He’s Earned The Nickname “Third Down Brown”

Bob George
August 26, 1999 at 12:55 pm ET

There are your superstars up there on their pedestals.

Then there are the great players who soak up only slightly less airtime on ESPN SportsCenter.

Then there are guys like Troy Brown who singlehandedly win games for you, and many folks don’t even notice.

And when you have receiving mates like Ben Coates, Terry Glenn, Shawn Jefferson, Vincent Brisby and Tony Simmons, it is very easy for someone like Brown to get lost in the shuffle.

So, let’s give Brown a little bit more stature starting right now, as if he needs it. We’ll start with a new nickname. Call him “Third Down Brown”. We’ll explain why later.

The Patriots have a problem with Brown. Naturally, it involves money. Salary Cap. Free agency. Happens with everyone sooner or later.

So, what happens when a guy like Brown is up for free agency? At a position where the Patriots have a goodly amount of depth? On a team where he will never be a starter as long as Glenn and Jefferson stay healthy?

If you ask Mr. Spock, he might say, “Letting Brown leave via free agency would be most logical. Why would a team give him a big contract when they already have too many men at the position, and all of them being good to outstanding?”

Let’s hope Spock sticks to fighting Klingons.

Not only is letting Brown go a bad move, it is totally illogical.

To some skeptical fans, shelling out big bucks for Brown might seem imprudent. The already stated depth of the team at wide receiver is plenty proof enough. Since Glenn, Jefferson and Simmons are fixtures for some time to come, and since the team insists on keeping Brisby around, and since there are other areas of need on the team to address, then you could assume that Brown is a logical choice to let go.

With the signing of Ty Law, and if a similar deal is done with Lawyer Milloy, cap room will be even more at a premium. Justifying Brown’s presence and importance on the team will be crucial to the Patriots’ decision to retain him or not.

So, for the subculture of fans who cannot fathom why the Patriots should bend over backwards to keep still another wide receiver, allow me to provide you with justification. That is, if your poor brain can handle such intelligence.

When both your quarterback and head coach speak up on your behalf in the same day, that’s a good starting point.

Drew Bledsoe was quoted in the Providence Journal as saying, “Troy is a guy who is invaluable to me…I really think that Troy is good for two or three third-down conversions a game. That can make the difference in an entire game.”

That’s why you should call him “Third Down Brown”. Thanks, Drew.

Brown’s ability to get a clutch third down often in a game can indeed be crucial for a Patriot win. Bledsoe went on to say that “when Troy is in there as an inside receiver on 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-7, he can get you the first down, just with individual ability, because he’s elusive and catches the ball well.”

Third Down Brown’s defining moment came in just this kind of situation Bledsoe talks about.

During the second half of the 1996 regular season finale against the Giants at Exit 16W, the Patriots were mounting a comeback from a 21-0 halftime deficit. The Pats climaxed their comeback with a Bledsoe to Coates TD pass, but all observers who watched point to a third down catch Brown made that was the key play in the game.

During that winning drive, Brown caught a third and 13 pass while flat on his back. He was knocked down, and was just laying there. Bledsoe saw him as the only target to keep the drive alive. Brown stuck up his hands and snatched the ball while prone on the ground. It remains one of the most important catches by a Patriot in this decade.

This is reason alone for keeping Brown. But if Brown is let go, you might see special teams coach Brad Seely leading the patrol of Patriot Nation freaking out.

Brown is also the best punt returner on the team. Last Saturday against Dallas, Brown returned punts for 27 and 23 yards in the first quarter, and each return set up a touchdown drive. This does not go unnoticed on the head coach.

“He’s so savvy, and he’s so instinctive. Troy is one of those guys who can do anything on the football field”, Pete Carroll said in the Journal. Seely went so far as to say that “This guy is an MVP candidate. He’s making tackles on the kickoff coverage team. He’s breaking punt returns. He’s hustling his butt off any time we put him in there.”

When you add all this up, there really is no other way. The Pats have to try and figure out how to keep Third Down Brown.

If Andy Wasynczuk were sitting next to me, he’d probably say something like “Gosh, Bob, we want to keep Brown also. But what if he asks for more than we can pay him?” Well, Andy, that’s what they pay you for. You figure that out. Huddle up with Jack Mula and get it done.

Admittedly, that won’t be easy. It’s not like Brown will ask for top dollar, but even medium-high dollar might be tough. If cap room is a problem, the Pats can still show Brisby the door. If Brown simply cannot be signed, one can perhaps look at the contracts of Max Lane and Todd Rucci and shake their head. Some of the money used to retain these “Hardly Hannahs” might have been better spent locking up Third Down Brown.

And if Brown is indeed cast off, it might be a given that he winds up in Jet Green in 2000. Carroll and Seely might need to do some dirty knee time soon. You could find a lot of other Patriot fans that might join in and help with the groveling to the front office. Brown a Jet? I hear my anger therapy shrink calling me once again.

Brown is a proven commodity to the ball club. He fills in for injured players. He makes tough catches in the clutch. He is an ace on special teams. How can you not keep a guy like Brown?

Carroll ought to showcase Brown this year and involve him like never before. Not to sell him to other teams. To sell him to Andy and Jack. And Dad Bob also.

Make sure they get the message loud and clear. Third Down Brown is a keeper.

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