Why Terrell Owens got snubbed by the Hall of Fame twice, and why he’s in this year | Paul Domowitch
Terrell Owens finally made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility. When he makes his acceptance speech at UT-Chattanooga, he might want to thank former teammate Jeff Garcia for helping make it happen.
Based on his pass-catching numbers during his prolific 15-year NFL career, Terrell Owens should have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years ago, in his first year of eligibility.
He is second all-time in career receiving yards (15,934), third in touchdown catches (153), and eighth in receptions (1,078).
Yet, despite being a finalist in 2016 and 2017, he failed both years to even survive the initial 15-to-10 reduction vote by the 48 selectors.
The reason had little to do with his career performance level and everything to do with his disruptive behavior.
The Hall of Fame gave the selectors an opening to snub Owens when it pointed out prior to the 2016 vote that, while we weren't allowed to consider character or off-the-field behavior in judging a player's Hall of Fame worthiness, we could consider his behavior on the field and in the locker room.
>> READ MORE: Why Owens and Dawkins got snubbed in '17
Having covered the '05 Eagles, I saw Owens at his team-wrecking worst. But I also saw him come back in seven weeks from a broken leg and torn ligaments in his ankle the year before and catch nine passes for 122 yards against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Was he often a pain in the rear for his coaches and teammates to deal with? Absolutely. But he also was one of the most productive wide receivers in NFL history.
And if he was such a locker room cancer, how do you explain the fact that his teams had a .566 winning percentage and made the playoffs in eight of his 15 NFL seasons?
Randy Moss was every bit the pain Owens was, yet he was voted into the Hall of Fame this year in his first year of eligibility. Playing in just one fewer game than Owens, Moss had 96 fewer receptions, 651 fewer receiving yards, and only three more touchdown catches than Owens.
His teams had a .543 winning percentage and made the playoffs six times in 13 seasons.
In my opinion, Moss is a big reason Owens finally made the Hall of Fame this year. I think many of the selectors who didn't vote for Owens the previous two years realized they were going down a slippery slope with his whole locker-room-cancer thing.
Faced with determining the fate of yet another wide receiver with Hall of Fame-worthy numbers but a similar record of crazy behavior, were they going to play the disruptive-teammate card again, or were they going to stop pretending to be psychologists and just focus on between-the-lines performance?
I think some of the selectors felt making Owens wait three years to get in was a sufficient enough "punishment" for his behavior.
I think many others were moved by the compelling discussion we had in the room on Owens before the vote on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, particularly a statement to the selection committee from one of Owens' former quarterbacks, Jeff Garcia.
Garcia and Owens were teammates with the San Francisco 49ers. They went to three Pro Bowls together. But they never were friends.
They had a much-publicized falling out near the end of their tenure with the Niners. Owens repeatedly disparaged Garcia to teammates, coaches, and reporters. At one point, Owens even lobbied the coaches to have Garcia benched.
If anyone has a reason not to want to see Owens make the Hall of Fame, it's Garcia. Yet he urged the selectors to put the former wide receiver in Canton.
>> READ MORE: The tricky business of defending Terrell Owens
"I believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,'' Garcia said in his statement. "Personality and off-the-field reputation put aside, he was one of the most feared players at his position.
"He was one of the hardest workers on the practice field, and come game day, he always gave all that he could give, despite at times dealing with injuries.
"He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and sometimes that was taken in a negative way. But there's no taking away from the fact that he wanted to win badly and is near the top of every important receiving category in the history of the NFL.''
When Owens makes his acceptance speech Saturday afternoon at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, rather than at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton with the rest of the Hall's class of 2018, I hope he is man enough to thank Garcia for the kind words.