By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — OK, this has just got to be some sort of wild social experiment, for which everybody is falling prey. There’s just no other earthly explanation.
The idea is this: Someone in the NFL says something about the New England Patriots, and then dozens upon dozens of media outlets repurpose the comments. Television shows argue the merits of what was said. Sports talk radio shows not only dissect the comments but also bring on guests to offer their opinions on the original opinions. The cycle goes on and on and on and on, and it apparently doesn’t even matter who’s making the initial comments.
If it’s Lane Johnson, well, sure, at least that’s an established NFL starter, Pro Bowler, First Team All-Pro member, and Super Bowl champion. That’s not to say that only All-Pro football players have worthwhile opinions, but at least the fame of the person involved can explain the newsworthiness of the comments. (Does it explain how the Lane Johnson comments have gotten not one, not two, but three full runs through the news cycle? Of course not.)
If it’s Cassius Marsh? Come on. Yes, he was a member of the Patriots for about a half of a season. But the Patriots released him midseason. It didn’t work out. He was picked up by the 49ers, and he’s happier there. So … who cares? The answer, based on the reaction of news outlets and the like, was a firm “EVERYBODY.” That was … strange. (Given that Marsh’s comments were first publicized over the holiday weekend, he ended up getting about five days of run out of them. That’s a long time to spend on Cassius Marsh’s commentary on the New England Patriots.)
But now? Folks. Now? Now it’s getting out of hand. Now we’ve got Brandon Brooks making headlines. You may ask, “Who?!” And I would say, “Don’t be rude. He is a human being after all.” But then I would follow up by saying, “I’m not sure, let me check Pro Football Reference, Wikipedia, and Pro Football Focus real quick and get back to you.”
Brooks is a guard for the Eagles. He made the Pro Bowl last year. He’s humongous. Like, absolutely humongous. Don’t talk trash about him because he could literally hurl your measly body into the air and get you stuck in a tree. The man is massive. Anyway. He was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Texans, for whom he played four seasons. He signed a big deal with the Eagles prior to the 2016 season, and he’s started 30 of a possible 32 regular-season games plus all three postseason games en route to winning the Super Bowl. Pro Football Focus gave him an 88.3 grade last year, which makes him “high quality.”
In addition to helping to prevent the Patriots from recording a single sack in Super Bowl LII, Brooks’ biggest contribution to winning that championship was done unwittingly. In the 2012 draft, the Eagles traded their third- and fourth-round picks to Houston for DeMeco Ryans and a third-round pick. The Texans used that third-rounder on Brooks. The Eagles used their acquired third-round pick to draft … Nick Foles. Hey, would you look at that? (Yes, Foles left Philly via trade after three years and spent a year each in St. Louis and Kansas City. But his time in Philly likely led to the reunion last March. Oh, and yes, it’s not the NBA, where you trade a player after drafting him, but use some imagination, OK? We’re trying to cook up some anecdotes and here you are just trying to poke holes. Find a new slant.)
So he’s a good NFL guard. But that seems to hardly matter. The man could have been a create-a-player in Madden, designed over the weekend, and his commentary still probably would have garnered national attention.
He’s never played in New England and doesn’t know Bill Belichick, but just like in the case of his O-linemate, that didn’t matter. Headlines, headlines, headlines.
Here’s what Brooks said, via Bleeding Green Nation:
“It’s crazy that people haven’t known this. It’s been this way for like a decade. You’ve seen — Reggie Wayne did it. He retired. He went there for a training camp and retired. Sh– is not fun there. I was under the same regime in Houston [with head coach Bill O’Brien]. I almost retired. Sh– was miserable, every day. Every day.”
“I came in under [head coach Gary] Kubiak, who was just an older version of Doug [Pederson], then I went to O’Brien, who was Belichick, and then I came back to Doug, who’s like Kubes, so for me, man, sh– was great. Like, I cannot tell you how much better this is than it was down there. Like, it’s just night and day. What does [Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] say? Happy workers make more productive workers. When you’re not having fun, man, those grinding, those hard-ass nosed days …”
Old friend Lane Johnson interrupted Brooks to offer a retort to everyone who criticized him while citing “rings” as a reason players deal with whatever it is that makes playing in Foxboro so tough.
“All these guys talking about ‘I’ll take the rings.’ OK,” Johnson said, again via Bleeding Green Nation. “You can have your rings. You can also have f—ing 15 miserable years.”
Nifty. You like being happy? I’m very proud of ya. That’s very nice.
Pro Football Talk picked it up and ran with a story. A quick Google search shows that The Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Bleacher Report, 98.5 The Sports Hub, Yahoo Sports, NESN, WEEI, 247Sports, and Total Pro Sports all ran stories with Brooks’ comments. Technically, the story you are reading right now could be added to the list.
But at a certain point, how and why does nobody ask, “What are we doing here?” Brooks said, in so many words, that he absolutely hated playing for Bill O’Brien. OK. He thinks Doug Pederson is way cooler. Sweet. He never played for Belichick, but he played for O’Brien, and also Reggie Wayne didn’t like working hard that one summer, so obviously it must be awful to play in Foxboro. Sure, I guess. That’s how he, as a human, feels. Do the feelings of any and every player to ever put on shoulder pads demand breathless coverage from the national media at every turn?
It’s a weird thing, folks.
Anyway. There’s not catchy closing thought here, no snarky zinger that says “gee whiz it sure seems fun to win a whole bunch of Super Bowls GOSH!” or anything like that. It’s just a question, one with no real good answer, why we all feel compelled to turn every individual’s thoughts and feelings into news. It’s not actually news. Yet here we all are. Brandon Brooks. News maker.