Looking Back: Why Wasn’t Terrell Owens Good For Philadelphia?BREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Are you scared? Are you in the right position? Embrace fear, it’s a humanistic emotion, as sometimes you can’t stop even what you can see. In 2004 this mindset was felt by every defense across the scrimmage line from the Philadelphia Eagles. The game plan started and ended with one, even though the game was played eleven apiece. Acquisition Terrell Owens, what was almost not, became something the watchful eye often didn’t even believe. Defenses tried and individual defenders failed. Owens became the first thing you game planned for. Foolish to think you could stop him, managing the damage became the realistic game plan.
Purple jersey flaunting an intimidating crow, not so fast, midnight green and a sprawled eagle became the outer armor for Terrell Owens. Due to contractual infractions, Owens was denied a trade to the Baltimore Ravens, and immediately the Philadelphia Eagles swooped on the opportunity to acquire 6’3” and 225 pounds of Pro-Bowl elite talent. The trade to the Philadelphia Eagles was rushed, San Francisco received little in compensation and the Ravens were absolutely speechless. Advisors and even Drew Rosenhaus told Owens to postpone signing the contract with the Eagles as it was heavily back loaded with money. Owens reason for signing, he did not want to get off to a bad foot with the Philadelphia Eagles. I truly believe he was honest, as honest as a man who had been lied to all his life, no male figures besides football coaches, no family except a grandmother who was old school with her thinking, blessed with athletic skills and built that only come once in a lifetime, hindered by a lack of social skills, education and proper guidance. He had a father figure now with Andy Reid, and plenty of strong brothers with the likes of Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter and Tra Thomas.
Immediately before ever stepping onto the field as an Eagle, Owens surpassed the mediocre passing threats that filled the wide receiver depth charts since McNabb was drafted in 1999. His debut as a Philadelphia Eagle; a modest three touchdowns and 67,000 fans deafening Lincoln Financial Field with chants of two initials, “T.O.” I was there and the touchdowns were just the beginning. Every home game you were overcome with the feeling that you were going to witness something special; and Terrell Owens did not disappoint.
What do you remember most about Terrell Owen’s coming to Philadelphia after years of complaining that the Eagles did not have a true number one receiver? To say it was a sense of relief would be false, it was an amazing day, no matter where you and how you found out about the pro-bowl, “Sharpie” in the sock, pom-pom shaking physical specimen. Where to order your #81 jersey from, I personally was ordering the first manufactured one I could find on EBAY, it was fake as fake could get, but I wore it confident and proud. I was not concerned with the side-show that came with the talent. Even tight-lipped and mono-toned Andy Reid showed some personality with his new offensive upgrade; hinting at the possibility that he would don black tights if Owens finished the season hauling in fifteen touchdown passes. Owens wasn’t a criminal, no legal issues off the field, and he enjoyed entertaining the crowd. I’m sure there were fans who were concerned with the shenanigans that Owens brought with him; but the majority of us began scripting his 15-20 touchdown dances we expected to witness during his first season in the midnight green.
As the season progressed, defensive coordinators from the remaining teams on our schedule began planning wishful containment strategies to stop Owens. By no means am I saying that the Eagles offense was average pre-Owens, McNabb was in his prime, Westbrook could score anytime he got his hands on the ball, we had nice average tight-ends, but our receivers were sketchy, especially after the Eagles missed out on the likes of Reggie Wayne and Chad Johnson by drafting the “People’s Champion” Freddie Mitchell. With the offense scoring early and often, the already aggressive nature of Jim Johnson’s defense could be even nastier, blitz at a higher percent and feel confident that even on a bad day.
As Owens entertained us with his touchdown dances, his jubilant persona with McNabb and Reid, after all winning will keep spirits high, the only thing that could slow down Owens was an injury. On 12/21/2004 Owens goes down with a leg injury, doctors proclaim he is done for the season and the playoffs. The thought of reaching Super Bowl greatness and finally lifting the Lombardi Trophy was still in the line of vision, although the haze of doubt quickly altered even the keenest of sight. Owens gets metal inserted into his leg, sleeps in hyperbaric chambers and is the best player for the Eagles in the Super bowl. The season ends with media, team doctors and fans appreciative of Owens performance. Rehab was cut short, medical advice was ignored, he gave everything to us, he was willing to deal with the consequences that were told to him with rushing back from the injury, the man just wanted to win, period.
Reflect on the realism of everything that took place then, and what soon followed. Owens took sometime after the reason to reflect on a very busy 2004. Recognizing the sacrifice he made with his leg, the additional rehab and surgery he would now need to allow his leg to fully heal, and how the majority of his financial compensation was toward the back part of his contract, he requested a closed door meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only was Owens declined a meeting, but he was never acknowledged for chancing the rest of his professional career and endangering his quality of life. A simple sit-down, man to man, a handshake would have been the right thing to do for any athlete who miraculously recovered from a gruesome injury. Management and coaches were quick to stick up for McNabb who obviously had some issues towards the end of the game both with stamina and turnovers. The Eagles recognized that acquiring Owens and the contract they structured was rushed, the Eagles literally stole a Pro-Bowl player from the both the Ravens and Niners, while paying Owens the equivalent to a good wide-receiver, Owens was a top wide-receiver. Owens knew it, so did the Eagles, and so did the media. This “knowing” soon became poison, Eagles management refused to talk, Owens took a different approach, and his outspoken demeanor and antics soon became the beginning of the end, and what many fans remember most about Owens in Philadelphia, the end is most recent.
The no-go meeting and the Eagles refusing to acknowledge when Owens scored his 100th touchdown in the league, were the two biggest driving points for the quotes, the work-out sessions on his front lawn, the suspensions and the end of the “what could have been” era of Owens. Reid, Banner, Lurie acknowledged that as “professionals” and “men” they truly hoped that Owens would recognize that the Eagles would never have traded for Owens if they did not appreciate the talent he brought to a team. Throw McNabb into that category, the category that speaks to the media in specific phrasing, almost insulting the intelligence of reporters and fans; answering questions by leaving you with even more questions. To recap, the Eagles stayed very “vanilla” with their reasoning, McNabb went the “company” route, both extremely insightful for media. The media knew where to get their information and how to make a name for themselves, stick a microphone in front of Terrell Owens and he would do the rest. The media went to T.O.’s residence, and since the Eagles were ignoring Owens like he had been throughout his childhood, Owens resorted to his “learned behavior,” he acted out. No profanity, no sticking any player or coach under the bus. He got his work-out on, smiled for the cameras and instructed the media where to find their answers. Post lawn interview, Owens put his headphones on, read “apologies” created for him by his agent, and played chess and cards with players who saw his side of the story. Players became divided in the locker room because sides had to be taken. Andy Reid was more than a coach, he was the general manger. If players decided to support Owens, they feared it could directly jeopardize their stay in Philadelphia or how often their name was called on Sunday’s. Owen past with his comments to Jeff Garcia while in San Francisco and how the Eagles went about their business, T.O.’s time with Philadelphia wasn’t going to last, it was obvious. No matter what he said, the media was going to target him, he tried to ignore the media and it only worsened the situation. He was pissed off, acted out of frustration and a feeling that the Eagles were only a business and didn’t view players as human beings.
In today’s NFL, playing football is just the beginning. Media is going to follow you everywhere, and Terrell Owens was the lead character for the 2004 season. Owens was the first to shed light on how the Eagles did business. Soon to follow, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown who were once Pro-Bowl cornerbacks for the Eagles were traded because both players asked for re-structuring of their contracts. Westbrook who was always respectful during his tenure with the Eagles acknowledged that their business approach to things gave a stale taste to players who exceeded their contracts. Dawkins was allowed to play for another city. McNabb was paid to keep his mouth shut by the Eagles, and these are only some of the recognizable names. There is a reason the Eagles have had great salary cap flexibility throughout the years, they backload contracts and get rid of players due to “injury” and “age.”
Football has the shortest shelf life of the four professional sports, yet is the only one that can stop paying you if an injury occurs or if a team decides to cut you. Rewind to 2004, Owens played at the highest caliber we have seen am Eagles receiver perform, broke his leg and returned to be the best producer come Super Bowl Sunday with a bunch of metal keeping his leg together. Owens was outspoken, we knew that when acquiring him, and when management ignored him, the media was there to capture every word. John Elway is a 2 time Super Bowl Champion, Hall of Famer and a top ten quarterback in some perspectives. He also threatened the Colts not to draft him, publicly bashing them as a franchise, and in 1983 the media coverage was not nearly what we have today, but he produced more video and headlines then Owens ever did. Players sit out, Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers, but their behaviors have been wiped clean from memories for reasons I personally don’t understand.
Owens in 2004 was a folk-lord in Philadelphia. A full season was quickly erased from an off-season, training camp and partial second season as an Eagle. There were many players who took part in his final exit; the majority of players weren’t even those who put their helmets on for game day.
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