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T.O. and Driver: Done and how it's done right in today's NFL

by | National NFL Insider

After a mostly great career, Owens has what looks like a not-so-great ending. (AP)  
After a mostly great career, Owens has what looks like a not-so-great ending. (AP)  

The man with the action-figure body and Hall of Fame talent likely will never play football again. He was ousted from an Indoor Football League team. The only thing lower would be getting cut from a flag football squad. He's a scoundrel.

The man with the moderate talent, the man who was always good, but not great, is going out the way he wants. He has been less talented than action-figure Terrell Owens, less known, and also less trouble. He was also steady on the field and off. This week, Donald Driver completed a deal that will make him a "Packer for life." He's the anti-Terrell Owens. He's a hero.

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It's rare that in literally a 72-hour span, the NFL draws this kind of startling contrast. Good guy and bad guy, uber-talent and workhorse, good side of the force, wrong side of the force -- all are great clichés used in sports that are often false.

In seeing the careers of Owens and Driver end in such different ways those clichés come to life. One man's life is a cautionary tale, the other an inspiration, and we watched the culmination of a career of decisions -- in one case many of them bad ones, in another almost all the right ones.

If the NFL wanted to produce a video to scare its incoming rookies straight, they have many choices, but one of them would focus on this week. The week when the career of a Hall of Famer officially died because of self-inflicted wounds and a good player signed on to go out his way.

Owens will never play in the NFL again. Is there a .1 percent chance some GM will take a chance? Sure. Still the Owens baggage is so voluminous an airline wouldn't touch him, let alone an NFL team. At least, we think no team is that dumb.

Driver is the opposite. It was interesting watching social media reaction not only in Green Bay (but especially in Green Bay) as Driver made his way through the Dancing With The Stars competition. There was almost a sense of euphoria from the NFL community, and it seemed larger and more sincere than when other NFL players won on the show. In a way, that's a typical reaction to Driver.

He's always been one of the forgotten, really good players. Driver is the all-time Packers leader with 735 catches for 10,060 yards for what is probably the most-storied franchise in the NFL, and over the years he's received a fraction of the attention received by Owens.

Part of it is playing in Green Bay, and part of it was the talent difference. But most of all, Driver has never been an excessive showboat. He's a showman. There's a difference. He'll perform the occasional first-down shimmy but those moves were always more for fans than himself.

Driver and Owens both did dirty work across the dangerous middle of the football field (a part of Owens' legacy that is unfairly ignored). What Driver did that Owens would not is subject his abilities for the greater good of the team. Driver probably could have had far bigger numbers if he played elsewhere. And while numbers are important to Driver, they don't define him. With Owens, they did.

Driver cared about loyalty and winning. Owens cared about Owens and Owens.

No one is shocked Owens was released by essentially a minor, minor league team because of a lack of effort or skipping out on a visit to a children's hospital. Or that he's broke. Or the large number of turdulent things he's done throughout his career and life. There's no need to rehash all of that.

What's important is that Owens is second in all-time NFL receiving yards and he was just cut by the IFL. I used to think the IFL was a Russian ballistic missile system. No, it's a league, and one of the most physically gifted players in NFL history just got the boot from the Texas Wranglers.

"It is impossible to maintain a player when even our fans notice and comment on a player's lack of effort both on and off the field," Wranglers owner Jon Frankel said.

Burn. One of the many indictments of Owens. While no one has ever questioned the effort of Driver. Another reason why we'll never see Owens in an NFL uniform again and why Driver will leave the sport as a Packer. On his own terms.


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