I don’t think this is actually what Johnny Paycheck had in mind for his blue-collar anthem. Antonio Brown’s latest meltdown took place on a national stage as he stripped to his pants and danced his way out of Met Life stadium in the middle of the Jets-Buccaneers NFL game yesterday. No one knew quite what Brown was thinking as he peaced-out the stadium, but Bucs head coach Bruce Arians made it clear he’d had enough of Brown:
Video of Antonio Brown leaving the field after taking off his jersey and shirt and throw it into the stands. pic.twitter.com/1hwNYei5Fq
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 2, 2022
— Miller (@mmmmillah) January 2, 2022
Thoughts on AB? pic.twitter.com/F4MmzQUzBl
— Sports by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Sports) January 2, 2022
At first, people assumed that Arians had benched Brown and that Brown overreacted to it. Later, the Tampa Bay Times reported the opposite happened — Arians wanted Brown to go into the game, and Brown refused. Arians was already down one star receiver in Chris Godwin and Brady needed reliable targets in a game that the Bucs were losing at the time. An argument ensued, during which Arians apparently told Brown to “get out,” and Brown decided to pull his stunt:
Midway through the third quarter Sunday, with the Bucs trailing the Jets by two touchdowns, Antonio Brown quit on his team.
Brown, who had three catches for 26 yards, refused to go back into the game when asked to by coach Bruce Arians, saying his ankle was sore.
He then took off his jersey and shoulder pads on the bench as fellow receiver Mike Evans attempted to stop him. He tore off his undershirt and gloves, and threw them to the crowd. Flashing a peace-out sign, Brown ran toward the tunnel at MetLife Stadium and was briefly stopped by security guards who thought he was a fan.
It could be the last image of Brown’s turbulent NFL career.
We’ll get back to that point in a minute. Brown had all of the talent and potential to become a Hall of Famer and break lots of records. He may have set a record in an entirely different industry, however. Brown became the first stripper to refuse a million-dollar tip by quitting so close to achieving the incentive goals in his contract (via Twitchy):
Antonio Brown needed:
8 more catches to unlock a $333,333 bonus.
He also needed 55 receiving yards to unlock another $333,333 bonus.
He also needed just 1 receiving TD to unlock another $333,333 bonus.
This was a costly outburst.
— Spotrac (@spotrac) January 2, 2022
In one sense, Arians was trying to put cash in Brown’s pocket by getting him on the field. Brown had five-plus quarters left in the season to get eight more catches from the GOAT Tom Brady, who might still be the greatest QB in the league for this season alone as well. Fifty-five yards would have been child’s play for a Brady-Brown combo, and the pair could have racked up a TD almost at will.
That dance cost Brown one million dollars, in opportunity cost alone. It will likely cost him his paycheck for the next game, too. He signed a one-year, $3.1 million contract in April, which comes up to $182,350-plus per game. That wasn’t the kind of paycheck that Paycheck wanted to shove, needless to say.
Brady had badgered both Bill Belichick in New England and the Bucs front office to sign Brown over the last three seasons. It’s now blown up in his face twice, and yet Brady’s still trying to be supportive of Brown:
“That’s obviously a difficult situation,” quarterback Tom Brady, highly influential in the team’s signing of Brown more than 13 months ago, said afterward.
“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 at his best, and unfortunately it won’t be with our team.”
This was how AB repaid that sentiment:
Brown had a parting shot on Instagram with a picture of himself holding a ball aloft after a reception Sunday. It read: “ab Big MAD (Making a Difference). Thanks for the opportunity.”
All due respect to Brady, but championing Brown calls his judgment into question, too. Brown clearly has some mental issues going on now and the league needs to do what it can to get him some help, but he’s always been a self-obsessed head case even apart from that. That was clear during his tenure with the Steelers and especially in the way he blew up that relationship. His off-field legal troubles were big red flags that Brady and the league ignored. They can’t be ignored any longer; any team that signs Brown would have to have its own collective head examined for allowing him into their locker-room mix, no matter how talented he might be.
Finally, while no one’s ever seen a professional athlete do this in real life, it’s not entirely original to Brown. As my pal Peter Grandich pointed out on Twitter, Michael Ontkean did it first over forty years ago, and with more style. Ontkean didn’t quit either, for that matter.