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T.O, Romo and McNabb

An insight from the Cowboys rings true.

There's a story on Yahoo! about Terrell Owens and his exit from the Cowboys. It quotes Stephen Jones, son of owner Jerry and the guy who runs a lot of what goes on in Dallas these days. It seems to me, Jones hits it just right -- because it sounds so much like the reality the Eagles faced back when T.O. was here.

The operating shorthand is that Owens is a pain in the ass, such an organizational irritant that it isn't possible for a team to survive his nonsense over the long term. There is truth to that, no doubt. There is absolutely truth to that. But when you really look back on it, the issue for the organization is different, deeper, more nuanced. In Dallas, as in Philadelphia, the real issue was the way that Owens divided the locker room and prevented the quarterback from leading. The problem was not that he tore down the organization. Instead, it was that so many of the players were attracted to him.

Listen to Stephen Jones:

"It's hard to take over leadership when you've got a strong personality like Terrell," Jones said. "If you look back at our old teams [from the 1990s], a lot of people would say maybe Michael [Irvin] was the leader. Then you might say, 'He was a receiver. What about Troy [Aikman]? He was the quarterback. Wasn't he the leader?' And the answer is, yeah, Troy was a leader. But if Michael wasn't supportive of him, Troy would've had problems.

"A lot of our players thought the world of Terrell – they still do. They loved the way he prepared and how hard he played, and everybody respected his skills and what he'd done in the league. And with him here, I think he was always going to carry that kind of weight."

It is exactly what happened here. The whining about his contract was the pain-in-the-ass part, a splendid sideshow. But in the end, the Donovan McNabb part of it was what drove everything. It was the potential division of the locker room. It was the impediment that placed in the quarterback's way. And while he is declining now, and the Cowboys do have other receivers -- led by Roy Williams -- that wedge in the locker room is why Owens had to leave Dallas and go to Buffalo, just as he had to leave Philadelphia.