O.W.E.N.S. Syndrome: What's the Problem With NFL Wide Receivers?

Luke GrundyContributor IJune 16, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 16:  Terrell Owens #81 of the of the Dallas Cowboys looks on prior to the game against the Washington Redskins during their game on November 16, 2008 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Jaime L. Mikle/Getty Images)

For years, it seems that the most high-maintenance and most difficult-to-please players in the NFL have been wide receivers.

And with recent developments in the Plaxico Burress, Donte' Stallworth, and Brandon Marshall stories, it doesn't seem like a trend that is fading away any time soon.

Receivers seem to always be making headlines, whether it's T.E.O. (the E stands for Eldorado) conjuring up yet another media firestorm, or the seemingly endless parade of pass-catchers who annually want to be traded.

Wideouts tend to suffer from inflated egos and distorted self-images (and in extreme cases, just being crazy), along with the classic "I'm always open" philosophy, which just means they need to get the ball a lot.

I'm not heartlessly victimising a position in the NFL—your esteemed author used to play wide receiver in his playing days—but it seems that there are an endless number of "troubled" wide receivers whose talent is often outweighed by their mouths, or off-field problems.

In the 1990s, the likes of Cris Carter and Michael Irvin were well-known as big trash-talkers, and although they are both Hall of Fame players (seriously, Carter is a first-ballot player who's been screwed thus far), their attitude is what is remembered just as often as their considerable achievements.

Now, Outspoken Wideout Egotistical Nepotism Syndrome (appropriately acronymed to O.W.E.N.S.) is widespread, and the NFL's equivalent of a swine flu pandemic.

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Marshall, Burress, Johnson/Ochocinco, Chris Henry, etc., are giving receivers a bad name. This is also a position with some consummate pros like Larry Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne, but there seem to be more problematic wide receivers than any other position in the NFL.

So why all the problems? We'll look to diagnose the symptoms.

O.W.E.N.S. Symptom No. 1–Realization/Inflation of Own Talent

This would seem like an obvious point for all NFL players, but wide receiver is a position in which, to be exceptional, you really have to be unbelievably talented.

It seems that every year a late-round running back takes the league by storm, or an unknown linebacker makes waves in the NFL. But at wide receiver, this doesn't seem to be as common.

For every Marques Colston we see come out of nowhere, there are 10 Mike Williamses who flame out when they're expected to succeed.

It's arguably the biggest boom-or-bust position in the league (except maybe first-round quarterbacks), where a single mistake or dropped pass can cost your team the game.

Thus, when players like Owens, Boldin or Marshall ascend into the position's upper echelon, they see themselves as above criticism, and worthy of huge cash payouts.

Their self-image becomes distorted, and this is the first step toward an O.W.E.N.S. meltdown.

O.W.E.N.S. Symptom No. 2 - Mo' Money Mo' Money Mo' Money

After the effects of the first symptom have taken hold, the patient begins to display an unstoppable level of greed.

Anquan Boldin was irate about not being paid as well as Larry Fitzgerald, and demanded a trade citing this problem. Fitzgerald (in a shocking buck of the O.W.E.N.S. trend) offered to restructure his own deal to get his teammate and friend more money. Whadda guy.

Some players (case in point Chad Johnson) receive megabucks deals, but are no longer at the top of the position in a few years, causing the player to try and welch on their deal after only a couple of years.

Thus, trade demands are issued (and normally totally ignored by the front office), and the player loses any popularity he still had with the fans.

O.W.E.N.S. Symptom No. 3 - GIVE ME THE BALL!

This can often coincide with either of the first two symptoms, as the patient becomes so utterly full of himself that he demands the ball from his quarterback. The very, very well-publicized spat between Tony Romo and Owens (he really sets the bar, doesn't he?) about Jason Witten getting more looks than T.O. is an obvious example.

Wide receivers always tend to believe that they're open at all times, and when they're not targeted 10 or more times (if they're a No. 1 wideout) per game, they become disgruntled to the point where sometimes they very publicly berate the quarterback or offensive coordinator for ignoring their "obvious" talents.

O.W.E.N.S. Symptom No. 4 - Universally Hated

After all the previous symptoms have been seen, the final (and often fatal) one comes into play—the hatred of not just rival fan bases, but the entire league.

Johnson and Owens are now almost completely despised by all franchises and fans. They've painted themselves as money-grabbing egotists who just want the ball regardless of win tallies or team chemistry.

When this final symptom is diagnosed, it's time to let the receiver go, and put him in the team's past. He's now likely to go out and party, causing off-field problems and, in some cases, self-shooting.

Just as there are a number of receivers who are suffering deeply from the symptoms of O.W.E.N.S., there are some guys—Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Marvin Harrison—who just keep their heads down and act like professionals. To them, we should offer as much money and as many passes as we damn well please.

Originally posted at playactionpost.com

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