Opinion: Orlando Brown Jr. could help Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs put Super Bowl fiasco in past

Mike Jones
USA TODAY
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Orlando Brown Jr. wanted to be the man, and he was willing to start all over again to do so. 

It didn't matterthat he had established himself as one of the best right tackles in the NFL, taking home Pro Bowl honors in two of his first three seasons. Brown always believed he was playing out of position.

Last season, when Baltimore Ravens starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending injury, Brown moved to the other end of the line and thrived. That 12-game sampling provided all the affirmations the 6-8, 345-pound Oklahoma product needed. He belonged in one of the NFL’s most important positions. He was never going back to right tackle. The Ravens would have to trade him, he declared. And he got his way. 

Last April, the Kansas City Chiefs gave up first-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to obtain Brown, along with second- and sixth-round picks.. Now, as the Chiefs navigate training camp at Western Missouri University, the heat is on, literally and figuratively. Brown’s new responsibilities only consist of keeping the best young quarterback in the entire league upright.

But he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“I understand that this position – being the left tackle for a half-a-billion-dollar man and the face of the NFL – is a huge opportunity,” Brown told USA TODAY Sports following Thursday’s practice. “Definitely comes with a lot of pressure. But it’s a situation where I’m so blessed and so happy to be here.”

Offensive tackle Orlando Brown #57 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on during training camp at Missouri Western State University on July 29, 2021 in St Joseph, Missouri.

The Chiefs have great expectations for Brown, as their willingness to fork over so many picks for a player entering the final season of his rookie contract. But Brown just might be the key to the Chiefs’ quest for a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance and their hoisting a second Lombardi Trophy in three years. 

Patrick Mahomes probably still has nightmares of Super Bowl 55. With both of his starting offensive tackles on the injured list, he scrambled incessantly – running nearly 500 yards behind the line of scrimmage, according to Next Gen Stats – that night while trying to evade a ferocious Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive front that sacked him three times and hit him 10 times while ravaging the Chiefs 31-9.

This offseason, upgrading the offensive line topped Kansas City’s to-do list. Brown ranked among the key acquisitions and could prove to be one of the most pivotal moves of this NFL calendar year

“It meant a lot,” Brown said. “They’re going to get everything I’ve got each and every day, and especially on Sundays. I’m really looking forward to being able to keep (Mahomes) clean and be able to help build a culture up front and shift things and be a part of a group of guys that are known as dogs; a physical, imposing offensive line.”

Brown added, “Obviously, it’s training camp, man, and the month of August is hell no matter where you are.” But with each practice, workout, meeting, meal or hangout with Mahomes and his new teammates, he’s convinced he made the right move by requesting a trade, and he’s determined to prove that the Chiefs also got it right.

A dominant season at left tackle also will translate into a handsome payday for Brown, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. But he insists his move from the right side of the line to the left, “wasn’t about the money.” Instead, it had everything to do with what he views as both a life calling and debt owed to his father.

Orlando Brown Sr. played right tackle nine seasons in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Brown Sr. died in 2011 of diabetic ketoacidosis at the age of 40.

“One thing he always expressed to me was, ‘Be better than me,’' Brown Jr. said. “I had the opportunity to come to the NFL and be a right tackle. … But this is about achieving a dream and the success that my father set out for me as a young man, not letting me play right tackle or guard (growing up). If they didn’t have me at left tackle, they had me at defensive tackle. So, for me, it was the opportunity to live out a dream and do it for him, for this franchise and group of men.”

Because he had spent his entire pre-NFL football life at left tackle, Brown said he feels more natural at that position. So, he never doubted his ability to play that position and take on the NFL’s premier pass-rushers.

Sure enough, in 700 snaps at left tackle last season, Brown surrendered no sacks, no quarterback hits and allowed only 16 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Brown’s impressive size and strength, coupled with exceptional footwork combine to make him such a daunting matchup for edge rushers.

Brown believes that the combination of Mahomes’ talents and the extensive knowledge boasted by Kansas City’s coaches can draw even more out of him.

“You can definitely understand why they contend for championships here,” Brown explained. “Just the tempo, the mindset of practice, the consistency that your coaches coach you with and all the different things that apply to winning a Super Bowl, so you can see why they’re able to go the distance once we get into the season and postseason. I love it. I feel like a kid again. Just being out here, the way practice is set up, the way we’re competing. Man, it just makes you want to be perfect."

Asked about Brown, Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters, “He loves the game. He goes back and studies (past games). It's impressive to do that. But it gives him an idea of how we roll here. … He’s willing to work.”

As Brown, who wore No. 78 in Baltimore to honor his father, embarks on this new chapter at his dream position, he’s doing so with a new number: 57. It’s unconventional for an offensive tackle, but it too carries special meaning.

“My mentor (and retired Pro Bowl tackle) Jammal Brown wore 55 at Oklahoma, my dad wore 77 and 78, and (Chiefs Hall of Famer) Mr. (Bobby) Bell had 78 here and it's retired,” Brown explained. “So 5 and 7 gave me the opportunity to honor the two men who had a really big impact on my life and who I am as a person and a player.”

Now, all Brown wants is to have a championship-caliber impact on his new team.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

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