Antonio Brown, Jon Gruden Hookup Gives Raiders Ego Boost

The union between Jon Gruden and Antonio Brown is a tale of two, outspoken, game changers with an eye on a Super Bowl.

They called Jon Gruden behind the times, washed up, crazy, egomaniacal, overpaid and incapable as the Raiders stumbled to a 4-12 record in 2018.

Those same folks called Antonio Brown a locker room cancer, a selfish primadonna and a bad character guy as Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs and Brown failed to play in the final game of the season.

Today, they are calling Gruden a go-getter as the Oakland Raiders acquired a wide receiver that has been compared to the great Jerry Rice, in exchange for a 3rd and 5th round draft pick in 2019.

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Brown is now considered a “trailblazer,” in the words of former NFL player and radio host Bart Scott.

“The fact that AB was able to call his own shots makes him a trailblazer now, ” Scott said on ESPN’s “Get Up” show. “Now you’re going to see other guys try to emulate this. He was able to get everything he wanted and that wasn’t even the (Gangster) move. The G-move was when they tried to trade him to Buffalo and he said no way.”

Brown will begin his 2019 season as the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. If you factor in his extension that he got last year which has $38.925 million left over the next three years and add on the new money he got, then his new contract is now worth three-years, $50.125 million with a whopping $30 million guaranteed.

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At the end of the day, the negative talk concerning Brown’s Pittsburgh exit and the unfiltered honesty he expressed during interviews, had no ill effects on his marketability. It was Odell Beckham all over again. 

The reports about certain teams considering Brown a cancer and not wanting him were nothing more than fake news. Brown had suitors all day. He did it his way. He bet on himself. 

The Raiders are desperate to find offensive pieces to put around Derek Carr or whichever quarterback will lead them over the next three years. They are stacking draft picks and are beginning to build a team.

Brown knew his worth, even if the other 51 guys on his roster, the head coach, GM, and owners didn’t. The Steelers come out looking awful in this situation. Brown exposed their culture as somewhat outdated and suspect. Men in the locker room felt unappreciated and belittled by the team. There were different rules, standards and passes given to the white quarterback that rubbed certain African-American players of equal stature in the wrong way.

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It cost them a Top 3 NFL running back in Le’Veon Bell (who might be joining Brown in Oakland) and the game’s best wide receiver. Some suggested that Brown would regret leaving Pittsburgh. The nearly $20 million raise he got by forcing a trade to the Raiders says otherwise. It says that the new age NFL athlete won again. He withstood the criticisms and disparaging comments about his character and his choice of fashion and his honesty on camera.

Gruden was the most hated man in Oakland when he came in and started gutting the franchise’s previous losing culture by getting rid of its best player in linebacker Khalil Mack and then trading the team’s only legit receiving threat Amari Cooper, to Dallas, later in the season. 

Gruden was the subject of memes and harsh criticism by fans, media and his former colleagues at ESPN. However, I felt all along that there was a shrewd method to Gruden’s madness. Oakland’s flurry of moves over the past year and this trade has boosted Gruden’s credibility overnight. 

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Gruden has security, a 10-yr, $100 million contract, so he didn’t have to get desperate in his first season. I assumed the Super Bowl-winning coach would use his first two seasons to implement his system, culture and find the kind of players that he felt would make the Raiders contenders as they rolled into Vegas.

As the Raiders enter the second season of Gruden’s gridiron return, they do so with the best wide receiver in the game wearing the silver and black. In a move that could immediately erase the negative vibes that last season’s rebuild evoked in Raiders fans, Gruden and Co. went for the best player on the market and got him. 

According to reports, there were several teams that would have done that deal or a similar deal, but in the end, Brown got to control his own destiny and secure his happiness and Gruden is the beneficiary of a Pittsburgh Steelers soap opera that has finally come to an end.

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The Raiders, who have a history of recruiting disgruntled or underappreciated superstars were the perfect team for Brown. He fits the persona and if any coach has a big enough ego to deal with Brown’s diva personality and one up him in that category, it’s Gruden. This isn’t the first time Gruden has had to deal with a high profile elite receiver who demanded the ball and yapped unrelentlessly.

Keyshawn Johnson had one of the best years of his career and won Super Bowl XXXVII under Gruden’s leadership with the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2003. Johnson was an outspoken headache at times, but Gruden respected him because he was the ultimate competitor and he brought an edge and charismatic swagger to the team.

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AB might be a diva, but he’s a hell of a businessman and personal promoter. People say the NFL isn’t the NBA, but Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh and dictated his next destination with the ease of a layup.

Major win for the Raiders. Even bigger win for Antonio Brown and the new age NFL player

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.