(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens reports back to camp today after a weeklong suspension that was handed out by head coach Andy Reid. Hopefully, some sort of compromise will be met between the two parties, so I won’t be subjected to around the clock updates on the disgruntled receiver’s quest for a new contract.
I’ve had it up to my bald head with the constant media attention surrounding T.O., but I have to admit last Thursday’s blitz swayed my opinion on the matter.
Last year I ripped Latrell Sprewell when he commented that he couldn’t feed his family on $25 million per year. Owens recently said the same thing, but there’s a world of difference in the two statements.
First, Sprewell isn’t half the player he used to be, and in the NBA, contracts are guaranteed. Sprewell should be thankful he’s in a position to rob the T-wolves blind after his stints as a coach choker and yacht captain.
Owens on the other hand plays in a league that has no guaranteed contracts, where the shelf life of a player is the shortest in professional sports. He’s not even getting paid what he’s worth. He ranks tenth amongst the highest paid receivers.
Honestly, can you name seven other receivers better than him? And I’m not talking about off the field incidents. If you take into account only what he does on the field, you would be hard pressed to name a wide out that’s better. Personally, I rank him third best, behind Randy Moss (just win, baby) and Marvin Harrison.
He deserves more money, but at the same time I have to question why he signed the contract that he did last season.
I also have to question why Philadelphia is taking such a hardline approach in dealing with him. After all, Owens was the best Eagle in the Super Bowl, and this was despite the fact that he was playing with an ankle injury that hadn’t fully healed.
After signing a waiver that cleared the Eagles of any financial obligation in case he was hurt, Owens went out and caught nine passes for 122 yards. If Philly had won, he would have been MVP.
Afterwards he called out quarterback Donovan McNabb for being tired during the game. You’ll remember that McNabb upchucked some of his Campbell’s Chunky Soup onto the field, and then threw two interceptions in the decisive fourth quarter.
His stats for the fourth quarter were 9-of-19 for 112 yards, a TD and the two picks. 51 of those 112 receiving yards went to Owens. McNabb finished the year with 3,875 passing yards and 31 TD’s. In 14 games Terrell caught 1200 of those yards and 14 touchdowns. It’s no coincidence that McNabb had career highs in yardage, touchdowns, and completion percentage the first year he played with Terrible Owens.
The Eagles knew what they were getting when they signed him. They knew they were getting an elite receiver who more than likely would have a meltdown or two.
While they were tearing up the league in the regular season, they underplayed the obvious tension between Owens and McNabb, saying everything was fine.
Now they’re taking a tough love approach in dealing with him, and it’s not going to work. The only solutions are to rework his contract or trade him.
Philadelphia sent him a letter on Monday outlining the problems with his conduct, and many fell that it’s the first step in suspending him indefinitely if he messes up again. Much like the zero tolerance Indiana threw on Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight before firing him.
Right now, the Eagles only have one proven receiver on their roster and he promptly ran the wrong route on the first play of Monday’s exhibition against the Steelers, which led to an interception return for a touchdown. If they are going to return to their fifth straight NFC title game, they’re going to need someone to catch some passes.
If they don’t trade or raise Terrell, his discontentment will probably ruin the Eagle season. They’ve said they don’t want to trade him – probably because they don’t want him burning their secondary when they have to face him – and they have a history of underpaying star players.
I say they should trade him to Atlanta and consider the experiment a moderate success. Even though Owens didn’t suit up in the playoffs, he was instrumental in getting them there and they finally made the Super Bowl with him on the roster.
Either way, the Eagles are contributing to the media circus surrounding them right now. The real focus should be on how the most dominant team in the NFC this decade is going to defend their conference championship.
My guess is, without Owens, they won’t.