Whatever criticism that has arisen from the Raiders’ agreed-upon trade to get Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers has centered on the wide receiver’s unpredictable behavior.
Brown left the Steelers last season with the playoffs on the line in Week 17 and reportedly had issues with quarterback Ben Roeethlisberger as well as occasional missed meetings.
And here come the Raiders and coach Jon Gruden, throwing an extra $30 million guaranteed into the pot after getting Brown for a mere pittance of third- and fifth-round draft picks.
Surely if the Steelers were giving Brown away at that price, and also absorbing a $21 million cap hit in terms of dead money, the relationship between team and player had become horribly fractured.
With that as a backdrop, a sampling of what former Raiders Charles Woodson, Tim Brown, Rich Gannon and Randy Moss think of the deal that brought the mercurial 31-year-old wide receiver to the Raiders:
Woodson: “Jon Gruden just wants you to come to work, work hard and produce on Sundays. He’s not really too much worried about babysitting or holding somebody’s hand. I think he’ll respect Antonio Brown as a grown man. It’s about Gruden sitting down with Antonio in his office, talking him about what he expects, telling him things he won’t tolerate, and putting that on the table immediately so they understand each other.”
Rich Gannon believes Jon Gruden can get the most out of Antonio Brown. Bay Area News Group archive
Gannon: “Jon cut his teeth in the NFL as a wide receivers coach. He worked with Sterling Sharpe, he had Andre Rison and Jerry Rice and Tim Brown and James Jett and Jerry Porter. All different guys. In Tampa Bay, he had Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell. Jon loves passionate guys. He will sit down with him and say, `Look, I’ll get you 1,500 yards and 120 balls, but here’s what I need you to do for me.’ ”
Brown: “You have to understand who Jon Gruden is. He thinks he can work with everybody and he can find a way to make anybody into a better player. As far as attitudes and all that stuff, he loves it. He’d always say to us, I can have one Dennis Rodman on my team, and what he meant is a guy that’s probably not going to do everything the same way the team does it, but you know he’s going to get you 19, 20 rebounds every time he steps on the court.”
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Moss: “(In) the era of social media, how it all played out, there was a lot of finger-pointing at Antonio Brown . . . there were a lot of different avenues he went down that we’re not used to. I talked to him in the last 48 hours, he was talking positive. I think a lot of nerves are settled. He had uncertainty over the last couple of months. He has a team now where he can just settle down, get to work and he and Derek Carr can go work some magic.”
Gannon: “I will say this about Antonio Brown — he’s very volatile. The sideline blowup he had a couple of years ago when Todd Haley was the play-caller, he went ballistic . . . he’s an emotional guy. He’s used to being on a winning team, putting up big numbers, going to the playoffs. If success doesn’t come right away, how is Antonio Brown going to handle that?”
Brown: “It all depends on what happens, right? If he comes in and doesn’t go to the Pro Bowl and do all these spectacular things people are going to be talking about the trade. But I think Jon feels this is a big get for him because it shows people still want to come play for the Raiders.”
Charles Woodson thinks Antonio Brown is a good fit for the Raiders’ offense. Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group
Woodson: “I don’t think people are going to get over the fact that they let (Khalil) Mack go. Watching the way he dominated games, there will still be a sore spot for losing Mack, and Amari (Cooper) as well. But if you get rid of talented players, then you’ve got to bring somebody that can replace ’em. Antonio Brown can ease a lot of pain. Now you’ve got to get one or two players to help ease the pain of losing Mack.”
Gannon: “Jon Gruden used to have a whole side of the play sheet with a Tim Brown section and a Jerry Rice section. We’d do things formationally, with bunch sets and motions and things to get them off press coverage and get loose . . . I’ll bet you Jon is sitting in his office in Alameda and drawing up plays and concepts for Antonio Brown. He’s looking at all the cuts they did in Pittsburgh and saying, `We can do that.’ He’ll have a whole package especially for Antonio Brown.”
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Woodson: “He’s a guy Gruden is going to put in multiple positions. He can put him in the backfield, motion him out of the backfield, motion him along the line of scrimmage, put him in stacks. You can put him anywhere. He’s not just going to be an `X’ receiver, not just going to be a `Z’ receiver. Gruden will have some fun dialing up things to throw defenses off with a guy like Antonio on his team.”
Brown: “The Raiders had to do something, they had to get a playmaker in there . . . to be able to get a veteran, an established guy that’s probably No. 1 or No. 2 in all the categories, was big. I had a chance to talk to him before the deal went down. He’s hungry and ready to come out and prove to people he still wants to play great football.”
Moss: “If you are an elite player in the NFL, then I think yes, this is the approach you can take out of Antonio Brown’s book. If you’re a guy just waiting to get a little contract, just to remain on the team, don’t take Antonio Brown’s approach because you’ll find yourself at home. This approach is not for everyone, but’s an aggressive approach only for the elite.”
Woodson’s comments were from a phone interview. Brown and Rice were from interviews on SiriusXM NFL radio and Moss spoke with ESPN.
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