A lot happened over six years since Levi Brown first showed up, not the least of which being the Cardinals actually released Brown — which felt like the end of Brown’s time in Arizona — only to have the two sides decide to continue their marriage. That made some sense at the time, because then-offensive line coach Russ Grimm was a Levi fan and the Cards still needed a left tackle. But Grimm is gone now and a new staff, a new regime, finally decided to cut ties with Brown.
Yet it’s hard to escape the fact that Brown was always going to be linked to Adrian Peterson, the running back who is headed to the Hall of Fame and who was a consideration for the Cards. Brown was picked fifth, Peterson seventh. That part of the Brown narrative, while noteworthy, seems ancient and irrelevant to me at this point — the man was released once already, so I think the point was already made — but obviously, he will always be that guy for this fan base.
(Looking back at the newspaper/internet clips from that draft, Peterson was mentioned, but there was no outrage, locally or nationally, that the Cards picked Brown over Peterson. The Cards also had Edgerrin James at the time. In hindsight, the choice looks terrible. But in the moment, not so much.)
“When you look back at some of these high-round draft picks, they are under the microscope and the bulls-eye is on their chest from Day One,” Cards GM Steve Keim said. “When you don’t live up to expectations from Day One, that’s tough pill to carry. Not only Adrian Peterson, (but linebacker) Patrick Willis was No. 11 that year.”
Those are the examples Keim gives to young scouts these days, mistakes to learn from and grow from. But it was never going to help Brown, whose situation always felt like a more intense version of Calvin Pace. Pace was the pass rusher the Cards settled for instead of taking Terrell Suggs, and that too became an albatross for Pace. Brown tired early on with the Peterson talk, and that was understandable. Of bigger concern was his play, which was shoved further into the spotlight when he moved to the left side.
Brown struggled often. Brown’s play late in 2011 spurred reason for hope, enough so, apparently, that the Cards made sure to bring him back despite releasing him because of his exorbitant rookie contract salary due in 2012. Then he missed all of 2012 with his triceps injury, and the pressure was put back on him as soon as coach Bruce Arians called Brown “elite” at the owners’ meetings.
Arians was basing that on video he had watched. The coach addressed the “elite” comment Wednesday: “The player I saw on that tape was why I made the comment,” Arians said. “Once we started working together with all the offensive line coaches we had, it just wasn’t working out.” It’s hard not to feel that the three sacks Brown gave up in the season opener to the Rams’ Robert Quinn wasn’t ultimately the tipping point.
I have no doubt that had one of the top three tackles in the 2013 draft fallen to No. 7, instead of all being gobbled up by the fourth overall pick, the Cardinals would have taken one. Who knows? The Levi Brown era might have been over much sooner than now. Instead, Brown is traded and the Cards move Bradley Sowell to left tackle. He’ll get his chance, but if a left tackle is staring at the Cards in round one next May, I’m sure they will consider it. The hope is, if they take one, they won’t have a similar roller-coaster ride.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calvin Pace, Levi Brown, Steve Keim
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