As anyone who grew up with brothers can tell you, this is a tale as old as time: you’re playing Street Fighter or MarioKart or Smash Bros or something (loser gives up the sticks, obviously) and someone is thoroughly getting their ass kicked and then one of you just snaps:
No, I’m just better than you.
Shut up cheater!
I just know!
So it goes as sure as the sun rises over Dunkin Donuts with the New England Patriots, who are obviously incapable of doing anything cool or fun without breaking all the written and unwritten rules of the NFL at the same time. It’s science.
You know, like signing one of the best wide receivers in football who just a few hours earlier had told his previous bosses to pound sand after they just voided his guaranteed $30,000,000 in one shot like the Joker lighting that mountain of money on fire.
So in a neat convergence of “that was quick” and “of COURSE the Patriots signed him”, the conspiracy theories that this was AB’s plan all along and the Patriots tampered to get a deal done in record time hit the airwaves before the 3:00pm college games were even over on Saturday:
Antonio Brown dominated the preseason news cycle with his seemingly erratic behavior as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Now he's with the #Patriots. What the hell just happened? This is “Conspiracy Corner” with @Rodger: https://t.co/xm9xcYZJbx— The Ringer (@ringer) September 9, 2019
There's a theory floating around the league that Antonio Brown wanted to be a Patriot all along.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 7, 2019
"There are teams around the NFL that believe Brown wanted to be a Patriot all along, and Brown might have just been doing anything possible to propel himself out of Oakland."@jeffphowe on Belichick's most distinguished reclamation project: https://t.co/RFbVxl0P8X https://t.co/xah3fDLbk9— The Athletic NFL (@TheAthleticNFL) September 8, 2019
Patriots deserve hell for this https://t.co/oLcv7GWGL4— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) September 7, 2019
I just got a text from someone I trust in the league and they believe this was all coordinated. That at some point AB got word that Pats would sign him if he ever got released.— Robert Littal (@BSO) September 7, 2019
I could keep going, I have spare time. You get the idea though.
And if your reaction here was to be the bigger person and just laugh in everyone’s face, then you’re a better person than your author, because in this house, defending the wall is a full time job.
Also, being right really never gets old.
Pro Football Talk’s Peter King (that still looks weird to write) wrote in his Football Morning In America column on Monday that, despite the collective cries of CHEATRIOTS from California to whatever city the Dolphins play in, there will be no tampering investigation. Or any investigations, for that matter.
Then there’s the matter of how convenient it is that Brown signed with New England so quickly. Belichick and Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have been making deals forever. And from the time Brown was cut by the Raiders on Saturday to the time word leaked that he’d agreed to terms with New England, about half a day passed. Is it possible that there was no contact between the two sides, and that Rosenhaus made the deal quickly, in an hour or so, with the Patriots? Rosenhaus was in Massachusetts on Sunday night, but he refused comment on all things Brown when I reached him. Word has surfaced that at least one other team was seriously interested in Brown on Saturday. Could the dueling deals have been worked in such a short time? It’s possible. I was told by a league source that the league had no plans to investigate Brown’s behavior or the signing with New England, or whether it set a precedent that if a star player doesn’t like where he is, he can act up for three or four days and drive a team so crazy that it will release him. If I were Mike Tomlin or Eric DeCosta or Andy Reid or Chris Ballard, say, big men on big AFC teams, the way this whole story went would really bother me.
In other words, that’d certainly seem like the NFL - the same NFL that’s taken the Patriots first-round pick twice in the past 12 years and fined the team at least $1.25 million in that time span - saw that New England signed a football player to a contract and it’s...they signed a football player to a contract. That’s, and I know this term is overused and should be canceled, but that’s literally what happened.
In the meantime, the fun part about conspiracy theories is nobody cares if they completely contradict each other, so enjoy everyone saying that the same league that’s punished the Patriots more harshly than any other franchise this century is also somehow protecting them and wants them to win. You’d be surprised how often those two ideas are roommates in some people’s heads.
Back to real football: Antonio Brown’s reportedly getting a crash course in the Patriots offense with Josh McDaniels starting today, so depending on whether he can get enough of the playbook down in time for Miami this Sunday, that 18.5-point spread may not even be enough.