Wide receiving divas will drive coaches crazy

by Gary Shelton on February 18, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Evans has become the Bucs' best player./CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 4 a.m.

For a guy who hasn't caught a pass lately, Mike Evans looks better and better.

Every time Antonio Brown goes on twitter, Evans looks more rational. Brown cares about Brown, and Evans cares about football. Brown wants out, and Evans wants a first down.

Just that.

Every time Odell Beckham opens his mouth and expresses his on-and-off-again description of his quarterback, Evans looks like the loyal soldier. He looks bigger, and he looks better. Beckham looks like he spilled the peroxide in his hair.

Just that.

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In a world of receivers beating their chests, Evans looks better by the day. He has not sold out his quarterback, although there is room for a receiver to do so (see: Jackson, DeSean). He has not made a trade demand. He has not threatened to hold out.

He simply continues to be the best football player on the Tampa Bay Bucs. He is a ballplayer on a team that does not have enough of them. He is a player who cares when they are in short supply.

It's an odd thing, because wide receivers are among the most graceful athletes on the planet. It's just that sometimes, well, it's hard to tell them apart without their tutus.

That's why the Bucs should appreciate Evans even in an off-season. Imagine being Bruce Arians, and walking through the door. You have to tame Jameis Winston. You have to figure out Ronald Jones. You have to find defensive backs. You have to make a decision on Donovan Smith.

But if you are Arians, the one player you do not have to worry about is Evans. He'll be there as soon as the Bucs face their initial third down of the new season. He won't whine, and he won't threaten, and he won't hold his breath until the sky turns orange.

For all  that is sane in this world, can you figure out what Antonio Brown is thinking? There was a time that if Brown were available, 31 teams would want him and two dozen of them would give up a first-round draft pick to get him. Then Brown started squawking, and you can see prices getting lower and teams losing interest. If he'll pout like that for an organization as stable as the Steelers, well, where won't he pitch a fit?

Then there is Beckham, who really, really likes Eli on even-numbered days and really, really thinks he needs to be better on odd-numbered ones. Plus Beckham makes a fortune. The Giants swear they'll keep him, but no one seems to take that seriously. That conract will drive him out of the Giants' organization.

Then there is Jackson, the Bucs' other receiver who keeps whining about chemistry. The thing is, Jackson has a long history of being unhappy. There are "diva receiver lists" going back to 2012 where you can find Jackson's name.

As a breed, receivers can drive their coaches crazy. Maybe it is because of their lack of control -- running backs know when they're going to get the ball; receivers rely on a quarterback's reads and an offensive line's protection -- but they seem to be time-bombs waiting to explode. They think they're always open, and if they drop a ball, it is as if the fates have conspired to make it so. There was once a Bucs' receiver named Willie Greene who straight-faced tried to convince the media one day that catching a ball was a complicated undertaking. No, you said, for an NFL receiver, it isn't.

So who are the top receiving head-cases?

A list.

1. Terrell Owens -- In his time, Owens was a quarterback-killer. He was never happy with whoever was throwing him the ball -- he called Jeff Garcia "gay." That lack-of-team attitude kept him out of the Hall of Fame for a while despite terrific numbers. And once he was in, Owens showed himself again by refusing to go to the induction. He once ate a tub of popcorn after a touchdown.

2. Antonio Brown -- Brown hasn't caught Owens yet, but he's young.Any receiver who has taken on his team, his coach and his quarterback is looking awfully hard for a way out of town. Eventually, Brown will get his wish.

3. Randy Moss -- Moss once bragged about his lack of effort, suggesting that he played hard when he wanted and not when he didn't. Again, Moss had terrific numbers.

4. Keyshawn Johnson -- No, it wasn't the book ("Just Throw Me the Damned Ball" that turned everyone off. It was the rest of his game. Johnson thought of  himself an elite receiver, but he lacked explosion. Unless, of course, coach Jon Gruden was in the room. Then Johnson would wear flip-flops and force himself out of town.

5. Chad Johnson -- Johnson was a pretty good receiver, but he's known for a series of end-zone hot-dogging and changing his name to Chad Ochocinco. Eventually, the gimmicks were more memorable than his play.

6. Odell Beckham -- It isn't just that Beckham makes a lot of money. It's that he seems to care about himself first and the rest of the team, oh, about 10th.

7. Andre Rison -- Rison said he was "misunderstood." Perhaps. His most famous antic wasn't by Rison but by his girlfriend, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who set a pair of his cleats on fire. The fire spread and burned down his mansion.

8. Joe Horn -- Horn once planted a cell phone in the padding of the goal posts. When he scored, he dug out the phone and made an imaginary call. Who thinks of that?

9. DeSean Jackson -- Even for a franchise that has seen Alvin Harper, Bert Emanuel and Keyshawn Johnson, Jackson has turned off a lot of fans with his antics. True, the Bucs needed to get him the ball more. But Jackson needed to drop fewer passes, too.

10. Plaxico Burress -- Burress spent 2 1/2 years in prison. Any questions?

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