Falcons receiver Julio Jones is a lot of things. He’s a generational talent capable of changing games by merely being present on the football field. He’s a quiet leader that plays through injuries, no questions asked. And he’s a consummate professional, seemingly incapable of making the franchise look bad. Contrast all that with what he could be. Imagine, for a moment, if Julio were like ... oh, I don’t know, Antonio Brown.
I bring up Brown because he’s stirred up a good deal of controversy this season. If you’ve had your head in the sand for the past six months, Jeremy Fowler’s piece gives a fairly complete summary. In short, Brown doesn’t want to be a Steeler anymore and he’s overtly trying to distance himself from the team. That’s not the mindset you typically look for in your franchise receiver. Brown’s situation in Pittsburgh isn’t black and white; there are various shades of gray. (Let’s be honest, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin aren’t easy to live with.) What’s more, Brown went to Central Michigan (as opposed to perennial powerhouse Alabama) and was drafted in the sixth round (as opposed to Julio who the Falcons traded away five picks to get). He understandably has a chip on his shoulder. But find me a Steelers fan that wants it this way. Find me a Steelers fan that wouldn’t give their right pinkie toe to substitute Julio for Brown right about now.
Julio and Brown get compared frequently. They’re the subject of a redundant debate: who is the best receiver in the NFL today? Ultimately they each have their strengths and in many ways, comparing the two future Hall of Famers is like comparing a Porsche to a Ferrari. But from an attitude standpoint, Julio completely eclipses Brown. Aside from the shortest, least thrilling “holdout” in NFL history, Julio has always put the team first. And to be frank, Julio did exactly what most us would’ve done in that situation.
Julio’s relationship with the Falcons may not always be this easy. We know there are additional contract renegotiations on the horizon. But it’s hard to imagine any scenario where Julio publicly feuds with the Falcons front office or with Matt Ryan or with Dan Quinn. He’s just too professional to stoop that low.
I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. You were familiar with Julio’s character before you read this article. But do me a favor: observe Brown’s situation in Pittsburgh, compare it with Julio’s situation in Atlanta, and take note, because guys like Julio have incredible value that just can’t be summarized in statistical terms.