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Terrell Owens posted epic numbers, but divisive receiver far from Canton credentials

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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The Seahawks rolled the dice and gave Terrell Owens another shot, but cut him on Sunday. (US Presswire)  
The Seahawks rolled the dice and gave Terrell Owens another shot, but cut him on Sunday. (US Presswire)  

Now that Terrell Owens' NFL career is all but over, it's not too soon to ask how and when the guy should make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Because he shouldn't. Never, ever, ever.

People tell me he's a slam dunk and point to prodigious numbers that have him tied for second in touchdown catches, second in yardage and sixth in catches overall -- and that's great. Only there's one problem: This isn't the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame. So while those numbers are impressive, they don't write his ticket.

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No, there must be something else, and there is: At the peak of his career -- that is, when he was considered one of the game's elite receivers -- three teams couldn't wait to get rid of the guy. The San Francisco 49ers dumped him for a conditional fifth-round pick and a defensive lineman who played five games. Philadelphia cut him. So did Dallas.

Hey, even the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League got into the act, releasing him this spring after he failed to show for a scheduled appearance at a local children's hospital and refused to play in two road games.

Now the kicker: Owens was part of the team's ownership.

So you tell me: If Terrell Owens was such a valuable receiver ... if, as his supporters say, he's a bona fide Hall of Famer and one of the best ever ... why did three NFL teams run away from him when he was at the top of his game? Never mind, I'll spare you the trouble: Because he was a load, a negative and disruptive influence they couldn't and wouldn't tolerate.

One of his former coaches told me, he was "the most divisive guy" he'd ever coached, and, just a guess, but I have a hunch Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo know what he's talking about. At one time or another, all were torched by Owens, who renewed his criticism of Romo this summer -- saying he lost "respect" for him.

All were successful quarterbacks, too, with each making it to the Pro Bowl several times, and, yeah, OK, so Owens made it six times and was named All-Pro five. I never said he wasn't talented or productive. But let me repeat: This isn't fantasy football, folks. This is about professionals who represent what's best and memorable about the NFL, and Terrell Owens wasn't good enough to last with three teams when he was an All-Pro.

No, I don't count Buffalo and Cincinnati because they happened at the end of Owens' career, and he was a descending player by then. But I do know that when he and Chad Ochocinco were out of the lineup at the end of the 2010 season in Cincinnati, the Bengals' offense ran better and looked better, and I can tell you why in three words.

Addition by subtraction.

I also know that when Owens was introduced to the Dallas media in March 2006, there was someone notable missing from that news conference, and that someone was then-Dallas coach Bill Parcells. That wasn't an accident. By not appearing, Parcells made it clear where he stood with the move, and it wasn't behind the man who made it, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones.

The expectation then was that Owens would put Dallas over the top ... only it never happened. The Cowboys didn't win a playoff game with him. In fact, in Owens' first season with Dallas it was Philadelphia, not the Cowboys, that won the NFC East.

Without Owens, the Eagles were a better team, and they proved it that season, beating Dallas both times they met.

The Cowboys wouldn't win a playoff game until 2009, the year after Owens left, and Cincinnati reached the playoffs with a rookie quarterback in 2011 ... the year after Owens left. Connect the dots, people. It's not difficult to draw conclusions.

I don't deny that Terrell Owens put up huge career numbers, but if quality is measured only by numbers McDonald's would be a five-star restaurant. Terrell Owens did what was best for Terrell Owens, and the numbers speak for themselves. But so does the list of employers.

I don't know if Owens plays again, and, frankly, I don't care. But if he couldn't make a 75-man cut after a season out of the game, I'd say his chances of sticking with anyone at this stage of his life (he turns 39 in December) are remote.

That's why it's not too soon to start dissecting his legacy, and, yeah, I was there for his last-second TD catch in the 1998 playoffs, and I was there when he hauled down nine passes in Super Bowl XXXIX in a performance that was as marvelous as it was courageous.

But I know too many coaches and teammates he wore out, good people who grew tired of his act and felt their teams were better off without him. Guaranteed, the Hall of Fame selectors know them, too, and that will diminish his chances of making it to Canton.

Sure, he could make the final 15 finalists, and, with luck, he might even make the cut to the final 10 one day. But the guy should never make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- and not because he didn't have the talent or the numbers.

Nope, this one runs deeper, and it has everything to do with Owens failing to grasp that football is more than just a showcase for his abilities. Terrell Owens was a difference maker, all right, but too often it was for all the wrong reasons. So let me ask one more time: If three teams didn't want him when he was at his best, why should the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

It shouldn't.

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