Bad teammate. Selfish. A quarterback’s best friend turned worst enemy.
Normally, the above qualities wouldn’t be used to describe a Pro Football Hall of Famer. But when talking about the career of one Terrell Owens – who on Friday announced that he would retire if he did not sign with a team in 2013 — it’s different.
It would be one thing if Owens had been a mediocre NFL wide receiver. But if people step back and just look at his stats, they’ll see that he was simply one of the best of all-time.
It is why then that Owens, the same guy who publicly bashed Jeff Garcia, blamed the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl 39 loss to the New England Patriots on what he thought was a poorly conditioned Donovan McNabb and in one instance was tearfully defending Tony Romo with his infamous “that’s my teammate, that’s my quarterback” bit, but behind closed doors was far from complimentary of the quarterback, should be in the Hall of Fame.
That shouldn’t even be a question.
Coming out of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga as a third round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1996, Owens was given the opportunity to learn from the greatest wide receiver in football history, Jerry Rice.
He no doubt put Rice’s advice to good use.
In fifteen seasons, Owens amassed 15,934 receiving yards, second all-time to Rice’s absurd mark of 22,895. Owens is fifth all time in touchdowns, behind Randy Moss (who is more than 700 yards behind Owens in that category), LaDanian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, and Rice.
On Dec. 17, 2000, he set a then NFL record for catches in a game with 20 (which is currently now owned by Brandon Marshall), compiling 283 yards to go along with a touchdown. His 1,078 career receptions are sixth all-time, and he did it in 14 years. In contrast, it took Cris Carter – who will be inducted into the Hall this year – 15 seasons to get to 1,101. And it took Carter more games to get there (234) than it did Owens (219).
But stats aren’t everything when you look at one of the NFL’s most colorful wideouts.
For all the drama that accompanied him throughout his career — the sharpie pulling out of the sock and pom pom dance, and the sit ups in the driveway – Owens displayed one of the hardest work ethics ever seen in the NFL.
At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he looked like he was sculpted from ice, and you could count on him to give his all when he stepped on the field, and show up when it mattered. That was most evident in Super Bowl 39, when Owens’ Eagles lost 24-21 to the Patriots. In Week 15 of that season, he was dragged down from behind by Dallas Cowboy Roy Williams in a game in Philadelphia – the tackle that spawned the horse collar rule. Owens suffered a broken ankle, and was expected to miss the rest of the season.
But Owens did make it back in time to face New England, and put forth a spectacular effort – catching 9 balls for 122 yards.
When people talk about Terrell Owens, though, the first thing that comes to the forefront is the off-field negativity. The spats with teammates, the me-first attitude and the all too well known label as a guy that single-handedly destroys locker rooms.
But last time I checked, it’s the Hall of Fame. Players get in based on their production, not their character.
In a sporting culture where some athletes abuse their spouses, drive under the influence and in some cases commit murder, the worst Owens has done has been not being the greatest teammate, and punishing him for that would be ridiculous.
We may never see another player who was like Owens off the field.
But we may also never see another player who was like him on the field either.
That, and that alone, should be the deciding factor on whether or not he gets a bust in Canton in the near future.