T.O. Cheer Or Not T.O. Cheer: Breaking Down the Bills' Big Gamble
Bills fans can only be certain about one thing today: There will be more attention focused on the team during this upcoming season than there has been this entire decade. Outside of that, we can only wait and see. Such is the risk taken when you roll the dice on the NFL's favorite drama king, Terrell Owens.
Owens' arrival creates the biggest free agent splash ever by the Bills. But no one is quite sure what to make of the team signing a 35-year-old wide receiver with a history of ugly relationships with his quartberbacks, who is defined as much by his activities off the field as his achievements on it.
There are many factors that have to be considered when you analyze the decision, and Bills fans will have to hope that the organization's brain-trust thoroughly considered everything before pulling the trigger.
The biggest issue Bills' fans should be concerned about is the relationship between their young quarterback, Trent Edwards, and Owens. Owens has yet to complete a tour of duty with any NFL franchise without a rift of some type with the quarterback. And the scary thing to consider for the Bills is that Owens had such significant problems with much more seasoned and successful players.
So there should and will be concern about how Edwards, entering his second full season as the starter, will be able to handle Owens' jawing when things aren't going well, or god forbid, he isn't getting the ball.
Owens' effect on the entire locker room is a cause for concern as well. He has shown potential to be an extremely divisive presence, as evidenced by the drama in Dallas last year. The Bills are a young team, and the development of their nucleus of young players could be stunted by Owens creating havoc among the team.
These potential pitfalls, however, are all related to off-the-field issues. From an X's and O's standpoint, there is a tremendous upside to the signing. Lee Evans, long the Bills' only viable threat at wide receiver, is a player who largely excels at stretching the field with his top flight speed. He has struggled in the red zone, where defenses have keyed in on him with no legitimate complementary threat to free him up.
Owens is a perfect fit to complement Evans. At 35, he is not longer a burner, but his ability to make tough catches in traffic, over the middle, and in tight spaces, in addition to adding another element for which opposing defenses will have to game plan for, will help both Evans and Edwards.
A one-year contract also minimizes the risk of bringing in Owens. If he becomes a negative presence or creates problems with team chemistry, the Bills can simply shut him down with relatively low financial damage, due to the conservative investment.
And Buffalo has another factor working in its favor: Owens doesn't have any bridges left to burn.
Owens has run or been run out of every city he has played in, and now, with his skills on the decline, he is running out of rope. If he creates another stir this year and fails to be a mature and valuable contributor in a small market like Buffalo, he can probably expect not to be offered another contract next offseason.
The Bills will be criticized from many angles now, and possibly to an even greater extent later. But as it has been said, if you don't have much, you don't have much to lose. Buffalo is rolling the dice, but even if they lose, a one-year detour shouldn't reverse the progress they have been making for the long-term.
And as the decade drags on without a single playoff appearance, it may be the right time for the Bills to step out of character and take a chance. The consequences may be grave, but the dividends may be large.
All I'm putting my money on is that the Bills will draw the attention of the nation in a way they haven't since the early 1990's.
Getcha popcorn ready.
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