Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Antonio Brown Hall of Fame Future in Jeopardy

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterAugust 21, 2019

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 15:  Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Oakland Raiders reacts to fans as he warms up before the NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on August 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Big questions loom about big names like Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott as the preseason continues. The 10-Point Stance looks for answers.


1. Antonio Brown may not make Hall of Fame

The dumpster fire, wrapped inside an electrical fire and encircled by a gas explosion that is the Antonio Brown situation, could affect far more than his Raiders season. It could mean he never makes the Hall of Fame.

The numbers say he's in. He is one of the best receivers of his generation.

Yet the answer to the question "Is Brown a Hall of Famer?" is complicated, and to fully digest it, you have to go back to a familiar name in Terrell Owens.

Owens was a devastating football player who, to this day, remains one of the top three receivers of all time.

However, Owens didn't enter the Hall of Fame until, stunningly, his third year of eligibility. It was staggering, actually. When Owens retired, he was second in history in receiving yards and scores.

Why did it take so long for Owens to get in? Hall of Fame voters said the fact that Owens wasn't a team player should keep him out.

"The first year comes and goes, and I tried not to take it personally," Owens recently told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times. "My stats were what they were and weren't going to change. The second year comes up, and Marvin Harrison gets in and I don't when my statistics are better than his. Now it's a slap in the face. You're now denying me what I've rightfully earned. You're disrespecting me and everything I've done in my career. You're denying me something I deserve for your personal opinion."

Owens' story is crucial in evaluating Brown's Hall of Fame chances. If Owens had to wait three years, there's a real possibility that Brown's behavior may keep him out of the Hall altogether.

The idea of Owens being a bad teammate was a fabrication. The idea of Brown being a bad one is actually true.

So if voters held back Owens, what will they do with Brown? The answer seems obvious.

On the field, there's no question about his qualifications. He is a seven-time Pro Bowler, and he's led the league in receiving yards and receptions twice. He already has 11,207 yards through the air.

Even if Brown, 31, had just two more 1,000-yard seasons—he's had at least 1,200 yards in the past six—that would put him at 13,207. He'd be ahead of Hall of Famers Andre Reed and Steve Largent.

And if he has another couple of peak-Brown seasons, he'd easily make the top 10 in yards and top 15 in TD catches.

One of the best indicators of just how dominant Brown has been comes from an Elias Sports Bureau look at his dominance this decade, via a recent TV broadcast by ESPN:

Brown has 837 receptions in the 2010s. Torry Holt has the most in a decade with 868 in the 2000s, followed by Jerry Rice's 860 in the 1990s and then Brown.

If Brown plays this year, he will surpass all of them.

Larry Fitzgerald is second this decade with 780 catches. No other player is over 700. So you can't just say it's because of the pass-crazy league.

Few wide receivers have been this productive. Still, it might not matter.

He may have to wait years to get into the Hall. And by years, I mean a decade or more. And, yes, absolutely, it's possible his behavior could keep him out. You're a fool if you think otherwise. Brown will be viewed with a great deal of contempt by some voters.

If Owens had to fight to get in over imaginary slights, what do you think will happen with Brown regarding his real ones?

Things now with Brown are ugly. That likely won't change when it's time to consider him for the Hall of Fame.

2. Few believe Jay-Z is buying team

TMZ Sports recently reported that Jay-Z would soon own a "significant" portion of an NFL team. However, since that report, I can't find anyone in the league who knows anything about him buying (or contemplating buying) a controlling or minority interest in a franchise.

That doesn't mean it won't happen. If there is some type of deal being made, it would be highly secretive. But usually something big like this would leak.

If Jay-Z owns a team, especially if he has a controlling interest, it would be one of the most important developments in the history of NFL ownership. 

So far at least, there's no word it will actually happen.


3. 584 days

Math is horrible. It's a violation of the Geneva Convention. However, even we here at 10-Point Headquarters can do arithmetic (can barely spell it, but we can do it). Thus, as of Aug. 21, it has been 584 days since the Jets' Le'Veon Bell last played a real game.

Not talkin' 'bout practice. Talkin' 'bout a game. Normally, a player who has missed that much time would play in the preseason. But Bell so far hasn't.

He still might. The fact that he hasn't so far is an interesting approach. Bell's missed almost two years, and while it's good he hasn't been hit, what will it be like for him to take that first big shot?

We may have to wait until the regular season to get an answer.


4. Flacco's greatest challenge

One of the toughest challenges Joe Flacco has ever faced isn't just to win with the Broncos. That's obvious. It's to transform what has been one of the biggest quarterback graveyards in the NFL.

John Elway did win the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, which produced two Super Bowl appearances. But that was the easy part. The other quarterbacks under Elway have a combined record of 33-38. There's Tim Tebow (7-4), Trevor Siemian (13-11), Brock Osweiler (5-6), Case Keenum (6-10), Paxton Lynch (1-3) and Kyle Orton (1-4).

That's not optimal.

Flacco is Elway's best chance to finally change his bad trend. At the very least, he can provide stability. Elway will take that.


5. Josh Gordon's impact 

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Gordon was reinstated by the NFL after a lengthy suspension. He's back. But what exactly does that mean for the Patriots? (We will examine what it means for Gordon personally at another time.)

The main thing I'm hearing from some teams' officials is that if Gordon stays clean (and that's obviously a big if) and if he does end up on the field for the Patriots (likely will happen sooner than later), he will help make up for Rob Gronkowski's retirement.

Last year, Gordon played in 11 games and averaged 18 yards per reception—second in the league. Right now, Gordon is on the non-football injury list and has to be activated by Aug. 31, or he must sit out the first six weeks. Everyone believes the Patriots will activate him before then.

Gordon is good enough to be not just a standard Patriots weapon but also a really good one. So good that he could sharply improve the already formidable offense. He's that impactful.

There are obviously huge caveats here. You just don't know if Gordon can stay on the field because of what he does off it. But he is a massively talented player who can make the Patriots more of a Super Bowl contender than they already are.


6. No Zeke resolution...yet

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is still holding out for a new deal. Again, these things turn quickly. Elliott could decide he wants to end it. Owner Jerry Jones could do the same.

But for now, for right now, things are cold between Elliott and the Cowboys.

Some in the league believe this dispute could last right up until the first week of the season.

The turning point will be next week. If Elliott's holdout goes beyond that, the odds of him starting Week 1 are dramatically reduced. 


7. Dickerson is right

One last thing on Elliott. There was a newsworthy piece of analysis that went mostly unnoticed because of other big stories like Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick and Trek. (OK, not the last one.) It came from Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, and what he said about Elliott is really important.

Dickerson told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "Without Zeke, the Cowboys are going nowhere."

He is correct.

The Cowboys are an unusual team in 21st-century football. They're built around a running back. This is a very 1970s idea, but it works for them. In a big way. Elliott is a special talent, and this allows Dallas to run in a passing era.

Without Elliott, the Cowboys are the Bengals. He sets up everything. It's not a coincidence that wide receiver Amari Cooper rejuvenated his career in Dallas. Elliott has that impact on everyone. He's that good. 

The Cowboys should listen to Dickerson.


8. Nepotism

If you want to understand why it is difficult for coaches of color to rise in the ranks of professional football, look no further than the Vikings-Seahawks game last Sunday.

The site HeadCoachRanking.com looked at the coaching roster from both teams, and it was a nepotism-palooza. The Vikings had head coach Mike Zimmer, linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, assistant head coach Gary Kubiak, quarterback coach Klint Kubiak, defensive line coach Andre Patterson and quality control coach AC Patterson.

That's just one team.

The Seahawks had Pete Carroll, assistant offensive line coach Brennan Carroll and Nate Carroll as the wide receivers coach.

If so many coaches are just going to hire their brothers or cousins or uncles or their nieces' brother's aunt, then fresh blood has a tough time getting into the system.


9. Terrific Tom

Every now and then, we need to stop, just for a moment, and marvel at what Tom Brady is doing. Just for a moment.

This throw from Brady to Dontrelle Inman is a thing of beauty. The DB is right there, and the ball just zips on by and into the only place it should have been thrown.

Could other quarterbacks make this throw? There are some like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. But not many and few in history who are 85 years old like Brady.


10. The prolific Josh McCown

Josh McCown was a Cardinal back in 2004 when he greeted Seattle's Shaun Alexander after a game.
Josh McCown was a Cardinal back in 2004 when he greeted Seattle's Shaun Alexander after a game.JOHN FROSCHAUER/Associated Press

This past week, quarterback Josh McCown left retirement and ESPN after just a few months. It was one of the shortest retirements of any player ever. Even Brett Favre thought: That was an impressively quick unretirement, Josh.

The Eagles get a competent backup but also one of the most well-traveled players in league history. Few have been on as many teams as McCown. That is, well, good and bad. Good because teams see him as valuable enough to sign. Bad because they don't see him as valuable enough to keep.

A look at McCown's 17-year career shows just how much he's moved, and it is a remarkable thing to see:

Cardinals: 2002-05

Lions: 2006

Raiders: 2007

Dolphins: 2008

Panthers: 2008, 2009

The Hartford Colonials of the now-defunct United Football League: 2010

49ers: 2011

Bears: 2011-13

Buccaneers: 2014

Browns: 2015, 2016

Jets: 2017, 2018

And now the Eagles.

The head coaches he's played for (including interim ones) are Dave McGinnis, Dennis Green, Rod Marinelli, Lane Kiffin, Tony Sparano, John Fox, Chris Palmer, Jim Harbaugh, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman, Lovie Smith a second time, Mike Pettine, Hugh Jackson, Todd Bowles and now Doug Pederson.

That's quite a list in a long career.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


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