The Oakland Raiders and Brown parted ways last August in training camp after the team felt that his skills were in a sharp decline and that young receivers like Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter were ready to step in and take the reigns.
Brown's role had slipped to the No. 3 receiver after so many years of being the top-dog. Brown, however, was going to be the Raiders No. 4 or 5 man, which meant that at time he would not suit up for games. Brown also indicated that he did not want to be seen as a player that wore out his welcome. So he reunited with former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay shortly thereafter.
Brown and the Raiders reunited at the Hilton in Oakland to give re-sign for one day so he could retire with the franchise that employed him for 16 years. To say that one player being with one team for that long is unheard of in this day and age would be a gross understatement. The reasons are obvious. You know, free agency and salary cap.
Brown's numbers speak for themselves. He caught 1,070 receptions for 14,734 yards and 99 touchdowns with the Raiders before they released him last August. Brown, however, recorded just 24 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown last season. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection, is tied with Steve Largent for third on the NFL's career touchdown catches list, and only former Oakland teammate Jerry Rice has more career yards receiving. His 1,094 career catches rank third in NFL history.
Despite the fact that he fell short in his only bid to attain a Super Bowl ring fell short, Brown should be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Some people might see the fact that he did not win a Super Bowl as a negative. Granted, every player wants one but that's a hallow argument because there are several mediocre to bad players possessing championship rings.
The truth of the matter is Brown did everything he could to put the Raiders in that position through the best and worst of times. Brown and Raiders owner Al Davis did not always see eye-to-eye.
Brown was a Raider, be it Oakland or Los Angeles, in the best (1990, 2000-2002) and worst (1997, 2003) of times. The Raiders reached the AFC Championship games in 1990 and 2000 only to lose to Buffalo and Baltimore respectively. The Raiders reached the Super Bowl by beating Tennessee 41-24 in the 2002 AFC title game, which was the end of the great times as we know it for the Raiders.
One week later, center Barret Robbins went AWOL the night before the Super Bowl – the Raiders were never the same.
Tampa Bay, with Gruden on the sideline, annihilated the Raiders 48-21.
They still haven't recovered. The next season the Raiders went 4-12 and all but threw, Brown included, then head coach Bill Callahan under the bus much like they did to Joe Bugel in 1997.
Brown also witnessed the Bill Romanowski-Marcus Williams fight, the Art Shell/Marcus Allen/Al Davis feud. Brown also played with a laundry list of quarterbacks: Steve Beuerlein, Vince Evans, Gannon, Jeff George, Bill Joe Hobert, Jeff Hostetler, Rusty Hilger, Todd Marinovich, Jay Schroeder, Marc Wilson, Wade Wilson and Rich Gannon on at least a semi-regular basis.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org