It would be easy to assume that when the Baltimore Ravens allowed their right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to seek a trade because he wanted to play left tackle, they were simply trying to avoid dealing with a greedy player — or even a malcontent.
First, you have to know that Orlando Brown Sr. was also an NFL offensive tackle who played for Baltimore. The senior Brown (nicknamed “Zeus”) was an undrafted free agent who joined the Cleveland Browns in 1993. He became their starting right tackle in 1994 and moved to Baltimore with the team in 1996.
In 1999, he returned to the re-established Browns franchise in Cleveland — but his season ended when he was accidentally struck in the eye with an official’s weighted penalty flag.
As a result of his eye injury, the elder Brown missed three NFL seasons before returning to the Ravens in 2003 — and retained ties to the team following his retirement after 2005.
With that background, it’s not surprising that “Zeus” Brown would want nothing but the best for his son Orlando Jr. — as the Chiefs’ new left tackle explained during his first session with Kansas City reporters on Monday.
“Growing up, there were stories I could tell you — one of them being my freshman year of high school,” said Brown. “They didn’t think I was ready to play left tackle. They wanted to play me at offensive guard. My dad went to the coach and told him straight up: ‘Hey, if you’re not playing him at left tackle, put him on defense.’ So I played defensive tackle my first year.”
But Brown said there was more to it than that: a promise he made to his father, who died when Orlando Jr. was 15.
“Growing up as a child, when I committed to play this game, my dad didn’t let me play. I literally had to call him — crying as 12 to 13-year-old-kid — begging him to let me play football. Something that he made me promise him was that I was going to be a left tackle — and I was going to play in this league for 10-plus years and be a Hall of Famer. Something he always expressed to me and my siblings was, ‘Be better than us.’”
To “Zeus,” that meant nothing less than being the best player at the best position in the best league.
“Growing up in my household, left tackle was important,” Orlando Jr. told reporters. “My dad understood the magnitude of the position — the magnitude that it brings, obviously with often being the captain of the offensive line, often being one of the better players on offense. It was so important to my family; it was so important to him.
“I can’t really say why. I just know that often, the right tackle can be a really good player — but often, the left tackle is getting a lot of love or a lot of credit; a lot more respect and credibility.”
So as Orlando Jr. watched NFL games as a youngster, his father made a point of telling him not to watch Dad play. Instead, he told the young man he should be watching left tackles like Jonathan Ogden, Tony Boselli and Anthony Munoz.
That made it a special thrill for Orlando Jr. to not only become a member of the Ravens — by whom he was drafted in the third round to play right tackle in 2018 — but then move to the left when starter Ronnie Stanley was injured last season.
“That was so special to me because of the goals that I set as a young child — for one, being left tackle in this league and [another] playing for the Baltimore Ravens,” he recalled. “To have that opportunity personally was such a special game for me — and such a special game for my family. I remember how proud my mom was for that moment.”
So when Brown flatly denied to reporters that his desire to play left tackle instead of right tackle had anything to do with money, it was pretty easy to believe. And he also said that the Ravens organization understood where he was coming from.
“I think there was just an understanding that it was a lot deeper than the surface,” he said of the Ravens. “It’s not about finances. It’s not about, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy’s upset.’ They knew my father. They knew me from a young child. They knew the importance of things.”
And for Brown, that meant taking full advantage of the opportunity that Stanley’s injury had provided him: the chance to show another team — one that badly needed a left tackle — that he was the guy to do the job. And that team was the Chiefs, who needed someone to protect Patrick Mahomes’ blind side.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Brown acknowledged. “I have very high expectations for myself: keeping Pat as clean as possible, creating as many huge gaps and holes as I can in the run game — and taking care of that man across from me on a consistent basis.
“I want to be able to develop and gain that trust and that credibility and confidence among coach Reid, coach Bieniemy and my teammates as well — understanding that just because it’s an elite defensive lineman over here, I don’t need to slide; I don’t need chip help.
“I want to be the best. I want to be the best to play this position in the league. I’m not there yet — I’ve still got a lot of work to do — but I’m going to get there.”