Terrell Owens wanted us to believe that he was misunderstood, that the path of destruction left by the tornado of disharmony he created at every stop in his NFL career was not necessarily as it seemed.
Owens wanted us to believe that he was the victim, not the perpetrator. He wanted us to believe that he was only interested in doing everything he could to help his team win and to not assume that those numerous confrontations with teammates and coaches on three different clubs were all or even mostly his fault.
Essentially, Owens wanted us to ignore the portrait of a self-centered, out-of-control professional athlete that our eyes and ears had painted a long time ago and just focus on the fact that he was a supremely talented wide receiver and that everything would be just fine if the quarterback would only throw him the ball -- every time.
Kirwan: Buyer beware
It comes as no surprise to me or others that Terrell Owens was released by the Cowboys. He's a fine athlete who can still catch 70-plus balls, but there's just too much baggage with the guy and every team needs less headaches and more team unity. It will be very interesting to see what kind of contract he signs next in the NFL. Naming teams that could use his services isn't difficult, but structuring a deal that protects the club signing him is the trick.
I think it's safe to say that most of us trusted what we saw and what we heard, and resisted the temptation to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because with Owens, there never was any doubt. There never was any interest in the basic elements that contributed to the success of other teams on which he was not a member -- chemistry, cohesion, cooperation.
With Owens, it was all about offensive coordinators who didn't design the right scheme to take full advantage of his immense skills, about quarterbacks who had the audacity to throw in a direction other than his, and about other pass-catchers who conspired with quarterbacks to keep the ball out of Owens' hands. It was all about venting in the media and driving wedges between himself and everyone around him. It was all about manufacturing issues that became distractions and pulled away from the very thing he alleged was at the top of his priority list: winning.
For a time, it appeared Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones had fully bought into Owens' it's-them-not-me mantra. Why else would he have tolerated the Terrell Tornado for as long as he did? Why else would he have exposed his locker room to so much damage from a single player?
Sure, there's the talent thing, the belief that having Owens was better for the Cowboys' chances of getting back to and winning the Super Bowl than not having him. Yet, Owens quickly established that he was more trouble than he was worth and whatever good he might have been doing on the field was overshadowed by all of the bad he did on the sidelines and anywhere else he could let people know he didn't like how they were taking away from his ability to produce.
It took awhile, but Jones eventually came to the same conclusion about Owens that he did about Adam "Pacman" Jones: Great talent doesn't mean a whole lot when it isn't complemented by good character.
All Jones had to do was look at his competitors, the ones that he has been watching go where he desperately wants the Cowboys to go, and see what they have in common. Chemistry. Cohesion. Cooperation. Go up and down the rosters of the four teams that have won the last half-dozen Super Bowls (Pittsburgh twice, New England twice, the Giants, Indianapolis) and you won't find a divisive force such as Owens. Yes, the Giants have Plaxico Burress, but they also were proactive about removing him from their active roster and paid a price in a steep drop in offensive production and wins.
Frankly, three years were two too many for Owens in Dallas. Jones might have even been willing to let him stick around, but he came to the realization that he had a major crisis on his hands. His team was unraveling and Owens was the primary cause. This did not bode well for the future, and that, in turn, did not bode well for the prospects of gaining critical financial support for a new stadium in a horrendous economy.
Jones' decision to cut Owens loose no doubt was made easier by the fact his production was on the down side. In 2008, he had the lowest receptions per game (4.3) and receiving yards per game (65.8) since 1999. His 10 touchdown catches were his fewest since 2005.
Owens would have us believe that that was mainly the result of negligence on the part of quarterbacks and coordinators. But he also was dropping more passes than he did earlier in his career. He was beginning to look more and more like a 35-year-old receiver in the twilight of his career.
I suppose Owens will get another chance to play elsewhere, but I'm hopeful that the people who run the 29 teams that have yet to feel the impact of his destruction will trust their ears and eyes.
If they believe that chemistry, cohesion, and cooperation have something to do with winning championships, then there simply is no place for this guy.