On March 4, around midnight, the Dallas Cowboys officially released six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens. Owens had spent the previous three seasons as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, a team that featured as much drama in the locker room as a Brett Favre retirement conference.
Almost immediately upon hearing that T.O. had been released, I was struck by a thought, a terrible thought, a nagging thought that hasn't gone away for the last day; a thought that, to be honest, has surprised even me.
What if the Philadelphia Eagles gave Terrell Owens a second chance?
The odds of the former Philly wide receiver actually re-signing with the team can be valued at slim to none.
But what if?
What if it actually happened?
Let's look at the pros and the cons.
In March 2004, the Philadelphia Eagles acquired Terrell Owens from the San Francisco 49ers in a highly documented trade that sent defensive end Brandon Whiting and a fifth round draft pick to the Niners.
The acquisition of Owens could not have come at a better time. In January 2004, the Eagles' wide receivers were dominated by the Carolina Panthers secondary in the NFC championship game. With the absence of running and receiving threat Brian Westbrook to a torn triceps, quarterback Donovan McNabb was ineffective, eventually leaving the game due to torn cartilage in his ribs.
The 2004 season started off with a bang, as Owens caught three touchdowns in a week one win versus the Giants. Owens helped the Eagles dominate the rest of the NFC, as the Birds finished 13-1 before resting their starters for the final two games. Owens set a franchise receiving record with 14 touchdowns. He caught 77 balls for 1,200 yards.
More importantly, he brought something to the game that the Eagles hadn't seen in years, and haven't seen since—a wide receiver who could break tackles.
Probably my best memories of Owens were not the balls he would catch. It was the way he would run after the catch. I will never forget him flipping one of the Green Bay Packers defenders over his back after making a sideline catch. His combination of size and speed, as well as his ability to go across the middle, is priceless, especially in the eyes of an Eagles fan.
Owens' season appeared to be over on Dec. 12 when a horse-collar tackle by Dallas safety Roy Williams broke his ankle. However, with the appearance of the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, Owens decided to play.
Love him or hate him, there's no denying that his performance was nothing short of brilliant. Rocky would have been proud, as Owens caught nine balls for 122 yards, while risking future injury to his surgically-repaired ankle.
Would the Philadelphia Eagles have won the Super Bowl if Owens had been completely healthy?
However, in a three-point game, a few extra yards here and there might have made the difference for the Eagles, who were seven-point underdogs in the game.
The Eagles are desperate for a No. 1 wide receiver.
Our wide receivers can be described as average at best.
Kevin Curtis entered the season as the Eagles' number one wide receiver. He played in only nine games due to injuries, catching 33 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns. Projected over a full season, Curtis would have barely surpassed 700 yards receiving.
DeSean Jackson came within one huge play of a 1,000-yard season, but scored just two touchdowns, and made a careless rookie mistake in front of a record-setting audience on Monday Night Football.
Reggie Brown entered the season as the number three receiver and as of now will probably not make the team next season. He played in seven games, catching 18 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. This was as many receiving touchdowns as the Eagles' starting left guard, Todd Herremans. On Dec. 17, 2000, Terrell Owens caught 20 passes for 283 yards and one touchdown.
Jason Avant proved his value as a legit number three wide receiver, and racked up several key third downs, including a huge 3rd and 20 reception deep in the Eagles' territory in the third quarter of the divisional round of the playoffs. He finished the season with 32 catches for 377 yards and two touchdowns.
Hank Baskett continued to prove his value as a deep play threat, catching a 90-yard touchdown in week one, and finishing the season with 33 catches for 440 yards and three touchdowns. Baskett has proved to be another legit number three wide receiver.
I feel that Jackson is a legit number two wide receiver on any football team. The same applies to Kevin Curtis. Jason Avant and Hank Baskett are both legit number three wide receivers.
However, this presents a problem, as an NFL team needs more than two No. 2 wide receivers and two No. 3 wide receivers. It would be one thing if the Eagles had a Jason Witten or Tony Gonzalez type at tight end, but Brent Celek has not yet proved his value as a starting tight end.
The Eagles would be the team to beat in the NFC East, possibly in the entire NFC.
The acquisition of Terrell Owens would be enormous for the Philadelphia Eagles. After a second place finish in the 2008 season, the Eagles would be considered the team to beat in the NFC East headed into the 2009 NFL season. They might even be the team to beat in the NFC. Let's look at the contenders, in no particular order:
1) The New York Giants. The Eagles handled the Giants well last season, winning both road games, including a divisional round matchup.
2) The Dallas Cowboys. I could really see next season going either way for the 'Boys, but I think the loss of T.O. is equivalent to a two-game swing, which probably will be too much to overcome.
3) The Arizona Cardinals. I would be very, very surprised to see the Cardinals repeat as NFC champions, especially because Boldin might play somewhere else next season.
4) The Green Bay Packers. The Pack could easily bounce back following a season decimated by injuries. Or Aaron Rodgers could suffer a sophomore slump.
5) The Minnesota Vikings. Until the Vikings get a quarterback, they cannot be mentioned in the same sentence as Super Bowl.
6) The Atlanta Falcons. I am one of many who expect the Falcons to disappoint next season. Even if they don't disappoint, I don't think they have improved enough to win the NFC.
7) The Carolina Panthers. I think the Panthers overachieved last season and I wouldn't be surprised to see a new quarterback next season.
The negative reaction. Everywhere. From everyone. The fans, the media, the players of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Can you imagine the insanity if the Eagles actually signed Terrell Owens? Combined with the failure to re-sign Brian Dawkins, and the intensity of the Philadelphia crowd, good things would not happen at home games.
I doubt attendance would go down. However, I guarantee the fan base—which I once ranked as the second best in the entire NFL—would be divided. Just look at the Green Bay Packers this past season, who struggled with mixed emotions while watching the face of their franchise lead another team to victories.
The media would have a field day. President Joe Banner would become the laughingstock of the league and would be called the most desperate man in the world. The front pages of the newspapers would be filled with speculation stories on how long T.O. would last his second time in Philly.
Most importantly, the players would hate the move. Most importantly, Donovan McNabb, the face of the Eagles franchise and unarguably the greatest quarterback in team history, would hate the move.
You cannot upset your franchise quarterback, specifically one as valuable as McNabb. T.O. didn't get along with his teammates in 2004. Why should things be different this time around?
T.O. hasn't changed.
Where Terrell Owens goes, so does controversy.
As a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Owens openly insulted his quarterback Jeff Garcia by calling him gay. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in March 2004.
With the Eagles, Owens insulted his quarterback Donovan McNabb by referencing the Super Bowl. He wore a Dallas Cowboys Michael Irvin jersey in public, called the Eagles a classless organization for not honoring his 100th career touchdown, and announced that the Eagles would be undefeated if Brett Favre, who would go on to lead the NFL with 29 interceptions, was the quarterback.
Owens announced that if he could return to the offseason in 2004, he would not have signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. To top it all off, he fought with Hugh Douglas—the team's ambassador—in the locker room.
As a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Owens contributed to the drama in the locker room that eventually led to a total collapse at the end of the regular season, as the 'Boys were beat down by Owens' old team, the Philadelphia Eagles, 44-6, in the regular season finale.
Is T.O. still productive?
Owens will be 36 years old during the 2009 season. His skills have been diminishing, as highlighted by his 1,052 receiving yards during the 2008 season—his fewest since 1999. He still caught 69 balls for 10 touchdowns, making him an average number one wide receiver, but no longer in the 'elite' category.
Owens would be the number one wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. He wouldn't be quite the threat that he was in 2004, but he would be the biggest receiving threat Donovan McNabb has seen since, well, himself.
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Terrell Owens is an incredible football player. He's not just a great football player, but he is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He ranks in the top 10 of every major receiving category, and his 141 touchdowns are the second most in NFL history.
His passion is evident. He doesn't always show it the right way, but there's no denying the inevitable—T.O. wants to win just as much as any player on the football field. He's 35 years old. He has never played on a Super Bowl champion. His teams are 3-7 in playoff games, including an 0-1 mark in Philadelphia and an 0-2 mark in Dallas.
Time is running out for No. 81. I fully expect some NFL team to given T.O. a chance.
Are the Philadelphia Eagles desperate enough to be that team?