Thursday, March 05, 2009

Subtracting A Distraction

"Vanity keeps persons in favor with themselves who are out of favor with all others." - William Shakespeare

"I love me some me." - Terrell Owens

Whether it was due to excessive vanity, overweening pride or any other combination of tragic personal flaws, the 3-year Terrell Owens melodrama in Big D came to an end late last night, with the Dallas Cowboys biting the bullet and taking a massive salary cap hit of almost $10 million in the process.

On the field, Owens put together 3 seasons of 1,000+ yards and at least 10 touchdowns. He caught 235 passes for 3,587 yards and 38 TDs while at Dallas, but as usual with T.O., it's all the baggage that comes with the production. After last season's sideline outbursts and complaints about not getting the ball enough, this is a move that had to be done to save the chemistry of the Cowboys. Most Cowboy fans are in agreement that this is a positive day for the franchise given all that transpired last season: Owens is officially someone else's problem child now. Jones' comment last month that he was committed to making the team more "Romo-friendly" now reads like a clue in the thought process that led to the T.O. release.

The magnitude of this transaction is enough to drive sports talk radio for weeks and weeks, perhaps even displace the Alex Rodriguez-on-steroids monotony for a while. It's not only how the move affects Dallas, but all the speculation over which team takes the plunge and becomes Owens' fourth NFL employer after controversial stops in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas. This story has more legs than a family of centipedes.

If T.O. is not picked up immediately, in the next 3 or 4 days, there could be a sizable delay before a team takes a chance on the 35-year-old receiver with Hall of Fame production but off-the-wall distraction, similar to what Manny Ramirez just went through in baseball. Training camp could very well begin without T.O. on a roster. Already one prominent Dallas sportswriter is on record saying Owens is finished, period. I seriously doubt it. But everything has to be just right in terms of QB situation, veteran leadership and sheer desperation for a front office to even consider acquiring the migraine-in-waiting that is Owens.

ESPN is already throwing out some names. How about Arizona, if they lose Anquan Boldin? The Vikings, who need playmakers? Maybe the Saints would take a chance? How about the Giants? If GM Jerry Reese is ready to welcome the felonious Plaxico Burress back with open arms, why not Owens? (After all, the Giants just signed two players who were accused of assaulting women.) Owens has never been a problem off the field, just a high maintenance handful everywhere else. But there just aren't a ton of places in the league for T.O. to land.
After Dallas pulled the trigger on the Roy Williams deal midseason, giving up a boatload of draft picks and signing him to a lucrative long-term deal in the process, there was not room for both of them. Add in the problems with TE Jason Witten, the offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, QB Tony Romo, and fans were waiting for this day since the season ended. If every disgruntled Cowboy fan sent Jerry Jones a dollar, I have a feeling he'd have more than enough bills to cover the $9.5 million cap hit.

Dallas should look to add another WR to the mix in the draft, then concentrate on becoming a run-first team. With a massive offensive line that is better run-blocking than pass-protecting, this makes sense. When you add in three top-notch RBs in Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Rashard Choice, plus two of the more versatile tight ends in the league in Witten and Martellus Bennett, a ball control offense that limits Romo's turnovers is the way to go. Also, ridding the team of Owens may have the same salutary effect on Romo as the Giants dumping Jeremy Shockey had on Eli Manning's development.

You would have to be on the various Cowboys websites and forums on almost a daily basis to get a feel for the intense, visceral hatred many fans have for Jerry Jones. Many wanted coach Wade Philips gone after the December collapse. But for better or worse Jones chose stability over headlines in that case. Firing the ineffective special teams coach, and then cutting ties with Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson and "Bad" Johnson were steps in the right direction. But it's releasing Terrell Owens that will go a long way toward restoring Jones in the good graces of the team's rabid followers.
2:30pm Update:
The major facelift continues apace with news that the Cowboys have also released S Roy Williams this morning, saving themselves $2 million in salary cap for 2009. The 8th overall pick in the 2002 draft and one of the most feared defensive players in NCAA history while at Oklahoma, Williams' Cowboy career started off like he just might become the next great defensive force in the NFL. But after 3 strong seasons of terrorizing receivers who came into his terr
itory with a series of highlight reel bone-jarring hits, his play began to level off, with his coverage skills in particular consistently exploited by opposing offensive coordinators.

Williams' sudden downfall was vexing and perplexing to Cowboy fans, as if one day he was a dominating safety that had to be accounted for in every offensive game plan, the next day a scrub who had those same coordinators licking their lips in anticipation of facing him. Interesting to see where he ends up and at what price.
Ironically, word this morning that Alex Rodriguez may miss up to 10 weeks with a hip injury has overtaken the T.O. news as the day's main topic on sports talk radio stations, with callers wanting to talk A-Rod versus T.O. running about 5 to 1. This could be the best thing to happen to the Yankees. It eliminates the inevitable A-Rod circus at opposing ballparks, or at least delays it until he returns in May or perhaps even June, and allows the Yankees to forge somewhat of an underdog identity without the beleaguered superstar. Maybe him missing a substantial part of the season due to injury is just what the doctor ordered. Thus his biggest contribution to team chemistry, like T.O., may be in physically removing himself from the equation.


jimithegreek said...

TO = Terminally Overated. The dude is a team killer! Well now he is in Buffalo, which means zero media exposure. Now all the 'boys gotta do is get rid of owner Jerry "look at me" Jones!!

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