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As Bill Simmons wrote in The Book of Basketball—when ranking the best NBA players of all time—"Did he get traded at any point in his prime? If so, why? This doesn't matter as much with Level 1 or Level 2, but i need a really good reason to forgive trading a Level 3, 4 or 5 guy in his prime."
Simmons' point is this: If a player is so great, no team would ever consider trading him, especially if he was in his prime.
Well, T.O. would certainly fail to meet this standard.
Not only did San Francisco attempt to trade him in 2004—when Owens was only 30 years old and coming off a 1,102 yard season—but Philadelphia deactivated Owens in only his second season with the Eagles, and released him that offseason.
So, if two teams were willing to give up Owens in his prime for practically nothing (the 49ers were scheduled to receive a second-round pick from the Baltimore Ravens while the Eagles released him and got nothing in return) is he really a Hall of Fame caliber player?
Do you think the 49ers ever considered trading Jerry Rice during the prime of his career for a second-round draft pick?
For God's sake, even the Detroit Lions got first, third, sixth and seventh round picks for Roy Williams, a receiver who had reached the 900-yard receiving mark just once in his four-year career.
If Owens is Hall of Fame caliber receiver, then why was his trade value so low?
For one, it's because of his inability to coexist with his quarterback and coaches. His stints with San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas all ended in part because of Owens' rocky relationship with his quarterback, teammates or coaches, which had divided the locker room so badly that it forced the team to get rid of Owens in order to repair the damage.
In San Francisco, Owens' sideline tirades directed at Jeff Garcia and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp quickly became a distraction. Then, during a post-game news conference in 2003, Owens' capped off his poor relationship with Garcia by insinuating that the 49ers should look for another option at quarterback, such as backup quarterback Tim Rattay (I could only imagine how long that relationship would have lasted).
Things didn't change much when Owens got to Philadelphia. In 2005, the Eagles suspended Owens for a week in training camp, citing him for 'conduct detrimental to the team'.
That was just the beginning of the end for Owens in an Eagles uniform.
In interview with ESPN's Graham Bensinger in 2005, Owens blasted the Eagles franchise for failing to recognize his 100th career touchdown catch, and insulted McNabb by agreeing with Michael Irvin's statement that the Eagles would be undefeated if Brett Favre was their quarterback.
"I think that's a good assessment," Owens said. "I would agree with that, just with what [Favre] brings to the table."
T.O.'s stint in Philadelphia ended shortly after a locker room altercation between him and Hugh Douglas, in which punches were allegedly thrown after Douglas called Owens out for faking an injury. Less than a week later, the Eagles suspended Owens indefinitely.
In Dallas, Owens butted heads with wide receivers coach Todd Haley and head coach Bill Parcells for missing the majority of training camp due to a hamstring "injury". From the beginning, Owens' relationship with the two coaches was strenuous at best. When talking to the media about Owens, Parcells would refer to him as "the player", which frustrated Owens and led him to say that Parcells is "out of touch with current NFL players."
Matters only got worse for Owens when ESPN's Ed Werder reported that there was tension among Owens, Tony Romo and Jason Witten, because Owens felt Romo wasn't passing him the ball enough. Additionally, Werder reported that players on the Cowboys' defense sided with Owens, believing that Romo locked on to Witten too often without.
Owens' poor relationship with the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, as well as the negative attention he brought to Dallas' locker room, led to Owens' release in the 2009 offseason.
So, is a player who was run out of three cities really deserving of the Hall of Fame nod?