Amidst this offseason of pandemic, full of hope that there will actually be a 2020 NFL season, Texans head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien has made two things abundantly clear — the Texans' roster is currently still incomplete, and secondly, any move they make will be in the best interest of the team. You can take that latter facet to also mean that winning football games is the primary goal.
Those specific observations and objectives met at an interesting spot late last week, right in front of an odd rumor mill, a rumor mill fueled by one four word tweet from former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson (a/k/a Chad Ochocinco)....
AB to the Texans ????????— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) July 3, 2020
This got a collective "Wait... WHAT????" After all, the marriage of Antonio Brown would mean that the Texans, draped in their mantra of "tough, smart, dependable," would be signing one of this biggest lunatics (not to mention, a player possibly facing a conduct suspension for alleged sexual misconduct, if and when he returns to football) the league has seen in the last decade or so.
That said, he is also one of the best wide receivers to ever put on a uniform, with four first team All-Pro seasons and an All-Decade accolade on his resume. I'm assuming that Deshaun Watson was thinking of THAT Antonio Brown, when he tweeted this shortly after Johnson's proclamation on Thursday:
The "next level game changer" aspect of Brown was certainly the Antonio Brown that I had in mind, when I volunteered to end my vacation this week and get back on the radio if he signed with the Texans:
(NOTE: My wife's approval of that promise may or may not have been fabricated.)
The bottom line is this — there's a lot we can agree upon when it comes to Antonio Brown. He is undoubtedly a dynamic football player (I'm assuming that his having played sparsely since 2018 has not affected his ability to play, period). He is also a whack job, and probably a pretty miserable human being. When Brown began working out this offseason with random quarterbacks around the league, including Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson, I thought the Texans would be the third to last team most likely to sign him, ahead of only the Steelers and Raiders, two teams Brown royally screwed over. Maybe I was wrong!
Some more thoughts on this very intriguing (and I still think, unlikely) possibility for the Texans:
Signing Brown would undoubtedly indicate a new day with Texans management and ownership
Brown's rap sheet over the last two years may deserve its own post, if this thing picks up legs. His peccadilloes have varied from alleged, sexual criminal activity to throwing furniture off the balcony at his condo to missing the start of training camp with Oakland because he had freezer burn on the bottom of his feet from a cryotherapy mishap. In other words, he embodies everything that is NOT, as Matt Schaub once coined it, "Texans worthy." If there was one thing the Texans ALWAYS stood for on the late Bob McNair's watch, it was off field integrity and good citizenship. Antonio Brown is, well, just not that. Not that AT ALL. On the Bill O'Brien "tough, smart, dependable" scale, he might be the first player ever with a deeply negative score in dependability.
Does Tom Brady's opinion matter?
But man, can Brown play football, and if you're trying to win, AND you're under pressure to prove that your model of team building works, then you kick tires on Brown, I suppose. So if O'Brien and EVP of Football Operations Jack Easterby want to get a gauge on exactly what Brown is all about, they might go talk to the former quarterback of the NFL team they both worked for, prior to coming to Houston. Reportedly, Tom Brady, the greatest player of all time and someone for whom O'Brien and Easterby have great respect, liked playing with Brown for the brief time that the mercurial wide receiver was a New England Patriot. Brady even let Brown stay at his house after Brown signed in New England. In fact, many folks assumed that when Brady signed with Tampa Bay, Brown might follow, but Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians put the kibosh on that. Anyway, if Brady's opinion matters at all, maybe there is some sway with O'Brien there.
What would this say about DeAndre Hopkins?
The reasons why DeAndre Hopkins is no longer a Houston Texan have been widely discussed. O'Brien claims the whole thing was based on Hopkins' wanting a new contract, and O'Brien's stance that the Texans can only pay so many elite players, especially once Deshaun Watson gets his new deal. Others have speculated that Hopkins' practice habits or some nebulous personality clash between player and coach may have been the reason. Either way, the signing of a disruptive locker room force like Brown would look awfully strange, in light of O'Brien's shipping Hopkins to Arizona for essentially a second round pick.
The Golden Rule of Deshaun Watson applies here
I've said for the last two seasons that the Texans need to run their franchise by the Golden Rule of Deshaun Watson — in other words, whatever decisions are made need to be made after asking themselves "Is this in the best interest of Deshaun Watson?" He is the most important employee in the building over at NRG Stadium. So would signing Antonio Brown be in the best interest of Deshaun Watson? On the field, assuming Brown makes it to the regular season, it would be.... holy crap.... it would be AMAZING. Brown, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills (although a Brown signing might mean a Stills trade is in the works). That would be a scary batch of speed right there. As for Brown's effect behind the scenes, which is the side of Brown that requires far more scrutiny in bringing him in, honestly this is where some of Watson's leadership skills and some of Easterby's "character coaching" background are supposed to provide you with an edge, the latitude to bring in some questionable personalities with the idea that Watson and Easterby can get the better side of that person to shine through.
On my way out, I leave you with an Antonio Brown highlight video, for your perusal.....
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