Crazy things have happened in Miami during the course of the New England Patriots’ 20-year dynasty, but nothing would top the lunacy of a Dolphins win Sunday. Not even last year’s Miracle in Miami.
The Patriots are coming off of a 33-3 Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re loaded on offense, defense and special teams and looked like the best team in football Sunday night. The Dolphins are fresh off of a 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. They look like the worst team in football.
It’s actually difficult to find players on the Dolphins’ 53-man roster who would be an upgrade over Patriots reserves, let alone starters. It’s that bad.
There’s a reason why the Patriots currently are favored by 19 points over the Dolphins. It would take something historical for the Patriots to lose.
This is all to say the Patriots do not need Antonio Brown to win in Week 2. So, what does New England have to gain by playing the receiver, who is facing accusations of sexual assault and rape in a civil lawsuit?
The easiest solution for the Patriots would be if the NFL took it out of New England’s hands and placed Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list until the league’s investigation is complete. Brown could not practice or play on the exempt list. The NFL typically utilizes the exempt list when a player has been charged with a crime. Brown was not, and he’s denied the accusations.
But if Brown is still on the Patriots’ active roster by Sunday, they could easily still sit him against the Dolphins and claim it had nothing to do with the allegations levied against the receiver. When the Patriots traded for Josh Gordon after Week 2 of the 2018 season, he didn’t play until Week 4. The Patriots gave Gordon a full week to get acclimated and then played him.
So, there’s a precedent in place for not playing a wide receiver the same week he’s acquired.
What’s the harm in playing Brown? A pockmark on the organization. Say the Patriots play Brown in Week 2 and by Week 3, the NFL has concluded in its investigation that they have enough to suspend the receiver. Then the Patriots have that decision — a tainted win that should be a gimme — hanging over their heads for the rest of the season.
They would be wise to let the situation play itself out as long as possible before they force themselves to make a decision. If Brown is innocent as he claims, then great, put him back on the field. But it’s unnecessary and risky so early in the investigation process. The Patriots seemingly already hastily signed Brown on Monday without knowing this lawsuit was coming. They reportedly were caught off guard when the lawsuit was made public Tuesday.
That’s despite the fact that rumors of the lawsuit were leaked on social media Saturday morning. Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, also said Wednesday on ESPN that he and Brown were anticipating the lawsuit. The news was out there. Brown and Rosenhaus knew it was coming. But apparently, the Patriots didn’t.
Brown has the incentives in his contract to lose if he doesn’t play Sunday. Perhaps he should have told the Patriots about this impending lawsuit before signing his contract.
Prior to making the rash decision to play Brown without knowing all of the facts, the Patriots would be smart to exercise a little patience before putting their new receiver on the field.