An ugly few days between the Buccaneers and receiver Antonio Brown mercifully ended on Thursday, when the Bucs finally released Brown.
So what took them so long?
Some (many) think that they wanted to come up with a way to ensure that he won’t end up playing for a team that the Buccaneers may face in the postseason. The Buccaneers are pushing a somewhat different narrative.
The Buccaneers wanted Brown to seek “mental help and therapy,” according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. Brown didn’t want that.
With or without mental help and/or therapy, there was no reason to continue to squat on his rights. They could have encouraged him to get an evaluation or assistance even if they did on Monday the thing they said they were going to do on Sunday: kick him off the team.
While much about the situation remains unclear, it’s increasingly clear that this was building. And that the Buccaneers knew it. They knew he wanted to earn incentives that, in hindsight, they never should have added to his contract; on Thursday, G.M. Jason Licht told ESPN that Brown had asked for the production-based payments to be guaranteed. They knew he was frustrated by a lack of targets — not for the usual selfish reasons that motivate receivers at every level of the sport but because he needed targets to have a chance at hitting his incentives.
They also knew that he fought through an ankle injury in order to have a chance to earn his incentives. So when he believed he wasn’t being targeted sufficiently after taking a Toradol shot to allow him to play through pain, he got upset.
The Buccaneers apparently saw it coming. And when the fire started to burn, coach Bruce Arians didn’t defuse the situation. He squirted lighter fluid all over it, setting up a confrontation that allowed Arians to do what he very well may have wanted to do after Brown’s fake vaccination card debacle, but what quarterback Tom Brady wouldn’t have allowed. So with Brady focused on operating the offense during a game that ended up being much more of a handful than anyone had anticipated, Arians and Brown went back and forth just enough times to allow Arians to tell Brown to “get the eff out.”
This isn’t a defense of Brown. It’s an effort to be fair to the truth. The truth is that everyone bears blame on this, and that the Buccaneers quite possibly are trying to use the perception that Brown is “crazy” to obscure their own role in instigating his eventual reaction, and in potentially poisoning the well so that they won’t have to deal with #Tommy if Brown has 10 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns for the Chiefs in a Super Bowl rematch that results in the AFC team winning the game.