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The Taming of Terrell Owens?
Joe Levit
June 28, 2006

In one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, many men wish to vie for the affections of a merchant’s younger daughter, however the merchant will not allow that daughter to be married before her older sister is wed. The trouble is that the older sister, while beautiful, exhibits a volatile temper with an acerbic wit to match. Eventually a suitor takes on the challenge of “taming” her. During this time, the suitor attempts to break the sister down mentally and physically, but in the process wears out him as well. Though a lot of labor, the effort works out well for everyone in the story at the end.

This season we will get to find out if Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells has the durability to “tame” the most modern of NFL shrews, Terrell Owens. If he can accomplish that feat, which will undoubtedly involve an enormous amount of personal energy and effort, it will likely work out for everyone. If not, the season could turn into a never-ending nightmare for the Cowboys, and they may be the third team in Owens’ contentious career to cut ties with an obviously talented player, leaving Dallas, and fantasy owners, without a major source of production. Let’s take a closer look at the dichotomy of one of the most interesting personalities in sports today.

I. The Problems

The name Terrell Owens is synonymous with the word trouble. His acts of belligerent behavior are not new, though they usually make news. Owens has been wreaking havoc with team chemistry almost as long as he has been causing mayhem for opposing secondaries. Though he started out his NFL career in awe of playing alongside legend Jerry Rice – taking in all the advice he could get from his living hero – he quite quickly displayed the divisive personality with which we have all come to identify him. Over the last six years, Owens has lambasted or mocked his teammates, coaches and even other players. Here is his tactless side at its worst.

Insubordination

Owens is particularly adept at being a distraction on the sideline. Unfortunately, it is always his own team that suffers. His forte is to deliver diatribes aimed at calling out his coaches.

In 2001, with the San Francisco 49ers, he roared at head coach Steve Mariucci when the coach decided not to run up the score of a game the team was in control of. In 2002, Owens once again condemned Mariucci for failing to try for more points than were necessary to win the game. Jeff Garcia was instructed to kneel down at the end of the contest, and Owens couldn’t handle it. A year later, in the playoffs, he bellowed about Mariucci’s decision to run out the clock at halftime rather than attempt to make up some points.

Later that year, at the start of the new football season, Owens started right in with the fresh coaching staff. He bawled at offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, and disparaged new head coach Dennis Erickson following a loss to Cleveland. Owens said his job is to catch footballs, and the coaches are supposed to be in charge of personnel and drawing up successful plays, with the appropriate playmakers in mind. Effectively, he stated that Erickson didn’t know who Owens was, and what a big deal he was to the team.

His criticism didn’t end in the bay, however. After a honeymoon hiatus in Philadelphia in 2004, he began arguing about his contract again, started a bout of shouting with head coach Andy Reid, and clashed with team members. Eventually he was deactivated for half of the 2005 season.

Teammate Betrayal

It isn’t only coaches that Owens denounces. He has accused an entire team of quitting on a particular day. But he especially likes to bite the hand that throws to him. He often belittled Jeff Garcia as a 49er, saying the quarterback lacked execution. And in a display of poor taste, Owens insinuated that Garcia is gay.

Despite all of that, he may have saved his best insults for Donovan McNabb. After the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, Owens said he wasn’t the guy who got tired in the game, meaning that McNabb had let the team down. In November of 2005, he told the press that the team would be better off if Brett Favre were the team leader instead of McNabb.

II. Instant Offense

For all his harangues, Terrell Owens is a player that makes a huge difference for teams. He is tall, fast, and extremely strong and has that extra desire to create highlights, which leads to big plays.

Success Stories

He has fashioned a number of highlights in his career. His first time in the limelight was when he caught a touchdown pass from Steve Young against the Packers in a 1998 wild card playoff game. The reception was a 25-yard catch between four Green Bay defenders with eight seconds left in regulation. That grab won the game for the 49ers, 30-27.

In the 2002 playoffs, he teamed with Jeff Garcia to engineer the second-greatest comeback in NFL playoff history. In that game Owens caught nine passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions to beat the New York Giants 39-38 after the team had trailed by 24 points.

In his first season with the Eagles, Owens helped the team finally get to the Super Bowl after they had been fumbling at the door for three straight seasons (they lost the 2002, 2003 and 2004 NFC championship games). He had severely sprained his ankle and fractured a fibula on December 19th, but made an astounding recovery to suit up for the big game. He definitely did his part in what was a losing effort, gamely finishing with 122 yards on nine receptions.

Statistical Brilliance

Even after the acrimony in Philly, several Eagles players wanted to retain Owens. It’s easy to understand why. Raw ability of the kind he possesses doesn’t come around very often. Consider:

  • He already has 101 touchdown receptions
  • He averaged one touchdown per game in 2001 and 2004
  • He and Jerry Rice are the only receivers to have five or more seasons with 13+ receiving touchdowns in the regular season
  • He holds the NFL record for receptions in one game (20).

III. The Prediction

Terrell Owens will be a fantasy success story in Dallas this season. He has a reputation to reclaim and his new head coach is used to making adjustments to deal with certain players.

Owens has incentive to behave for “America’s Team.” Two prior clubs have tossed him aside because of his antics, and his ego won’t allow him to go down in history looking like the bad guy. He wants to be a hero, and even he realizes that in order to make that happen he can’t continue to miss games due to suspension.

Remember, he isn’t a one-hit wonder. Since he has consistently scored a high number of touchdowns each year, you push him down your rankings at your own peril. Perhaps he isn’t the top fantasy receiver off the board, but he should be in the top three in any league. He won’t catch 100 balls in that offense, according to Bill Parcells, yet he will take a lot of the ones he does grab past the goal line.

Parcells will also contribute to this success. He has a history with malcontents and head cases – Lawrence Taylor, Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn to name a few. He knows how to handle them. It is true that Owens does not fit a preconceived mold, but Parcells figures out what makes each player tick and then pushes the right buttons to keep the guy in time with the team.

He has always displayed more leniencies with his star players. That longer leash will sit well with Owens. In the end, Parcells won’t issue a gag order – Owens won’t be required to shut up entirely off the field because he puts out on it. Parcells will prefer instead to stay one step ahead of Owens with psychological tactics and a perfected good cop/bad cop routine meant to motivate his new star wideout. Terrell Owens will be dancing on the Dallas star this season after scoring, but getting cheered for it this time around. Draft him without reservation.