at home in the divisional round, winning the game in OT (which likely would have never happened if Arians hadn’t called off James Bettcher’s prevent defense for Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary) on the legendary “Hail Larry” miracle.
But, in the NFC Championship game, Palmer had a very tough time handling the Panthers’ fierce pass rush, plus their brilliant speed at linebacker and thus Palmer turned the ball over multiple times. In truth, Palmer, as Bruce Springsteen would say, “looked like a dog that’s been beat too much.”
One year later, Carson Palmer’s excellent career came to an unceremonious and violent end in London when he broke his arm trying to deliver a pass versus a fired up Rams’ team that was still smarting over Bruce Arians’ disparagement of them on national TV as a perennial “8-8 team at best.”
Coincidentally, in both seasons where Carson Palmer was lost to a season-ending injury, so was Drew Stanton.
Not only did Arians trash talk the Rams, toward the end of his tenure in Arizona, he was trash talking his own players to the media.
Arians has always had a notorious reputation for throwing caution to wind, not only with regard to physical and mental health and safety of his own players, but with regard to his own self-destructive behavior. While battling through an assortment of serious health issues while in Arizona, right to the bitter end, Arians clung to his own mantra of “win or lose, we booze.”
Thus, by the end of Palmer’s final season, Arians was retiring (either voluntarily or by Michael Bidwill’s strong urging —- take your pick) and the Cardinals as an organization were left in shambles without a QB or a clear direction moving forward.
So, yeah, it was kind of obvious what happened with Antonio Brown, a player whom Arians never wanted to sign in the first place, but one who was passionately coveted by Tom Brady.
By all accounts, Brown was a model citizen last year during the Bucs’ Super Bowl run and was made one of Brady’s focal points in their high scoring offense, particularly after Arians handed the keys to the offense over to Brady following their bye week —- after which the then 7-5 Bucs would not lose another game.
But even then, Arians had the audacity to call out Bill Belichick when he boasted: “[Brady’s] got the air of confidence that permeates through our team every day. I allow him to be himself. Like, New England didn’t allow him to coach. I allow him to coach. I just sit back sometimes and watch.”
And speaking of audacity, after the Jets game last Sunday, after Arians confirmed that Antonio Brown “is no longer a Buc”, he claimed he had no knowledge of Brown’s injury or understanding as to why Brown ripped his uniform off and left —- and —- then, worst of all, Arians had the utter gall to place the emphasis for Brown’s precipitous actions on his history of mental health issues.
You just knew Antonio Brown had been provoked —- didn’t you?
And you just knew who did the provoking —- didn’t you?
Well, finally Antonio Brown provided his version of the events:
A lengthy statement from Antonio Brown, announcing he’s having ankle surgery and giving his side of Sunday: pic.twitter.com/pPl0X5HQsx— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 6, 2022
Not only do i believe that Antonio Brown is telling the truth, I think that this is preciisely why Tom Brady said this ambiguous statement after the game with regard to his disenfranchised teammate:
“Yeah, I mean that’s obviously a difficult situation, and I think we all want him to — I think everybody should hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it. We all love him, we care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best, and unfortunately it won’t be with our team. We have a lot of friendships that will last and again I think the most important thing about football are the relationships with your friends and your teammates and they go beyond the field. I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”
Hmmm...”difficult situation”...”everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening”...”unfortunately it (being at his best) won’t be with our team.”
The “difficult situation” is Bruce Arians’ treatment of the player and the man.
If you believe Antonio Brown, he did everything he could to try to play in this game, despite his injury. He took the painkiller shot from the team doctor. He tried to suck it up and play. But, the ankle was caving on him. Anyone who has had a bad ankle injury knows what it feels like when your ankle is caving.
There is no denying that Antonio Brown has been battling his inner demons for many years now. But, to attribute this situation to Brown’s history of mental health issues is a cop out and a coverup.
The NFLPA and the NFL should do a full investigation into this matter. In the old days coaches could bully their injured players to stay on the field. Thankfully, this is not the case anymore —- and should never be the case —- at any level from Pee Wee, to Pop Warner, to high school, to college and the pros.
You know who would fight for Antonio Brown’s situation more than anyone else?
John Madden, who was a keynote member of the NFL’s health and safety committee until the day he passed.
Therefore, in light of what transpired in East Rutherford last Sunday, if you believe Antonio Brown, it’s Bruce Arians who deserves to harbor the onus of the blame for this debacle and the repercussions for his egregious breech of coach/player decorum.