Terrell Owens had to wait a few years before receiving his deserved spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His career statistics were undeniable, meaning his delayed entry was all about something else. It’s a good warning to all other players who hope to one day join him in Canton.
If all you knew about T.O. was that he was second all-time in receiving yards and third all-time in touchdowns, you’d think that was enough to have been a first-ballot inductee. But six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro selections, great as they are, don’t equal one Super Bowl championship.
Owens was never on a Super Bowl-winning team. And in some cases, he was to blame for his teams’ lack of success.
The Hall of Fame doesn’t care much about your personal life. O.J. Simpson’s bust is still in there, and maybe they’ll put Ray Lewis right beside him. What you away from football doesn’t appear to be much of a consideration.
But no matter how good you were on the field, your actions in the locker room and elsewhere in your professional life will follow you. And if that behavior was a perceived distraction from or detriment to winning, they will haunt you even more.
How much Terrell Owens hurt or helped his teams has been hotly debated for years now. He was there the last time the Philadelphia Eagles were in a Super Bowl, catching nine balls for 122 yards, after having one of his best seasons.
But Owens’ infamous rift with quarterback Donovan McNabb gave that Eagles team a short window of success. He would soon wind up in Dallas, and again played like one of the top receivers in the game for a few seasons.
But in 2008, Owens was at the forefront of a rift on the offense as T.O. and his fellow receivers were at odds with Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. After his divisive stops in San Francisco and Philadelphia, it was hard not to see Owens as the guilty party.
Without full access to NFL locker rooms, we can only go based on the evidence we have. Owens’ history as a malcontent and divider made him an easy target, and those reputations follow him even now.
Terrell’s wait for his gold jacket should serve as warning to any player who thinks individual achievement is enough. If you want that, work on your jumpshot.
Football is THE team game, where the principles of teamwork and brotherhood are preached harder than any other sport. How you worked by those principles will be considered heavily.
If it was only about the lack of a championship, then Dan Marino shouldn’t have been a first-ballot induction either. But unlike Owens, Marino was seen as the guy who did everything he could to win and just never had enough talent put around him.
Terrell, fairly or unfairly, is seen as the guy who sunk teams that could’ve had more success. Gaudy stats aside, that perception of poison is damning and hard to come back from.