Another week, another dismal Eagles performance, and yet another conversation around A.J Brown. It’s a real shame that we’ve hit a point in the year where one of the few bright spots on the team consistently finds himself under the wrong type of spotlight, as if his actions and words reflect everyone in a struggling locker room. That tends to happen when you wear a ‘C’ on your jersey, and unfortunately for A.J, there is more to being a Captain than putting up 100-yard games.
There are clearly two sides to A.J Brown. There’s the man who broke the NFL record for consecutive 125+ yard games, the man who sits 3rd in the NFL’s receiving list, and is slashing his way through the Philadelphia Eagles record book.
On the other, there’s a clearly frustrated wide receiver struggling to find the right voice. When he talks to the media, he’s unhappy with how he’s portrayed. When he doesn’t, he’s labeled as a poor leader and someone who shouldn’t be wearing a ‘Captain’ badge. It’s a fight where both sides lose.
A.J Brown’s fiery personality
Brown has a track record of ‘losing his cool’ this season. An early ‘spat’ on the sidelines with Jalen Hurts against the Vikings turned a few heads, but fires were quickly put out. However, they continued to light throughout the year as adversity presented itself.
The former Tennessee wideout has been seen squaring up to opposing players, getting in the face of people on the opposing sideline, and looking visually frustrated at the state of the Eagles offense. Throw in his recent attitude change towards the media, and you’ve got more than enough fuel to throw on a fire should A.J choose to light it.
And there lies the issue.
A.J Brown is right to be frustrated…
Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article following the embarrassment against the Cardinals, stating that A.J Brown’s recent frustration is less about the media/teammates and more at the coaching staff. If we’re being honest, he’d have a right to be mad at all of them.
Brown is one of the NFL’s best wideouts and in his two short years here, has been nothing short of dominant. It’s so easy to take greatness for granted, but before the A.J Brown trade, Eagles fans were lamented with atrocious wideout play. Jalen Reagor, J.J Arcega-Whiteside, Alshonymous Jeffery, even Josh Huff. How long has it been since the Eagles really had a wideout as good as A.J Brown?
The team around him has suddenly started falling apart with any real rhyme or reason, while his elite play which should be more than enough for the Eagles to coast into the #1 seed, is now being held hostage by a team that cannot get out of its own way.
However, as a captain on the team, A.J Brown is expected to lead by example on and off the field, setting the tone for his teammates. He should be a veteran leaned on in those chaotic situations to stabilize the ship as opposed to further rocking the boat. Instead, he consistently finds himself at the center of attention because he can’t seem to vent those frustrations in the correct fashion.
Doing things the right way
Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce are examples of three players who will undoubtedly be feeling just as angry as A.J right now. They’ve also all had their fair share of swipes at the media. The difference is that it’s less about those guys and more about the team.
If A.J’s only response and approach to accountability is about individual change, then that’s not enough. You can be infuriated with your environment, but if your visible anger is only contributing to its downfall as opposed to helping at least add some mild reassurance, then it’s not good enough.
The last thing the Eagles need is for a team captain to be essentially looking after his own interests. As much as Brown is 100% validated in his emotions, refusing to talk to the media after a loss because of personal grudges is only going to shine the spotlight so much brighter on the more minute workings of a struggling team.
In the same way that Darius Slay’s social media attitudes were puzzling at best, it just stirs the wrong pot. The conversation around this team should be that we all know how good they can be and are confident that they can reach that level due to the coaching staff and veteran leadership.
Instead, we’re talking about the most ridiculous non-factors because they continue to arise from key people on the team, and it just expedites a vicious cycle.
What does A.J Brown need to do?
Nobody really has an answer. It’s all subjective and without knowing him personally, it’s hard for any fan or analyst to demand a behavior he might not be comfortable with. However, when you see a guy like DeVonta Smith, who is a star in the making, approaching things in a very cool, calm, and collected fashion, it only further highlights a very different personality.
Being a great player and a great leader are two very different things. They’re not mutually exclusive. This isn’t to say that A.J Brown isn’t, but for an 11-win team, there is way too much noise about a player, his actions, his feelings, and his attitude. It’s bringing the wrong kind of attention, and your job as a captain is to do the opposite.
Nobody is asking A.J Brown to ‘shut up’, to ‘talk to media who have wronged you’. However, perhaps embracing the situation as a chance to show the younger guys how to act, or to use media as a chance to back players who need the confidence boost, as opposed to an opportunity to field a personal vendetta against whoever, could make the world of difference.
A.J Brown is a young man. He’s also one of the most gifted athletes in Football. There is already a lot of pressure on his shoulders, and adding the C must feel like the weight of the world in times like this. He’s learning, he’s growing. You can’t expect him to talk like a leader if he’s never been asked to lead.
Frankly, so long as he continues to shine as one of the brightest stars in the NFL, there’s no reason to be concerned about him as an individual. The problem the Eagles have right now is about the team. And if A.J Brown can realize that, he’s going to develop into one remarkable franchise player.
AP Photo/Derik Hamilton