The Buffalo Bills played their cards right in signing Terrell Owens to a one year, $6.5 million contract. TO’s history in the first year at a new stop is generally cordial, but deteriorates over time.
The immensely talented Owens started unraveling after Steve Young retired in San Francisco after the 1999 season. During the 2000 campaign, he began a litany of generally entertaining touchdown celebrations, but also broke an athletic code by telling the media teammates quit after a loss in Carolina.
In ’01, Owens started a troubling trend of clashing with coaches, blasting then ‘9ers coach Steve Mariucci for his play calling, including his refusal to run up the score on opponents. “I think it’s funny, but his buddy system with all the coaches around the league, I think he tries to spare them sometimes.”
The next year, Owens went off the deep end. Repeating his belief that the 49ers should humiliate opponents, Owens criticized Mariucci for having Jeff Garcia kneel down at the Washington 16 at the end of a 20-10 win over the Redskins rather than trying to score again. “We have no killer instinct, period,” he said after the win.
Owens moved into territory that Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt never entered, saying to San Francisco media after a playoff loss to the Packers that “I want to be the go-to guy on this team, but the play calling doesn’t always involve me. I get lost in the offense.”
TO, everybody gets lost in the offense. But rather than taking their complaints to the media, they take their concerns to the coaching staff. This is part of what makes you a loser.
In ’03, after a famous sideline tirade against San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and continued disagreements with Dennis Erickson, the 49ers wouldn’t wait to rid themselves of Owens. His agent missed a date to file papers that would allow him to become a free agent, but after he blocked a trade to Baltimore with a tantrum, they let him go anyway. Upon his departure, Owens intimated in a Playboy Magazine article that Garcia was gay, which Garcia isn’t.
TO had a chance to prove he wasn’t the problem in Philadelphia, where the 2004 season was serene and landed in the Super Bowl. However, Owens suffered a broken leg late in the season, and Philly won two playoff games without him. Owens blamed Donovan McNabb for the Super Bowl loss to New England, ruining a relationship with a guy that had lobbied hard to bring Owens to Philly.
In training camp of 2005, Owens ripped into Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress When asked if he had told Childress not to speak to him unless Owens spoke to him first, Owens said , “Exactly. I did say that, I am an honest person. I did say that.”
After being such a pain, Owens was suspended and cut by Philadelphia, but rewarded with a three year, $25 million dollar deal in Dallas. Bad move. Right off the bat, he was fined $9,500 for missing a team meeting and rehab session and for being late to a meeting.
In the second month of the season, Owens quit speaking with Cowboys passing game coordinator Todd Haley after he confronted Haley, and a witness leaked their fight to the media.
This past season, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten tried to smooth the waters after Owens became upset that he wasn’t seeing the ball enough (sound familiar?) Owens told Witten not to speak to him. (Sound familiar?)
So let’s review. He publicly ripped coaches Mariucci, Dennis Erickson, Knapp, Childress and Haley. He alienated Eagles coach Andy Reid, Cowboys coach Bill Parcells and Cowboy offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. He publicly eviscerated quarterbacks Garcia, McNabb and Drew Bledsoe, and claimed that Witten and Tony Romo held secret meetings without him.
There isn’t a business around where you want to go in and deal with confrontation and miserable people. Owens is clearly a political animal that poisons teammates against each other and coaches. He has no respect for authority, and continually has taken his complaints to the media.
The Bills have put Owens in a situation in which it’s easy to get rid of him. If he tries to divide the locker room, takes shots at coaches or his quarterback, or falls asleep in meetings, they have an easy out. Just cut him. At 35, he may still have some gas left in the tank and, if he’s a good citizen, help Buffalo out. If he can’t (and Owens will get pounded in the AFC East), the Bills only need to eat $6.5 million dollars and move on with their lives. As it turns out, everyone that has had Owens should have had him under one year deals.