Good as a 5-0 record looks, gratifying as it is to have the game at Arizona flexed to a 5:20 p.m. start Sunday for the national TV showcase (thanks to a coronavirus outbreak with the Raiders), and gobsmacking as it is to see a Pete Carroll-coached team lead the NFL in points per game, do the Seahawks really want to put it at risk to hire world-class headache Antonio Brown?
Russell Wilson hopes so. That, of course, is the problem.
“The reality about Antonio,” said Wilson of his friend Thursday, “is he’s one of the best players ever play this this game.”
True. A four-time All-Pro with six consecutive seasons of at least 100 catches for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown, 32 is highly unusual. In many ways. This Sports Illustrated story from 13 months ago spells out the dark side.
If Wilson stands up for Brown’s hire and he fails disruptively, then gets cashiered from his fourth team in 20 months, is the quarterback held accountable for any team backslide? Or are the Seahawks under Carroll impervious to volatile characters?
Hard to know. But a worthy subject to consider.
The Seahawks spent a fortune in 2013 to acquire WR Percy Harvin without fully understanding the depth of his psychological problems. They won a Super Bowl with him anyway — even if Harvin and fellow WR Golden Tate engaged in a punch-out at the practice before the big game. Harvin was dispatched next mid-season.
RB Marshawn Lynch was another turbulent dude. But the Seahawks traded for him and got five spectacular years. Then he stunned and angered Carroll, just as the team departed for a playoff game in Minnesota, by saying he wasn’t going, despite a week of solid practice following an injury. Four years later, coach and player patched it up sufficiently to have an an emergency encore last winter.
In 2017, Malik McDowell, 20, convinced the Seahawks that the maturity issues, which subsequently caused him to fall out of the draft’s first round, were behind him. Then he flew off an ATV and hit his head, never to play an NFL down.
Sometimes, the extraordinarily talented come with extraordinary difficulties. Rarely has that stopped Carroll. It should this time.
Brown is scheduled to come off the NFL’s suspended list Nov. 1 after a series of misdeeds. Wednesday brought national speculation that the Seahawks are front-runners for his services. After speaking in generalities to local media, Carroll, in an interview Wednesday with Sirius XM radio was more specific about his interest.
“We’re there, we’re in it and we know what’s happening,” he said. “It isn’t settled yet and we don’t know where it is going to go.”
Wilson knows where he wants it to go. He said he’s known Brown for four or five years, trained with him in Southern California and listened as Brown claimed to have seen the light.
“From the conversations I’ve had with him, he’s really been remorseful and he’s been humbled along the way,” Wilson said. “I think Antonio definitely has taken those steps. He’s had some tough moments in his life, especially as of late. I think that he’s gone through a lot of things that you wish he could take back.
“Nobody’s perfect. None of us are.”
The expectation was never perfection. But decency seems a reasonable aspiration.
Brown’s conflicts with teammates, coaches, women and parts of the rest of the world are more than mistakes. The New England Patriots released him last fall after he was accused of sexual assault by a former trainer, an episode still under investigation by the NFL. He pleaded no contest to felony battery and burglary charges from an incident with a moving-truck driver at his Florida residence, and was given two years probation and community service. The list is much longer.
Wilson was asked where he draws the line on teammate behavior, or is it a “just win baby” attitude.
“You guys know me better than that,” he said. “He obviously made some mistakes along the way. There’s been a process for that, and he’s had to deal with it. I pray for anybody, honestly, that goes through anything. That’s just me, that’s my nature personally. I never wish anything bad on anybody.”
Prayer can be helpful, but the NFL must rule on deeds, which is why he’s suspended. Beyond legal and league issues, the Seahawks have to consider whether he will be a corrosive teammate.
Brown wore out coach Mike Tomlin, QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers with his petulant self-absorption.
In Oakland, Brown missed training camp practices without explanation, had a case of frostbitten feet from a cryogenic therapy gone wrong, then refused to play because he didn’t like the league’s new helmet. After fining him more than $200,o00, the Raiders cut Brown, but not before he released an audiotape of a phone call from coach Jon Gruden asking him to return.
Who does that? Is this a good teammate?
Asked about Brown’s reputation for irresponsibility, Wilson insisted that he talked to a number of former teammates who had a different story, and that the Seahawks have a way with the truculent.
“Most of the conversations I’ve had with most of his former teammates, he worked hard every day, he came ready,” he said. “If he does play football, I think this is a great place. I think with coach Carroll, this is a place that he’ll grow a lot as a man too.”
If there is a team with the tools to salvage Brown’s career, it is probably the Seahawks. And Brown couldn’t have a better advocate than the leading candidate for the MVP award.
But there is nothing in the public record that suggests Brown is a candidate for a behavioral turnaround. Nor is there anything in Wilson’s considerable resume that includes recognition as a mental health therapist. Nor have the Seahawks shown themselves to be more than spotty in the same capacity.
Then there is the matter of introducing into an already productive receivers room an over-the-top personality who seems to have little recent experience with the concept of team first.
The public will never see any exhaustive report from a counselor on Brown’s psychological state and fitness for high-intensity work. But the Seahawks had better. Otherwise, there is no substantive football need to introduce into a so-far-successful season, already fraught with tension over covid-19 restrictions, a self-destructive figure and drama king.
Wilson is the NFL’s best quarterback. But he is very new in his internship as general manager. Not the time to throw deep.