Former Patriots Exec.: ‘Brown the player will shine as long as Brown the person doesn’t sabotage his own career’

Andy Hart
September 09, 2019 - 12:38 pm
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Antonio Brown’s arrival in New England is not only the talk of Patriot Nation, but the NFL world as a whole.

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Everyone has an opinion on the All-Pro temper-tantruming his way out of Oakland and landing with the defending Super Bowl champions.

Just as many people seem to have an opinion as to how Brown will fit in Foxborough. Is he too much of a reclamation project and problem child for even Bill Belichick to harness?

Former Patriots assistant to the coaching staff (2014-16) Michael Lombardi, whose son Mick is currently New England’s assistant quarterback’s coach, wrote a piece on The Athletic detailing exactly how he thinks his longtime friend and former boss will go about handling Brown.

“When dealing with Brown off the field someone needs to be strong, decisive and consistent. Enter Bill Belichick, the Patriots head coach,” Lombardi writes for The Athletic. “Belichick has no problem coaching talented, high-strung players dating back to his time with the New York Giants, where he dealt with Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. He will lay out a comprehensive team plan for Brown on what he expects from the wide receiver. Belichick won’t sugarcoat the conversation; he will be brutally direct, always putting the team first and making sure Brown understands that no one is bigger than the team. Not Brown, not Brady not Belichick himself.”

And despite the Patriots passing attack cruising to a 33-3 opening night victory over the Steelers, Lombardi believes Brown will fit on the field and fill a void in the New England offense.

“On the field Brown gives the Patriots the best receiver they have had since Moss,” Lombardi writes. “Brady wants to throw the ball in the middle of the field, and when the Patriots had tight end Rob Gronkowski to play alongside slot receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White, Brady had three options. Before Brown arrived, Brady had just two. Now, Brown essentially will replace Gronk in the passing game and allow Brady to control the middle passing game while still having Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett on the outside. Adding Brown will allow Brady to control the game at the line of scrimmage. Brown will not come back to the huddle demanding the ball because Brady won’t tolerate that behavior. The Patriot huddle may have great offensive stars, but no one is bigger than the team. With Super Bowl MVP Edelman in the huddle, Brown will have to adapt his game and not be the center of attention. Can he handle this? Does he have a choice? If Brown fails to comply, his career will be in serious doubt.”

Lombardi, who has a vast history of NFL experience including working for Belichick’s staff with the Browns in the early 1990s as well as more recent stops in top front office jobs in Oakland and Cleveland, seems to believe that Belichick is very much up to the task as he takes Brown on his team.

“In the end will this work? My sense is yes, in part because I know “fear” always does the work of reason,” Lombardi explains. “After all that happened in Oakland, Brown should be fearful. Players who are fearful their career might be in danger are more open to change.

“Brown the player will shine as long as Brown the person doesn’t sabotage his own career,” Lombardi concluded.

Related: Patriots vs. Steelers thumbs up, thumbs down: James White, Phillip Dorsett pace offense