Donovan McNabb’s Problem With What He Thought Owens Said

Aside from the fact that Owens’s reply to Graham Bensinger’s question about the Eagles being undefeated with Brett Favre was taken completely out of context, and was actually not intended as a shot at McNabb at all, it’s funny to note how McNabb said that what actually bothered him about what he thought Owens said was the race of the other quarterback being named.

“In that situation, it was kinda like, ‘That’s unreal.’ That’s just like me saying, ‘If we had Steve Largent, if we had Joe Jurevicius, we’d be undefeated. He’ll now have to answer the question for the whole week about me saying it.”

McNabb’s selection of two white receivers was not by accident. He took Owens’ choice of Favre as disrespectful to McNabb as an African-American quarterback.

“It was definitely a slap in the face to me. Because as deep as people won’t go into it, it was [a] black-on-black crime. I mean, you have a guy that has been criticized just about all his career and now the last criticism is that I’m selling out because I don’t run anymore, by an African-American [J. Whyatt Mondesire, the NAACP chapter president who ripped McNabb in a column that appeared in the Philadelphia Sun].

“And to say if we had Brett Favre, that could mean that if you had another quarterback of a different descent or ethnic background, we could be winning. That’s something I thought about and said, ‘Wow.’ It’s different to say if we had Michael VickDaunte CulpepperSteve McNairAaron BrooksByron Leftwich. But to go straight to Brett Favre, that slapped me in the face, like what I’ve done and what I set out to do”

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/news/story?id=2315565)

Of course, it wasn’t even Owens who chose Brett Favre as the potential replacement; it was Michael Irvin. And then Bensinger asked Owens about Irvin’s statement.

But here’s Donovan McNabb himself saying that what bothered him about the statement was that Favre is white. He then gave examples of quarterbacks he would have been more OK with being mentioned as replacements in the hypothetical scenario Owens was asked about: Black quarterbacks.

So while media and fans alike go on about why the thing Owens didn’t say in the way the media claimed was so hurtful to McNabb, McNabb himself doesn’t even view it that way. McNabb was upset because McNabb is racist, and assumes that racism is the only reason anyone could ever think a white quarterback is better than him.

Also, the fact that this ESPN article refers to it as “Owens’s choice of Favre” tells you everything you need to know about fact checking in sports media.

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“Why didn’t Owens stick with one team?”

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:

https://imgur.com/a/LVWjNHt

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.

 

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Quick Rundown Of Anti-Owens Myths

It’s that time of year again. It’s the time of year where Terrell Owens gets screwed by certain Hall of Fame voters (not to name any names, but *cough* Clark Judge, Ron Borges, Jason Cole *cough*). The same people who lied about him since 2000 will once again refuse to vote for him based on those lies about him that they created.

What are those lies, you ask? Try every negative thing you think he ever said or did; myths which emanated from the fact that he twice went to the middle of Texas Stadium and stood on the star after scoring touchdowns in week 4 of the 2000 season (the first of which he did after asking for permission before the game from wide receivers coach, George Stewart).

What lies? These lies:

“Terrell Owens threw Donovan McNabb under the bus.”

There are two things people think Owens said that they consider to have been throwing McNabb under the bus. He said neither of these things the media claimed he did.

First, people think Owens accused McNabb of getting tired in the Super Bowl (or even vomiting). This is false. This was Hank Fraley and Freddie Mitchell. This became falsely attributed to Owens because later on, Owens did an interview with Len Pasquarelli, where he took a shot at the media for criticizing him for trying to play in the Super Bowl after he broke his leg. Pasquarelli asked Owens about this criticism, and Owens made a reference to the Fraley/Mitchell comments to note the irony of the media criticizing Owens before the game for supposedly hurting his team by not being physically ready to play in the game, when after the game, the story about a player getting tired turned out to center around the team’s other star player.  

When the media interpreted this as a shot at McNabb, Owens consistently denied that it was. This fell on deaf ears.

The second and final time people think Owens threw McNabb under the bus while they were teammates was when he did an interview with Graham Bensinger and agreed with Michael Irvin’s assessment that the Eagles would be in a better situation with Brett Favre as their quarterback. What was conveniently glossed over was that the very question before that, Owens was asked what he made of the Eagles’ 4-3 start, and he stated that if McNabb wasn’t injured, the Eagles’ record would be better.  As it turns out, Owens was only asked about Irvin’s comments on ESPN as a follow up question after he had brought up McNabb’s injury being largely responsible for their record being disappointing. Once again, this was clearly not a shot at McNabb.

And once again, Owens denied that he was taking a shot at McNabb in this interview. It once again fell on deaf ears.

“Terrell Owens threw Jeff Garcia under the bus.”

The infamous Playboy interview in which Owens implied that he thought Garcia was gay came in 2004, when the two were no longer teammates. How can you be a “bad teammate” for “taking a shot” at a guy who isn’t even your teammate? The answer is, of course, you can’t. If Owens hurt the Cleveland Browns by implying Garcia was gay, that only helped the Eagles. Hell, the Eagles actually beat the Browns during their regular season meeting. Maybe Owens helped his team in an intangible way there, in addition to all his touchdown scoring! Even more reason to put him in the Hall of Fame!

During Owens’s final year with the 49ers, the media did create awkward tension between the two when they lied about a perfectly politically correct response Owens gave when they asked him if he thought it was time to consider a quarterback change after a blowout loss to the Vikings in which Garcia had been benched for Tim Rattay. 

Owens said that it wasn’t his decision to make, noted that Rattay played well, and said that no matter who was in at quarterback, he was going to catch the ball for him.

They instead fed Garcia their twisted version of what Owens said, claiming Owens had “hinted at” a quarterback change (when it was the reporter who hinted at it, and Owens downplaying it with a politically correct response), upsetting Garcia, and causing Garcia to fire back in the process with a cryptic, “we can not allow this sickness to spread” response.

As tennis legend Roger Federer once described it when the media tried to do the same with he and fellow tennis player Bernard Tomic, “I guess only a small part got taken out of it. It’s a bit out of context, in my opinion. Then you (media) feed it to a player, he reacts, might be frustrated, and then he goes even further.”

“He accused Tony Romo of throwing too much to Jason Witten.”

The only one who publicly did this was ESPN’s Ed Werder via “anonymous source.” If Owens did say this, he said it in private; exactly as he’s supposed to. There is nothing wrong with a player talking in private with a coach about his frustration with his role. Coaches explicitly tell players to do exactly this, rather than venting to the media.

And does anybody really think skill position players all over the league aren’t chatting behind the scenes with their buddies about wanting the ball more, complaining that the quarterback missed them or the coaches aren’t giving them enough opportunities? How clueless/naive do you have to be to think this is newsworthy or worthy of criticism?

Picture this unlikely scenario:

Wide Receiver 474 to a teammate: “Maaaaaan…I was open all game and he never even looked my way. He kept checkin’ it down.”

If you think this isn’t what goes on in every single locker room at every level of football, you have never experienced being a member of the human race.

 

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The Real Reason The Media Attacked Terrell Owens

Attention:

In case you forgot – and most of you did – the media first went after Terrell Owens because of his controversial touchdown celebrations. It had nothing to do with what kind of “teammate” he was. It had nothing to do with “locker rooms.” Those are red herrings…which followed years later to justify continuing to vilify someone they had decided was a villain for his celebrations. Don’t believe me? Watch this video.

From Owens’s rookie year in 1996 until week 4 of the 2000 season, nobody in the media had ever written a bad word about him. In fact, they had only written exactly the opposite: that he was the “quiet” one of the 49ers’ receivers. The unselfish one. The undemanding one.

Then he twice celebrated on the star and his media portrayal completely changed. Everything that you think happened after that was the result of those celebrations – the lies, the misrepresentations of his responses to questions, and the ridiculous double standards applied to him for engaging in normal football etiquette, which caused people to believe in the ridiculous new narrative that he was somehow a bad teammate – all stemmed from what he did in week 4 of the 2000 season in Dallas.

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Debunking The Terrell Owens Mythology In Most Condensed Form

My goal in this short article is to take down the anti-Terrell Owens narrative in such an efficient manner that absolutely everyone will have the attention span to read what I have written, but how is this possible? How can I clarify what has been distorted from the very beginning? How can I explain to people why the media would deliberately lie about someone to where they grasp the reason? Well, I probably can’t, but I will try.

I want you to forget everything you think you know about what Terrell Owens “said” or “did.” Where would be a good place to start?

Well, I think the first thing people need to understand in order to grasp what happened is how Owens was portrayed when he entered the NFL. Owens’s career began in 1996, yet until he celebrated a pair of touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys in week 4 of 2000 by posing on the star at Texas Stadium, literally not a single bad word had ever been said or written about his character in the media. In fact, it was quite the opposite, as what was said about his character was that he was unselfish, which included a story in SI mentioning he had volunteered to be the 49ers’ third receiver before the start of the 1998 season to defuse any potential controversy with Jerry Rice and J.J. Stokes also competing for starting positions.

What does this mean? What this means is that for 4 full seasons and the first 3 games of the 2000 season, Terrell Owens was either a completely different person, or he was somehow this horrible person who was slipping through the cracks/masquerading until the celebrations prompted them to notice him. Or, as a variation of the second option, after the celebrations prompted them to notice him, the media deliberately looked for things to vilify him for, since he was now permanently a villain for those celebrations – celebrations he was suspended for and refused to apologize for.

If it’s not the first option – and I believe any reasonable person would agree that people don’t suddenly become completely different people all of a sudden one day – then we must look at the implications of the second option. If it was the second option – that Owens was this bad guy all along – then we must consider how Owens would have been portrayed had the media never been drawn to him for the celebrations. Logically, we can only conclude that without an attention-grabbing celebration, his supposed evil would have remained covert. And logically, we must also assume that out of the thousands upon thousands of players to have played professional football, there are others whose bad personalities never drew the media’s attention.

Remember, it’s not just that the media never even once reported something negative about Owens’s character from 1996 to week 4 of the 2000 season; it’s that they portrayed him as exactly the opposite.

With that in mind, let me tell you what happened:

  1. Terrell Owens – inspired by a speech by the team chaplain during the walkthrough before the 2000 game against the Cowboys – celebrated two touchdowns by posing on the star. This offended numerous people – including many in the media – who interpreted it as an egregious form of taunting/”look-at-me” behavior.
  2. When confronted about it after the game, Owens refused to apologize for his celebrations.
  3. 49ers coach Steve Mariucci suspended Owens for one game for the celebrations and his refusal to apologize for them.
  4. The media latched on to the narrative of Owens being a jerk for the celebrations and Mariucci and Owens not getting along because of their disagreement about the celebrations and Owens’s suspension.
  5. The media started targeting Owens with inflammatory questions after losses, and when Owens gave politically correct answers, they twisted/reinterpreted his words into things he didn’t say for the purpose of attention-grabbing headlines/columns. Even when he said literally nothing at all to reporters, they ripped him for that, too.
  6. In 2001, they engaged in #5, then used the tactic of feeding their false reinterpretation of what Owens had said to Mariucci, upsetting Mariucci and causing further strain.
  7. In 2002, Owens doubled down on the controversial touchdown celebrations, autographing a ball with a Sharpie in the endzone. He was again lambasted in the media for his way of celebrating.
  8. In 2003, during a game billed as Owens vs. Moss, the 49ers were getting blown out, and with the cameras on Owens throughout the game, they caught him yelling at his offensive coordinator in frustration.
  9. In the post-game, the media again engaged in #5, and again engaged in #6 – only this time with Jeff Garcia. Thanks to this, for the first time since they played together, Owens and Garcia’s relationship was now strained.
  10. Owens’s agent missed the deadline to file for free agency, hence he and Owens ended up negotiating a new contract with the Eagles while under duress waiting for the ruling from the grievance hearing. Owens had been traded to the Ravens and a 3-team trade settlement was being worked out to send Owens to the Eagles.
  11. In 2004, when the two were no longer teammates, Owens did the infamous Playboy “interview” in which he was asked if he thought there was any truth to the rumors Garcia was gay, and Owens implied he thought there was, (“20 Questions With Terrell Owens”). Owens never said anything bad about Garcia while they were still teammates. The media engaged in revisionist history to make people forget the timeline and think otherwise.
  12. After the Super Bowl with the Eagles, Hank Fraley and Freddie Mitchell told the media that Donovan McNabb had gotten tired/apparently thrown up in the Super Bowl. This became a huge story. In an interview a little later on, Owens was asked by ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli about the criticism he had received before the game, with some questioning how his physical conditioning would be coming off his broken leg, insisting he was selfish for trying to play. Owens fired back at the media, noting the irony of their story after the game being about the other star player being the one who apparently got tired. The media again engaged in #5 and #6 – this time with Donovan McNabb. Owens denied he was talking about McNabb; his criticism was directed at the media for questioning his physical conditioning.
  13. Owens held out for a new contract because of the result of #10.
  14. The Eagles refused to renegotiate, which upset him.
  15. Owens came to camp in a bad mood because of #14, and decided he was only going to do the bare minimum from now on. He would practice hard, play hard, and that’s it. Andy Reid confronted him about skipping autograph sessions, leading to a heated exchange and Reid sending Owens home for one week.
  16. Owens went home, and the media stalked Owens at his house while he was outside shooting baskets on his driveway. With a helicopter flying overhead and dozens of reporters trespassing, Owens decided to make light of the situation, doing the infamous “situps in his driveway.”
  17. After a 4-3 start, Owens did an interview with Graham Bensinger. McNabb had suffered a bruised sternum in week 1 and a sports hernia injury in week 3. Two of the questions Bensinger asked Owens got media attention. The first was when Bensinger asked him if he was upset about the Eagles not acknowledging his 100th touchdown reception, to which Owens replied by saying it showed the lack of class that the organization had. The second was another instance of #5 and #6; Bensinger asked Owens what he made of the Eagles’ 4-3 start that year, and Owens said that McNabb being injured was a big part of it, and that if McNabb were healthy, their record would probably be better. Bensinger then asked Owens, as a follow up question, about ESPN analyst Michael Irvin’s comment that the Eagles would be undefeated with Brett Favre at quarterback. Owens said it was a good assessment, that he would agree with it, and went on to praise Favre, in the context of having already said the team’s record would be better if McNabb was healthy. He never said one negative word about McNabb.
  18. The media’s reinterpretation was fed to McNabb, who took offense, and the Eagles demanded Owens apologize or be suspended. Owens apologized to the organization for his remark about not acknowledging his 100th touchdown reception, but refused to apologize to McNabb or speak in front of the team to clear up what he meant.
  19. The Eagles suspended and deactivated Owens after his refusal to adhere to the stipulations in #18.
  20. Bill Parcells didn’t want the Cowboys to sign Owens, but Jerry Jones did it anyway. Parcells kept his distance from Owens and the two had little interaction, but zero confrontations.
  21. In Owens’s third and final season with the Cowboys, Ed Werder wrote an article that alleged, based on a “source who speaks regularly with Owens’s teammates” (Werder citing himself as his own source to get around the fact that he’s making it up- he speaks regularly with Owens’s teammates), that Owens was jealous of Romo and Witten’s relationship and thought they were drawing up secret plays. All Owens had done was had a private meeting with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to address his concerns about the offense, which is exactly what he was supposed to do. Don’t believe me, ask his wide receivers coach from the time, Ray Sherman.
  22. In the off-season, the Cowboys cut Owens for “performance” reasons, per his Notice of Termination Form. The adverse personal conduct box was not checked.
  23. The same media that made up the aforementioned nonsense alleged he was cut for “chemistry” reasons, which is in direct contradiction to what Owens’s release form says.
  24. Owens signed a 1-year deal with the Bills and was not brought back the following off-season, with their then-new head coach Chan Gailey publicly saying he thought after reviewing the film that Owens was “close to hitting the wall” as a player, which was why they didn’t re-sign him.
  25. Owens signed a 1-year deal with the Bengals and tore his ACL in the following off-season.

 

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Nobody Pulled Bayless Aside to Talk About Terrell Owens

Skip Bayless loves to make things up. As a provocateur columnist turned provocateur television personality, his job depends on it.

When it comes to Terrell Owens, one of the things Bayless loves to do is pretend he began his tenure in the Bay Area defending Owens in his columns until, “one by one,” players who somehow became aware of this “pulled him aside” and told him he had it wrong, and Owens was evil incarnate and the worst teammate in the history of the universe.

Nobody pulled him aside. Not to tell him he was wrong in defending Terrell Owens, anyway.

First of all, even if he had defended Owens in his columns (he didn’t), the number of players who would bother reading what this hack wrote probably wouldn’t be much higher than “0.”

But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that players on the team were really interested in the sports section of the San Jose Mercury News in 2001-2003. Let’s pretend that they put on their reading glasses at the team hotel and went, “hold on, this guy is defending T.O.?! How can he defend T.O.? This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” And let’s pretend they might actually seek out a slimy weasel sports columnist who was best known for being run out of several different sports cities (including Miami, Chicago, and Dallas, the latter of which is memorable for him writing a book containing pages discussing rumors that Troy Aikman was gay).

There is one small problem; Bayless didn’t begin his tenure in the Bay Area defending Owens. He was bashing him from the very beginning. In fact, he was one of the first to go after him, likely seeing him as a great source for the brand of “controversy” he loves, having seen how badly he was vilified for his touchdown celebrations in Dallas the year before.

Observe: This is an article he wrote after the 2nd game of the 2001 season, which was Bayless’s first as a Bay Area writer.

SAN FRANCISCO _ Finally the upset was within his grasp. He’s by far the most physically blessed 49er and could have challenged Marshall Faulk as the best on the 3Com Park sod Sunday. So what if he had dropped three passes? Now he would take over.

Now his teammates looked to Terrell Owens to make a play and a statement. Here came the third-and-seven pass, a little low but extremely catchable. The Rams led 22-16, but not for long.

Owens would snatch this nose-down Jeff Garcia pass. He would do for Garcia what Jerry Rice often did for an early-1990s Steve Young. He would make Garcia’s passing stats look much better than they deserved. Rice is gone and Owens was about to be, maybe for six points. Now, says No. 81, he is The Man.

His 49ers were about to become the talk of the NFC because so many players had done so much growing up. Second-year cornerbacks Ahmed Plummer and Jason Webster had grown like weeds against the NFL’s fastest, scariest receivers. Running backs Kevan Barlow and Terry Jackson had made coming-of-age plays. On the run, Garcia had resembled Young at his most elusive.

Only one 49er failed to mature Sunday: Terrell Eldorado Owens.

He butter-fingered that pass and a postgame opportunity to face his failure like the man he wants to be. Barry Bonds almost always spends more time answering media questions after bad games. For the 35 minutes I was in the locker room, Owens sat sideways in front of his locker, chin on chest, ignoring teammates and reporters, staring at nothing. He refused to be interviewed.

T.O. looked something like a child forced to take a timeout.

Worse, Garcia suggested Owens wasn’t punishing himself over the four drops that contributed directly and intangibly to the 30-26 loss. No, Owens was pouting because Garcia hadn’t thrown more in his direction.

As Garcia gently put it: “He puts so much pressure on himself to be the go-to guy. He feels a bit of helplessness. He feels the opportunities didn’t come his way.”

This is inexcusable.

Owens can be so much better than this _ in the clutch and in the post-loss glare. He obviously can’t match Rice in nobility and savvy. Nobody can. Owens can’t be the deep terror Randy Moss is. But Owens can be the NFL’s most intimidating all-around receiver and this team’s leader.

If he ever grows up.

Understand, this is coming from an Owens fan. I loved the statement he made last September at Texas Stadium, running to the midfield star after his first touchdown catch and striking a pose that said, “What Cowboys’ mystique?” But Owens ruined the effect by immaturely trying it again.

He continues to say he’s hurt that management didn’t support him after that 41-24 victory. He has a point. He was fined by a coach, Steve Mariucci, whose values are rooted in Lombardi-era sportsmanship. Cultures clash.

But he cannot let his lingering bitterness distract him. For that matter, he cannot use Sunday’s emotional pregame tribute as an excuse. A tear ran down Owens‘ face as he helped hold up a giant American flag. But then it was time to gather himself like the great player he can be and lock in on football. Rice certainly would have.

But the Rams weren’t the Chicago Bears and this wasn’t Jerry Rice Day. Last December the Monsters of the Wrong Way vowed not to let Rice embarrass them. They double-covered him and allowed a virtually uncovered Owens to catch an NFL-record 20 passes. The Rams vowed not to let Owens embarrass them. Aeneas Williams, one of the league’s stronger and smarter cornerbacks, often was able to overplay Owens because he had safety backup.

The Man quickly grew frustrated.

Garcia appeared a little too jumpy and out of sync, and at least one pass to Owens became even more difficult to handle because it was tipped. But Pro Bowl receivers and team leaders set the tone by catching them anyway. Instead of feeding off Owens, J.J. Stokes dropped two and rookie Eric Johnson dropped another and failed to hang onto Garcia’s best throw, in the end zone.

After Owens dropped that third-and-seven pass, you could almost see his teammates deflate. Az-Zahir Hakim returned the punt 32 yards and Isaac Bruce caught a pass and cruised by four or five defenders 39 yards for a touchdown. Rams, 30-16.

After Garcia passed up Owens on one last game-turning third down _ “I just didn’t have a lane,” Garcia said _ the 49ers settled for a field goal and a moral victory. Faulk took over the way Owens should have.

Owens pouted.

That’s right – in only his second ever regular season game covering the 49ers, Bayless was bashing Owens for saying…nothing at all. Not to mention, he misquoted Garcia here to serve his agenda.

So why does Bayless say he defended Owens during his time there? Well, believe it or not, I don’t think he’s being malicious. I think he’s just really freak’n dumb and has a horrible memory.

Among the things Bayless has had mixed up:

*While he now talks about how Bill Walsh called him the smartest player he was ever around in terms of diagraming plays on a chalkboard, he wrote in an article in 2004 that a San Francisco executive told him Owens was “as dumb as a chair.”

*He thinks a confrontation with Todd Haley on the practice field led to a confrontation with Jason Witten. The Witten confrontation myth came from a made up story in the Dallas Morning News during the 2008 season after the infamous Ed Werder anonymous source article was heard ’round the world. This never happened, as Owens mentioned on the air, but that’s not even the point. What it is that makes this hilarious is that Todd Haley wasn’t on the team anymore when this bogus story came out. Haley was the receivers coach/passing game coordinator in Owens’s first season with the Cowboys, 2006. He then left for Arizona, where he was for the next two seasons while Owens remained in Dallas. During the 2008 season, Haley was too busy in confrontations with the likes of Anquan Boldin (such as on the sidelines during the NFC Championship game between the Cardinals and Eagles) to be yelling at Owens on a practice field. In actuality, Haley yelled at Owens about being late for a practice during 2006…something that would never have made the news for any other player because it’s not newsworthy. This was on the news at the time the way  allegations that Owens was faking a hamstring injury were. The moment he arrived in Cowboys camp, there were hundreds of cameras pointed on his every move, looking for any little non-issue they could make into a mountain, in ridiculous modern ESPN fashion.

*He claims that Owens “accusing Mariucci of taking his foot off the gas” against the Bears in 2001 was “the last straw” for General Manager Terry Donahue, whom he claims to have known very well when he was covering the team. Somehow he didn’t know him well enough to know that Donahue fired Mariucci thanks to conflict between Mariucci, John York, Bill Walsh, and himself. Now, when did he fire him? Oh, it was in early 2003. Guess what: Terrell Owens played the 2003-04 season under new head coach Dennis Erickson. That’s some last straw; Donahue was “furious about it,” according to Bayless (“it” being Owens’s comments that he hoped Mariucci would reconsider his openly-stated philosophy about not embarrassing other teams on the scoreboard because the loss in this game proved the game isn’t necessarily over when you think it is)…so much so that Owens played the next 2.5 seasons on the team, while Mariucci was gone after the next 1.5. He was furious about comments questioning a philosophy belonging to Mariucci, the guy Donahue was clearly not too fond of. (Also note at the end of the aforementioned article – another reference to the 49ers hoping to extend Owens’s contract before the start of the 2003 season to avoid him voiding and becoming a free agent).

Bayless isn’t alone in his selective memory, however. The media in general engages in this because the narrative depends on it. Owens playing for Dennis Erickson for the 49ers can’t exist the same way Owens playing for Wade Phillips in 2007 and 2008 for the Cowboys gets erased from the history books. “But but but but…Bill Parcells was the only coach he had in Dallas I thought?! The Player!” And Tony Romo going down with a broken finger for 3 games during the 2008 season where Owens’s numbers plummeted while the team went 1-2, only to skyrocket once Romo returned and the team went 3-0 before a tough loss to the Steelers, which was when Werdergate happened, must never be discussed, because it undermines Werder’s argument that Owens’s normal meeting with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to discuss the offense was proof he was feuding with Romo. And they want you to forget that Donovan McNabb was out for the season after having surgery on his groin 2 games after Owens was deactivated in 2005, leading to the Eagles’ failed season. Not to mention that McNabb had been struggling on the field with that sports hernia injury since week 3, which Owens noted in the infamous Graham Bensinger interview right before he was asked about Irvin’s comments about Brett Favre as the Eagles quarterback. And of course they don’t want you to know Owens and Jeff Garcia weren’t teammates anymore at the time of the infamous Playboy interview (2004); how else would they argue that he was a bad teammate for implying he thought there might be truth to the rumors that Garcia was gay?

I could go on and on, but since nobody is still reading at this point, I’ll end there.

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Donovan McNabb Agrees With Owens

What Terrell Owens said (which he has mentioned repeatedly since 2006) about McNabb telling him to “shut the fuck up” in the huddle was already confirmed by McNabb years ago. Sorry to tell you that, Skip.

“Not a lot of people would know about this because [Owens] had a great season, everything went well, everybody’s smiling and enjoying themselves,” McNabb said, “but I believe it was the third play of the game. We had an ‘all-go’ call, [I] dropped back five steps, looked downfield, at that time I didn’t feel he came open, and checked it down to [Brian] Westbrook. It was an incomplete pass.”

Alas, it was the beginning of one of the strangest sports soap operas in recent memory.

“He came back, ‘Hey, I was open, throw the ball!’ Me being into the game, [I said] ‘Hey, get in the huddle man.’ In different words, obviously. He continued to talk about how he was open, throw the ball. And it [led] to me using some language that’s really not suitable for the kids. But I’m into the game. I’m running the huddle. This is my show. I’m going to see you a lot of plays and some plays I won’t see you. That led to us talking in the locker room. I don’t argue. I feel as men we can talk. Voices are going to get raised. But we can talk as men and when the conversation is over we understand each other.

“I called him a couple of days later just to get back on the same page. I just elaborated to him, ‘Hey, if we’re going to continue to do this, we’re not going anywhere. We have to be on the same page. I brought you here for a reason, for people to understand the chemistry that we have and the things we can do, which will lead us to winning a Super Bowl.'”

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