All of a sudden Tampa, Florida has become a destination location and possibly the hottest sports city in the country. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in the NHL. The Tampa Bay Rays made it to the MLB World Series before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. Currently, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the most popular team in the NFL since the *ahem* GOAT, Tom Brady, decided to take his talents to the Sunshine State this past March.

Since his departure from New England to Tampa Bay became official, big name players as well as veterans who USED to be big names have run to jump on the ever-growing Bucs bandwagon with the 12 license plate. As recently as last season, the only reason anyone spoke of Tampa Bay aside from fantasy stats were to bash those horrid crimson and pewter uniforms. Now, they top the marquee every football Sunday.  It started with Brady’s  ultimate weapon from New England, tight end Rob Gronkowski, coming out of retirement to put the pads back on. The signings continued with running backs Lesean McCoy and Leonard Fournette. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed a one-year deal. Linebackers Shaquil Barrett (franchised) and Jason Pierre-Paul (two-year deal) also among others sticking around waiting for rings.

Enter the newest, most high-profile name not named Brady to join the team in free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown is set to return to the field after an eight-game suspension for violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Currently in the midst of an ongoing civil lawsuit for alleged rape and sexual misconduct; Brown brings as much baggage as he does skills to the panhandle. Other teams considered him before passing after digging into his background. A good look into that background can be seen in the accompanying video below.

 

 

Brown has played for two of the best, most well-run franchises in the history of the league. New England and Pittsburgh have been models of stability and consistency in the last two decades. The Patriots have had one coach, Bill Belichick, in twenty years. They run a notoriously tight ship, have hoisted six Super Bowl trophies and have had great success taking problem players from other teams and turning them into model citizens. The Steelers have had only three coaches since 1969 and current Head Coach Mike Tomlin has been with the team since 2007. Conversely, the Raiders have been a disaster since current Head Coach Jon Gruden was traded by the then Oakland Raiders to Tampa Bay and got his only Super Bowl ring at the end of that same season, against the Raiders, in 2002. Now on his second stint with the team since returning to his former position in 2018, Gruden and the Raiders are looking to atone for the last 18 years of mistakes since the Gruden trade in the first season at their new home in Las Vegas.

Brown got the longest leash in Pittsburgh. He was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round in 2010. He became a star as a Steeler.  Eventually, his ego got too big and his teammates, coaches and management were not above Brown putting them on blast in the press and on social media. He was finally traded away to Oakland in 2019. Brown didn’t last a season in New England or Oakland. He couldn’t make it work in (arguably) the two best run organizations in the league, nor could he make it stick on a team where the inmates run the asylum like Oakland. He’s received multiple chances at redemption because on the field, he’s the best wide receiver in the game when his head is right. The problem is his head hasn’t been right in two seasons and counting. He played ONE game for the Patriots and angered the Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock  to the point where Brown was cut before he even played a regular season game! From the showing up late/unexcused to practice and meetings to allegedly assaulting women on the staff to disciplinary benchings and ‘fake’ injuries to blasting his own teammates, coaches and fans; Brown has burned every bridge he’s crossed, save for one.

The Tom Brady bridge.

Brady had started building a rapport with Brown in New England before Browns’ off-field transgressions reared their ugly head and he was unceremoniously cut from the team. In their one game together, the duo combined on four of five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.  Obviously, Brady went to bat for Brown with Bucs management and Head Coach Bruce Arians, who has also been the topic of Browns’ venom when the two were together in Pittsburgh. Since the team added Brown last week, Brown is reportedly living in Bradys’ home and according to Arians, is in great physical shape. Now wearing number 81, Brown is now practicing with the team and ready to play in his first game this Sunday as the Buccaneers host Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. This can be a pivotal game of NFC Superpowers as both teams have only lost two games on the season. The Saints are 5-2 and Buccaneers are 6-2, respectively.

Can AB be a law-abiding citizen for once in a long while; long enough to make an impact? Can he validate Bradys’ trust in him to his new team and be the once-unstoppable force he was once? Will he fall in line, come in early and stay late and be punctual? Will be again be the locker room cancer he has been over the last five years and get run out of town before his already abbreviated season is done? Brady and company already look to have found the magic as they have raced out to a 6-2 record. Is Brown the final, missing piece to carry Tampa Bay, that new sports Mecca, to a championship? To this writer, the answer is a resounding NO. The Bucs were better off without him and the dude will not grow up until everything is taken from him in the form of a jail cell. At this point, Antonio Brown is emotional napalm, unstable and ready to explode at any moment. Get your popcorn ready.

Stay tuned for the next episode of As the Bandwagon Turns….

 

The Greg One

 

 

 

 

Photo credits to Clutchpoints.com

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