When it comes to Terrell Owens, people love to blindly regurgitate idiotic narratives. One such narrative is where they just pretend they don’t know anything about professional sports and go, “if Terrell Owens wasn’t a horrible teammate/team cancer, why didn’t he stick with a team?”
Apparently these people have never heard of free agency, the salary cap, rebuilding, and playing out your contract.
Apparently these people think that the only reason a team wouldn’t keep a player around indefinitely is, “team cancer.”
Hey, the sports talking heads told them so.
It’s interesting to note how Randy Moss also played for 5 different teams. His career followed a very similar trajectory to that of Owens. 7 years with his first team (Vikings) to Owens’s 8 (49ers). 2 years with his next team prior to being traded for a 4th round pick (Raiders) to Owens’s 1.5 & deactivation (Eagles). 3 years and a few games with his next team (Patriots) to Owens’s 3 years with his next (Cowboys). And Moss ended up playing for 3 different teams in the same season after the Patriots traded him, also playing for both Minnesota (again) and Tennessee that year. If we counted the two Minnesota stints as separate teams, he actually played for 6 different teams. And then he retired and returned a year later to play one season for the 49ers. Owens played a year with the Bills and then a year with the Bengals. He was then out of the NFL for a year, given a tryout with the Seahawks the following year, but was cut in preseason when he didn’t make the team.
You have to wonder if that was part of the reason Owens was voted into the Hall of Fame this year. The same people who were so militant about keeping Owens out would have had a helluva time trying to argue, “b-b-b-but, Randy Moss is different!” Their whole argument hinged on, “teams ‘got rid of’ him!”
But of course, that’s not even how it actually happened. Most of this is revisionist history.
Let’s just start with the Bills and Bengals, since this is just silly.
Owens only signed 1 year contracts with those two teams. He finished the year with both teams, and then hit free agency. At ages 36 and 37 (when receivers are considered well past their prime and of retirement age). With the Bills, his numbers were terrible, and the next season, new head coach Chan Gailey publicly stated that in reviewing the film, he thought Owens was getting close to “hitting the wall.” The Bills were a young team looking to build for the future. There was no reason to bring back a receiver whom they thought was a declining veteran nearing the end and take playing time away from their young guys.
With the Bengals, Owens tore his meniscus late in the year and had to have surgery. He then tore his ACL in the off-season and wouldn’t have even been ready for the start of the season. Plus, Carson Palmer had retired. The Bengals were rebuilding on offense. A 37-year-old coming off knee surgery doesn’t exactly fit in the plans.
But people usually just throw in the last two teams for the helluva it; just for the sake of lazy thinking. It’s the first three where they think they actually know something.
The San Francisco thing is hilarious revisionist history, however. That revisionist history began after the Eagles suspended and deactivated him. Nobody was saying the 49ers were getting rid of him for “locker room” reasons in 2004. You know why? Because the 49ers weren’t even trying to get rid of him. They didn’t even have an actual locker room to be concerned about. They had gutted the whole team that off-season, which included cutting their starting quarterback. And not only that, but the 49ers actually released Jeff Garcia before they traded Owens.The 49ers also cut Garrison Hearst, Derrick Deese, and Ron Stone, and let Tai Streets and Jed Weaver leave via free agency. In total, that’s 7 offensive starters who departed. They weren’t actually trying to field a competitive roster for 2004. They were trying to clear salary cap space, get rid of aging veterans, and start over. They were in complete rebuilding mode; the general consensus was they were a candidate for the #1 overall pick the following year. And that’s exactly what happened. They went 2-14 in 2004-05.
And part of that rebuilding mode plan was the expectation that Owens would void his contract and go elsewhere for more money. In the summer of 2003, GM Terry Donahue had met with Owens’ agent, David Joseph, to discuss a contract extension. They were unable to come to terms. The 49ers weren’t willing to pay him what he was looking for.
But then Owens’s agent missed the deadline to submit the paperwork to file for free agency. This meant Owens remained under contract with the 49ers. This did not fit in with the 49ers’ 2004 salary cap projections, and Owens had made it clear he wanted to leave. He requested and was granted a trade. To the Ravens. After having been told the Eagles were interested and he could start negotiating a new contract with them.
This led to him filing a grievance and, eventually, the 49ers, Eagles, and Ravens working out a 3-team settlement to send Owens to the Eagles.
Not only did the 49ers not get rid of him for “locker room” reasons in 2003, but they had already re-signed him once. He had become a restricted free agent after the 1998 season. The 49ers put the franchise tag on him and eventually signed him to a lucrative new contract. That’s why he played 8 years for San Francisco…or the same number of years Reggie White played for the Eagles (1985-1992). Obviously, the Eagles just couldn’t wait to get rid of White (for him to leave via free agency).
But then Owens moved on to play for the same team White spent 8 years playing for. Here is the one time where a team did actually get rid of him for perceived problems, but not in the way in which the media claims.
The main issue for Owens and the Eagles in 2005 was Owens’s public discontent with his contract. He had asked to renegotiate. And the Eagles don’t allow that.
Just ask Corey Simon. Ask Jeremiah Trotter. Ask Duce Staley. Ask Sheldon Brown.
During the years of that regime, no Eagles player who publicly made it known he was unhappy with his contract ever continued playing for them beyond the upcoming season.
So Owens’s days heading into that 2005 season were already numbered. That was going to be his last season no matter what.
When the media took Owens’s answer to Graham Bensinger’s question about Brett Favre completely out of context, Andy Reid stipulated that Owens talk to McNabb in person and stand up in front of the team and apologize for it. Reid told Owens that as long as he did this, he would avoid suspension. It was only when Owens refused to do it that the Eagles moved to suspend and deactivate him for the rest of the season.
In other words, the Eagles didn’t cut Owens’s last season in Philadelphia short because “locker room cancer.” They cut it short for insubordination. They had also made him apologize for criticizing the front office for not acknowledging his 100th touchdown celebration. He upset the front office, and the media upset Donovan McNabb by making him think that Owens had taken a shot at him (he hadn’t).
The media also wants you to forget that the Eagles were 4-3 with Owens, and McNabb was playing with a sports hernia injury that would end his season 2 weeks later. So much for, “Owens destroyed the team.”
Finally, we move on to Dallas. I think this picture says most of it:
What is checked as the reason for his release: On field performance.
What is not checked as the reason for his release: Conduct.
Somebody forgot to tell Owens that they were cutting him because he’s a team cancer.
Maybe they were cutting him because he was 35, rather than in the prime of his career, as numerous Owens critics like to pretend he was. Maybe it was a combination of that and the fact he was coming off a down year, with just 69 catches for 1052 yards and 10 touchdowns. Maybe it was both of those as well as the fact that during the 2008 regular season while Owens wasn’t producing, the Cowboys had traded 1st and 3rd round draft picks for wide receiver Roy Williams, and given him a lucrative new contract.
Of course, there were extenuating circumstances for Owens’s decreased production. Tony Romo missed 3 games with a hand injury and 40-year-old Brad Johnson was absolutely atrocious filling in. And when Romo returned, he was never really at full strength.
But that was their evaluation, not mine. And it was an evaluation that was shared by Chan Gailey and the Bills a year later, as noted earlier.