Only one player in NFL history has more career receiving yards than Terrell Owens, and only two have more touchdown catches. Yet not only did Owens not earn a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's latest class, he didn't even make it past the first round of voting when the electors gathered the day before the Super Bowl in Houston.
And it's all because Owens was a less-than-pristine teammate? Really?
"But Owens' inability to stick with the Niners, Eagles, and Cowboys is significant because it goes to the heart of the problem that numerous people with whom I have spoken about him have: He was a horrible teammate," Vic Carucci, a voter from the Buffalo News, wrote Friday. "He was a divisive force that the people who ran those teams had no problem cutting loose. I've heard critics say there were extenuating contractual circumstances behind Owens' departures, but I don't buy that for a second. If you want to keep a player, you find a way to keep him."
Carucci added that Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, a voter this year, had the same reason for excluding Owens this year.
This argument is fairly easy to rebut, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk does here:
- Owens played eight seasons for San Francisco, an eternity. Former teammate Steve Young says he should be in.
- Owens's grumbling in Philadelphia was justified because he outperformed his contract and wasn't rewarded for playing exceptionally in the Super Bowl (on a broken leg, no less). The Eagles, at that time, had a policy of not renegotiating the deals to which they signed players. Donovan McNabb, who had his issues with Owens, says he should be a Hall of Famer.
- Owens actually got a contract extension with a $12 million signing bonus after two seasons with the Cowboys. Why would they do that if Owens was a locker room menace. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones supports his candidacy.
One could also argue that the Hall of Fame is littered with bad teammates like, say, Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, who once stabbed a teammate in the neck with a pair of scissors in a training camp fight over whose turn it was to sit in a barber's chair. The gash, a few inches away from veteran offensive lineman Everett McIver's carotid artery, required 18 stitches to heal.
Irvin was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.
Or Charles Haley, who arrived for his first film session as a Cowboys player in 1992 dressed only in a towel and proceeded to lie naked on the floor in front of the screen "entertaining himself," as teammate Tony Casillas told Jeff Pearlman. Haley entered the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Or 1999 inductee Eric Dickerson, who once publicly called his offensive line in Indianapolis "terrible."
And if we're going to be using "bad teammate" as a way to keep people out, then logic would dictate that "good teammate" should be a pretty good way to get in. But not even this stands up. Consider Ken Stabler. If you read Mike Freeman's recently published biography "Snake," you'd quickly come to the realization that few players in NFL history were as beloved by their teammates as Stabler.
"Part of him was definitely a party guy. No question about it," Freeman said of Stabler last year. "But away from the field, he was really genuinely adored by his teammates. They loved him. He was a tough guy. He would get picked up and slammed on his head. We know he suffered a lot of concussions. The players really respected his toughness. . . .
"For all the partying he did, when he was on the field - either the practice field or the playing field - he was all business. Very calm, professional, there was no games when he was playing. It was all professional stuff. Once the game ended, all bets were off. He would go out, he'd go party, he'd meet with women. But when games and when practices started, there was no more professional guy."
Yet none of that ever seemed to come into play when people talked about Stabler's credentials. It was always that he threw too many interceptions, or that he had only five truly exceptional seasons, or that he was more a candidate for the so-called "Hall of Very Good."
Stabler eventually got into the Hall of Fame in 2016, a shameful 27 years after he was first eligible and one year after his death from colon cancer. Owens probably will get in, too, if we're taking wagers on it. The numbers are just too good.
"I understand people's reservations about his disruptive behavior. Totally understand. No one disputes he had his disruptive moments. But being second all time in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns - those are Ruthian numbers," Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News, a Hall of Fame voter who presented Owens's case to his fellow electors, told Peter King recently. "We're keeping him out of the Hall of Fame because of some disruptive incidents with teammates? Most of the people keeping him out of the Hall didn't cover him. I did. What he did most often was hardly the work of a person who doesn't care. I don't think you play the Super Bowl with a broken bone in your leg, and you catch nine balls for over 100 yards. . . . I mean, that's not something you do if you don't care.