Julio Jones is the best wide receiver on the planet. I’m biased, I’ll admit, but it’s what I truly believe, and it’s for reasons that go beyond just the field.
Antonio Brown is the other premier WR who has been compared to Julio over the past few years. When you compare their numbers and statistics, it’s a legitimate debate, and both will probably go to the Hall of Fame someday. That’s fine as far as it goes, but when you’re talking about the value a player brings to a franchise, you can’t purely look at the numbers. Their off the field actions and how they represent your franchise go just as far as their on-field accolades.
Don’t get me wrong, Julio has made his on-field case for the title of Wide Receiver King as well as anybody else since Calvin Johnson’s retirement — he leads all wide receivers in conversions (first downs plus touchdowns) since 2014, and he also leads all WRs in total receiving yards since 2014 by about 300. He’s either won the receiving yards title or finished second in each of the past four seasons, and he’s been named to the Pro Bowl five consecutive years.
Julio makes all of his headlines on the field, which is special in this day and age of the diva wide receiver. Antonio Brown, conversely, has recently made all of his headlines off the field, and that’s what separates the two by a legitimate distance.
Antonio Brown has done a great job of burning every bridge on his way out of Pittsburgh. He’s been in a verbal sparring match with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for months—and to be fair, that’s a justified spat—and he reportedly ignored phone calls from head coach Mike Tomlin and owner Art Rooney II at the end of the season, in an attempt to force a trade.
Brown ended up getting what he wanted — he was traded to the Oakland Raiders and received a new contract which gave him $30 million in guaranteed money (he had $0 of guarantees left on his deal with the Steelers).
To be honest with you, I actually respect the way Brown used his leverage — he got out of a situation he didn’t want to be in despite having multiple years left on his contract, and even got $30 million more in guaranteed money (that’s no small thing). The Steelers are the ones who must feel shafted, losing their superstar WR for pennies on the dollar (they traded him for a 3rd and 5th-round draft pick), and dealing with an unstable situation for a months.
The main problem now is that Brown won’t move on and let the past be the past. He specifically went after former teammate Juju Smith-Schuster on Twitter after a fan posted a picture of the young Smith-Schuster being named Steelers’ team MVP for the 2018 season.
Emotion: boy fumbled the whole post season in the biggest game of year ! Everyone went blind to busy making guys famous not enough reality these days ! by the way check the list https://t.co/2SWWT8k0jx— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019
Juju was Pittsburgh’s number two WR behind Brown, and was his teammate for two seasons. The two of them grew into a dynamic tandem in 2018. He never went at Brown on social media, and all indications are that he showed the veteran WR nothing but respect.
Juju wasn’t the one who posted the picture, it was a random fan, yet he was the one who suffered verbal backlash which was just uncalled for.
This entire situation would be the equivalent to Julio Jones calling out Matt Ryan in public (although Roethlisberger isn’t exactly victimless in this situation, and he doesn’t seem to be half the leader that Ryan is, but that’s another story entirely), demanding a trade on social media, and cutting off Dan Quinn and Arthur Blank when they try to get in contact with him. Then, after getting traded, verbally attacking Calvin Ridley on Twitter despite Ridley doing nothing but minding his own business.
I think that hell would freeze over before Jones did anything like that.
Instead, Julio is the type of
player person who has constantly put his own ego and his own numbers aside for the good of the team. Calvin Ridley constantly praises Julio for all of the help the veteran WR has given him throughout the year. Jones has taken that mentorship role in stride, taking the lessons taught to him by Roddy White and passing them along to the young Ridley.
I know that this isn’t the first of my articles in which I linked his interview after the win against the Giants in that Monday Night Football game, but it’s just the perfect embodiment of Julio’s selfless nature:
It can’t be easy getting constantly criticized, and having your accomplishment marginalized, for not scoring enough TDs. At this point, Jones was on an unprecedented scoring drought dating back to the middle of the 2017 season (not counting the playoffs), but he never showed one ounce of frustration, always putting the team ahead of himself.
In case you were wondering, Smith-Schuster did respond to Antonio Brown:
All I ever did was show that man love and respect from the moment I got to the league. I was genuinely happy for him too when he got traded to Oakland w/ a big contract, and now he takes shots at me on social media?— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 7, 2019
Brown has left Pittsburgh, yet he’s still trying to make a mess of things with his former franchise. And as a continuation of this story, Brown posted a DM of Smith-Schuster asking him for advice back in 2015, when Juju was still playing college ball at USC.
Antonio Brown just put up a 2015 DM from JuJu asking for advice while at USC… pic.twitter.com/fJPDs1XQtq— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 8, 2019
I personally don’t know what the point of this was. All it shows is Smith-Schuster asking a premier wide receiver in the NFL for some advice to better his game. If anything, it actually shines a positive light on a young receiver who’s humble enough to ask a veteran for some pointers.
I do wonder if Steelers fans who’ve consistently criticized Jones for years and who have always beaten the “Antonio Brown is clearly better” drum have changed their opinion in any way this offseason. Judging by the vitriol on Twitter, they may have.
Our tune here at The Falcoholic and in most quarters of the fanbase hasn’t changed one bit — we still uphold Jones as the best receiver in the league, the same way we have for years. The only thing that may have changed is that we’ve garnered a greater appreciation for Julio’s greatness off the field by seeing the circus that Brown has caused.
Antonio Brown has forced his way out of Pittsburgh, burned every bridge imaginable, and is now trying to berate his former teammate who hasn’t spoken one negative word against him.
Julio would never.