For sure, Terrell Owens has the numbers.
Five first-team All-Pro selections. Over 15 seasons, he had 1,078 pass receptions for 15,934 yards and scored 153 touchdowns.
Only Jerry Rice and Randy Moss had more receiving touchdowns. Only Rice had more yards.
And yet, after 43 minutes, 12 seconds, of reportedly spirited discussion two weekends ago, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors not only said “no” to T.O., but “hell, no!”
Followers of the Dallas Cowboys certainly will remember Owens’ three seasons (2006-08) of partnership with Owner Jones. Owens caught a lot of passes (235) with the Cowboys, scored a lot of touchdowns (38) and the team won a respectable amount (31) of games.
But the Cowboys never won a playoff game during Owens’ seasons here. Forced by Jerry Jones upon then-coach Bill Parcells, Owens — who said he was injured, though an MRI showed otherwise — drew the spotlight on himself in his first training camp by dressing in Tour de France gear while riding a stationary bike on the sideline.
A few weeks into the season, Owens had to be taken to a hospital emergency room after an apparent suicide attempt. Owens later claimed he accidentally took too many pain pills.
Parcells never publicly uttered the receiver’s name during their one season together, calling him instead, “the player.” Jones would reveal later that Parcells and Owens “never spoke.”
It wasn’t the first head coach who failed to be enamored with Owens. In San Francisco, he clashed with Steve Mariucci and was suspended. In Philadelphia, coach Andy Reid handed Owens a four-game suspension.
And despite his infamous, faux-tearful defense of Tony Romo after a 2007 playoff defeat — “he’s my quarterback” — Owens compiled a history of clashing with his quarterbacks.
In a 2004 interview in Playboy, Owens framed his criticism of 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia by calling him “gay.” In Philadelphia, Owens regularly berated Donovan McNabb and said the Eagles would be better off with Brett Favre.
Finally, he tried to divide the Valley Ranch locker room by suggesting that Romo and Jason Witten were conspiring to deny him the football.
When Jason Garrett was named the head coach, he reportedly flatly told Owner Jones that he didn’t want Owens around the Cowboys.
For sure, Terrell Owens has the numbers. But he also has a scarlet list of disruptive incidents that Hall of Fame selectors couldn’t ignore.
Spare us, please, the Lawrence Taylor and O.J. Simpson arguments. Both of their busts remain in the Canton, Ohio, Hall of Fame.
Unlike the sanctimonious bloc of Baseball Hall of Fame voters who annually think they know who did or didn’t use steroids, the 46 football selectors have always refreshingly weighed their candidates’ merits on the contributions on the field.
But the locker room and the sidelines apparently are considered part of the NFL field. And Owens’ disruptive antics were rightfully called into question last weekend.
As voter Clark Judge, a respected veteran NFL reporter, wrote after Owens failed to make the finalist cut from 15 to 10, “His supporters argue that Owens has Hall of Fame numbers, and they’re right. But there’s another number they don’t mention — it’s zero. That’s the number of teams that wanted to keep this guy at the top of his career.”
Judge acknowledged Owens’ most shining moment, when he played hurt and still caught nine passes in Super Bowl XXXIX.
“But by the middle of the following season, he’d become so intolerable that the Eagles kicked him to the curb,” Judge said. “And what’s new? Over his last 6 1/2 seasons, he played with four teams.”
Former general manager Bill Polian, himself a Hall of Fame member, summed it up succinctly on the Talk of Fame Network.
“The Hall of Fame ought to be for people who make their teams better,” Polian said, “not for those who disrupt them and make them worse.”
This was Owens’ first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. But Polian’s concise summation of the receiver’s contentious career is likely to linger for a long time.
The pro football hall’s selectors have taken an enlightened and courageous stand.
After all, it’s a hall of fame, not a hall of infamy.