Terrell Owens Tops Michael Irvin as Greatest Receiver in Dallas Cowboys History

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIMarch 1, 2013

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 16: Terrell Owens #81 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on the field during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 16, 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It has been just shy of four years since the Dallas Cowboys decided to part ways with Terrell Owens.

Falsely labeled a "distraction" by the media during his time in Dallas, the myth of Owens' presence being the cause for the Cowboys failures has been debunked in recent years by those resourceful enough to do their own research.

His departure from the team has yielded them no greater success as their continual inability to qualify for the playoffs has left Cowboys fans feeling cold.

What has been lost since Owens' departure is the realization of how great a contributor he was to the team during his three-year tenure. 

A perennial production machine—Owens stands alone as the best receiver to ever wear a star on his helmet.

"Sacrilege" some Cowboys fans may cry—nevertheless, a truthful proclamation.

Owens' excellence from 2006-08 even exceeded that of the great Michael Irvin.

Easy to favor the less productive player who was the beneficiary of dynasty-caliber support. Believe me, I can sense the one-dimensional arguments coming from a mile away.

But less easy to make an argument against what Owens was able to accomplish with less support—in his mid-30s, no less.

Let's compare the individual contributions of both Owens and Irvin during their time with the Cowboys.


Terrell Owens (46 starts from 2006-08):

  • 235 receptions for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns.


Owens played three seasons with the Cowboys and produced three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.

He was productive from the get-go.

Despite playing with two different quarterbacks—one of whom had never started a game in his career (Tony Romo), Owens led the entire league in touchdown receptions during his first year with the team.

Yeah, with a metal plate screwed into the bone of his hand and all.

To put his production into context, I've compared Owens' per-start production during his time with the Cowboys and multiplied it by the 147 games Irvin started during his career.


Terrell Owens (2006-08 per-game production times 147 starts):

  • 751 receptions for 11,462 yards and 121 touchdowns.

Michael Irvin (147 starts from 1988-1999):

  • 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns.


Their production was nearly identical in terms of both receptions and receiving yards, but there was one area where Owens completely separated himself from his contemporaries.

Putting points on the board.

Irvin was the primary target of a Hall of Fame quarterback's passes (Troy Aikman).

Owens shared productive distribution with Jason Witten—a possible future Hall of Famer in his own right.

Despite this, Owens scored a lot more points than both Irvin and Witten.

  • Owens scored 38 touchdowns in 46 starts.
  • Witten scored 44 touchdowns in 149 starts.
  • Irvin scored 65 touchdowns in 147 starts.

To put that production into context, I've multiplied each player's touchdown rate by the 149 starts Witten has had (the most games started out of the three).

  • Owens—123
  • Irvin—66
  • Witten—44

Then take into consideration that Owens produced at that astronomical rate while:

  • (A): Playing at the age of 33-35—Irvin was retired by the time he reached 33.
  • (B): Playing some of those games with a broken hand.
  • (C): Playing many of those games with a quarterback yet to start a game.
  • (D): Sharing productive distribution with other targets (more so than Irvin).
  • (E): Producing despite distractions from the media.

Much has been made of the myth that Owens was a disruption.

I've been debunking such nonsense for years—if it reeks of conjecture, it probably is.

But what can be very easily proven is the reality that the media's over-hyped sensationalism would have caused a distraction to Owens more so than anyone else.

Owens was the one reading his name in the headlines, being asked negatively-provoking, leading questions while taking a weekly bashing for the most tedious of things.

Yet, it was Owens who came to produce each and every Sunday.

When you put into perspective what he produced and contributed as an individual, it is clear that Owens is the greatest wide receiver to ever play for the Dallas Cowboys.

So if words fail you, the film doesn't lie—fast forward to 5:05.


Article also featured on blindsidefootball.com.

Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at: bleacherreporter@yahoo.com.

Follow him on Twitter at: @theryanmichael


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