Before we get into the Oakland Raiders management and why I believe they mishandled the Antonio Brown situation, let’s get one thing out of the way.
This, in no way absolves Brown of his role. Though many want this to be a black and white, one side is wrong, one side is right issue, it’s not. It’s more complicated than that and discussion on the topic requires nuance.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the Raiders role. We all know about what Antonio Brown has done, but Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden aren’t free of blame.
The fact of the matter is, the Raiders knew who they were trading for. We ALL saw how Brown handled himself on the way out of Pittsburgh.
Yes, he did it on purpose to get out of town.
No, that doesn’t mean you should assume he won’t pull other antics.
When trading a for a guy like Brown, you have to have a game plan. And unfortunately, the Raiders either didn’t have a game plan or it was a bad one.
With Brown, they needed to take one approach or another. Either be hard asses from the get go or allow him to get away with his antics because he’s worth it.
The Raiders opted for an awkward and ultimately unsuccessful mixture of the two.
Raiders Treat Antonio Brown with Kid Gloves
Antonio Brown first started causing problems at OTAs in May. It’s been reported he got into arguments with coaches and stormed off the field over his helmet. He also tried to paint his helmet and sneak it past Raiders coaches.
The Raiders opted not to do anything about this, choosing the latter tactic of writing it off because, well, it’s Antonio Brown and he’s a great football player.
And it didn’t stop there. The Raiders reported to training camp on July 26. From that date until the close of training camp on August 19, Brown was scarcely seen. He missed far and away the majority of training camp because of his helmet complaints.
And the Raiders allowed it to happen.
The Switch UP
For all of camp, they put of with Brown’s antics. Until one day before they broke camp.
On August 18, Mike Mayock gave his now infamous “all in or all out” speech. It was later revealed (by Antonio Brown) that he was fined for missing practice that day as well.
Then, on August 22 Antonio Brown missed the walk through for the Raiders vs. Packers preseason game in Canada. The Raiders eventually fined him for that.
Yes. After months of letting Brown get away with what he wanted to, they fined him for missing the walkthrough to a preseason game where he would not be playing and where the Raiders opted to leave a significant number of players in Oakland because they viewed the game as a joke.
The Blow Up
When Brown received a letter notifying him of the fine for missing the Packers walk through, he posted it on Instagram and expressed his displeasure.
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) September 4, 2019
The next day, it was reported that there was a confrontation between Mayock and Brown at practice. And that’s how we find ourselves where we are, with the Raiders contemplating suspension and possibly even trying to void Antonio Brown’s contract.
Plenty of Blame to Go Around
Brown deserves his fair share of blame, obviously. But that doesn’t absolve the Raiders of blame as well. They knew they were dealing with a highly combustible personality.
Choosing to allow that personality all kinds of leeway then suddenly switch up how you handle him and get harsh is a flawed tactic. Anyone could have seen Brown blowing up over the sudden change in treatment.
And no, I don’t buy the whole argument that Mayock HAD to fine him to send a message to the other players.
The reality is, stars get better treatment. Period. This is a fact. Everyone in every NFL locker room is aware of that fact.
There isn’t a single player on the Raiders who is good enough to justify reacting to this situation.
This is a team full of guys who should be focused solely on their own improvement. If any of them are focused on Antonio Brown or how the team is handling him, that’s a player who the Raiders might want to consider cutting ties with because they are not focused enough on the task at hand.
The Raiders could have done as other teams have, and allowed AB to get away with missing camp because he’s a great player and at the end of the day it would be worth it.
Or the Raiders could have laid down a hard line from the start. And maybe Brown blows up in response to that, but at least the blow up happens in May and not mere days before the season opener.
But the last thing the Raiders should have done was exactly what they did.