Here in the greater Foxboro/Bill Belichick region of the country, boredom never seems to last for any stretch longer than, say, 12 hours. Whether it’s a shocking roster move, an unforgettable football game, an unsuspected appearance in the news, or any other of the 9 million various events that take place in the general orbit of Gillette Stadium, we are never short on captivating storylines, now are we?
To prove that, we could look at any sequence of events that has played out since Mo Lewis rocked Drew Bledsoe along the sideline one fateful late-September afternoon in 2001. We could analyze a variety of swings over the past 20 years.
In a span of just two days, the Patriots experienced and celebrated more dramatic developments than a midday soap opera.
–After the world marveled at the rapid unraveling of Antonio Brown, Belichick simultaneously shocked everybody and nobody by wasting zero time in signing the all-world wide receiver. Where most NFL teams seek to avoid “DISTRACTIONS” or circus sideshows, Belichick rushed to welcome it all into his building and his program.
–For the sixth time since 2002, Gillette Stadium played host to a banner unveiling celebration. This year’s party featured the standard fanfare and the welcoming of Patriots legends of the distant and recent past, as the Patriots officially docked their supertanker alongside the Steelers as the only NFL teams with six Super Bowl victories to their name. The difference, of course, is that the Steelers won their championships between 1974 and 2008. The Patriots’ titles were won between 2001 and 2018.
–The Patriots then went out and reminded the football world that, yes, unfortunately, they’re still the Patriots. Despite playing nothing close to a perfect game, they rolled right over those Steelers 33-3. The immortal Tom Brady threw for 341 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Julian Edelman caught passes, threw a pass and picked up a first down on the ground. As he shared on Instagram over the weekend, the America’s Worst Nightmare Tour is off to a rousing start.
Not that it was needed, but the 48 hours or so of pure mayhem was just the latest reminder that life in Foxboro is not like life in most NFL locales.
At the same time, you’d never know it based on the postgame press conference of the 67-year-old Bill Belichick.
Belichick was, as expected, the same stoic presence at the podium on Sunday night as he’s always been. Being that the Brown move is not yet “official” (in the sense that Belichick never gave the green light to “officially” announce it), the Patriots’ mastermind had little to say about the addition of the most-discussed lightning rod in the NFL.
“Yeah, no,” Belichick said when asked to comment on the addition of Brown. “I’ll talk about the game and the players that are on our team. I thought they did a great job tonight.”
When asked a few minutes later by a different reporter to comment on the transaction, Bill’s response was brief.
Brady, though, finally opened the floodgates when it came to talking about the controversial addition of Brown, who forced his way off the Steelers last winter and forced his way off the Raiders this summer.
“I think everybody’s excited to add great players. It helps everybody when you have great players that are sharing the burden of a tough football season. I think, like anything else, whether it was Josh last year or Phillip when he got here a few years ago late, and then this year Antonio, how much can you learn and process and get in here? And we’re all going to work hard and try to get up to speed as fast as possible,” Brady said after career victory No. 238 (regular and postseason combined). “We’re all excited to have him. All I could say is we’re just going to work as hard as we possibly can to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Prior to the game, news leaked of Brady being “one million percent in” on the acquisition, to the point where he’s willing to bunk up with Brown in Brookline.
“That was a personal conversation with RKK,” Brady said of his conversation with owner Robert Kraft. “I guess I gotta reevaluate … I gotta tell him.”
When asked how he will help Brown assimilate quickly, Brady chose to look at his current situation as a quarterback’s dream.
“Antonio’s had a lot of production, Demaryius [Thomas] has had a lot of production, Julian’s had a lot of production, Josh [Gordon] has had a lot of production, Phillip [Dorsett] had a great game tonight. So, the point is we’ve got a lot of players that are talented and we’ve just got to figure out how to make it all work,” Brady said. “We’re going to work hard. It’s a long year. It’s the beginning of a long marathon and the NFL’s very competitive and it’s going to be a great challenge, but I think we’re all looking forward to it.”
The Patriots are certainly looking forward to it. Those in this great nation who would prefer to see the Patriots stop winning football games might not be.
And perhaps the greatest development of all is that the most recent chapter of his ever-captivating tale is just beginning. Brown still has to, you know, actually show up to work. Perhaps he kept the phone number of that Napa Valley hot air balloon.
There will also be your standard NFL fare, as the defending champs seek to be the first repeat NFL champions since … the Patriots of 2003 and 2004. There will be injuries, adversity, incessant rumors and speculation, and perhaps even a so-called exposé from a national publication or two to really squirt some lime juice into everybody’s wide-open peepers, all of which will remain fixed squarely on the goings-on of this football team from now until February.
Along the way, we’ll all bear witness to countless surges and downturns. Some will be forgotten in a day’s time, others will be remembered forever. Some might even get catchy nicknames, like the Snow Bowl and/or The Tuck Rule Game, The Malcolm Butler Play, Malcolm Butler Not Playing, “28-3,” “16-0,” “18-1,” The Miami Miracle, Fourth-and-2, the Urlacher juke, Edelman-to-Amendola, The Ty Law Game, or any of the dozens of moments that have been etched in NFL history since Brady and Belichick relocated their lives to Norfolk County at the turn of the 21st century.
We don’t know and can’t know what will come next, aside from two inescapable truths. It will be worth watching, and we’ll never see it coming.
All Patriots fans should be thankful for all of this. And whether they recognize it or not, the haters should too.
FOXSBOROUGH — At least, thats what the destination reads on Antonio Browns Instagram feed, where a caricatured vision of Bill Belichick is driving the bus to the wide receivers next home in the National Football League.
Call it a rushed inaccuracy by Browns social media team, if you will, a harried post in the midst of a wild Saturday afternoon.
Or perhaps it was merely the first blunder in a transaction that is destined for nothing but failure.
In a move that nobody, expect for everybody, saw coming, in the hours after being released by the Oakland Raiders, Antonio Brown, arguably the most dominant pass-catcher in the NFL, inked a one-year, $15 million deal with the New England Patriots, including a $9 million signing bonus and $10 million guaranteed.
This marriage was inevitable. Either from the moment Browns dispute with Oakland general manager Mike Mayock last week led to his suspension-not-suspension. Or, depending on how you like your conspiracy theories cooked, the process began sometime last season when Brown pushed his jackass act to 11 while still with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One way or another, Brown was going to find his way to the New England Patriots. Theres no collusion in being a selfish pinhole.
The circus act is coming to Foxsborough, the same one Patriots fans derided and rolled their eyes at from afar in the past. Frostbitten feet? Hot air balloons? Refusing to wear his helmet? All before Week 1 of the preseason? Yeah, good luck with that, Raiders. Idiots.
But at least, it seems, Browns arrival here isnt being greeted with a sudden, and immediate, reversal of attitude. In the midst of the deserved smugness that comes on the eve of raising a sixth Super Bowl banner, there seems to be a wait-and-see mantra from most Patriot fans, acutely aware of just how badly this can all go, knowing that the moment it does, Bill Belichick will put an end to the experiment.
Its not like Brown was found on the scrap heap like a handful of other Belichick projects. Randy Moss and Corey Dillion were additions purchased on the decline. Albert Haynesworth was a gamble on par with hitting on 21. Chad Johnson/Ochocinco was a Hail Mary that turned out to be a a season of penance for the yakker, who seemingly had a firmer understanding of anything besides the Patriots playbook.
But in Antonio Brown, Belichick and Tom Brady are receiving a different creature, a wide receiver in his prime who would be an attractive purchase for most everybody in the league. Even in the midst of his disgruntled season with the Steelers in 2018, Brown managed to catch 15 touchdowns to go along with 1,297 yards. Mind you, the year before he became a Patriot, Moss had 553 yards receiving and a whopping three touchdowns. Dillon ran for 541 yards and two touchdowns in his final season with the Cincinnati Bengals. No, this move isnt exactly in the same mold.
Add Brown to a receiving mix that already includes Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryrius Thomas, and Phillip Dorsett, and the Patriots depth chart has gone from a springtime drought to a September bloom. The visions of Brady and friends dominating opponents by consistently airing it out is a salivating thought for Patriots fans, even as the soccer moms among us worry about how running up the score sends the wrong message to the children.
Not like the entire Brown saga hasnt done that already. In order to get out of NFL purgatory (quite literally, with the eventually Las Vegas-bound Raiders), Brown acted like a rancid toddler until he got what he wanted. Months after the Steelers rebuffed the Patriots reported interest in making a trade for Brown, the receiver orchestrated his escape on his own. Maybe New England always was his intending landing spot. He certainly never intended to play even one series for Jon Gruden in Oakland.
Its a gamble, probably more so for Brown than it is Belichick. Much like Moss, three years into his tenure here, when he no longer could carry the Earth on his shoulders, the head coach knew when to send the problem away. If Brown proves to become a distraction that even he, the same head coach who has managed excellence in the midst of Spygate, Deflategate, and Aaron Hernandez, then hell end things swiftly. What will it cost him? The Patriots will probably win the Super Bowl with Antonio Brown. Theyll also probably win it without him. Whatever, man.
Thirty-one other teams cant make such a claim, or at least enough of one to make the excuse that Brown and his antics are a good idea. But even a talent as dominant as Brown has a shelf life, and his could be collecting some dust even as he signs a deal with his new team. If Brown cant act like an adult for the Patriots, enough that it spells a divorce before seasons end, then where else is there? Jerry Jones would probably chase after him with some vigor, but beyond that, Browns welcome elsewhere would be DOA.
In New England? Anyone who hasnt already done an ingenuous 180 on Brown might only be waiting until his first appearance in a Patriots uniform, perhaps as early as Week 2 in Miami. The last time the Patriots played the Dolphins there, they were the victim of a last-second miracle. As the 2019 season gets ready to begin, they benefited from a different sort of surprise, delivering them one of the leagues most commanding — and belittled — players right into laps already sagging from the weight of their jewelry.