15,934 receiving yards, second all-time in NFL history. 153 receiving touchdowns, third all-time in NFL history. 1,078 receptions, sixth all-time in NFL history. If these are not Hall of Fame numbers, then what exactly are Hall of Fame numbers? The exclusion of Terrell Owens into the 2016 Hall of Fame class was an absurd abuse of power by the media members who are in charge of selecting the newest enshrinees.
Those whose legacy will be enshrined in Canton in 2016 are Brett Favre, Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., Tony Dungy, Kevin Greene, Orlando Pace, Marvin Harrison, Ken Stabler, and Dick Stanfel. The only person on this list that is as deserving of a Hall of Fame nod is Brett Favre. The rest of the players were not on Owens’ level. Every player that will be enshrined was great in their own right, but not Terrell Owens great.
Owens transcended football in the late 90’s and 2000’s. While Randy Moss was changing the NFL as the most dominant deep threat the league had ever seen, Owens was dominating the league by, for lack of a better term, doing it all. He could take over the game as a deep threat, route runner, and maybe the best receiver after the catch in NFL history. A physical specimen that looked like he was built in a science lab, standing at 6’3 and weighing 225-230 pounds, a smile that was made for cameras, and a personality that was so unique that you would think Christopher Nolan created his character; Terrell Owens was a larger than life superstar.
He had underrated speed, freakish strength, and made the game fun to watch as he celebrated big plays like no one had ever done before him. We all remember the sharpie and the pom-poms. We’ll never forget when he stood on the star at the fifty yard line after a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. The sit-ups in the drive way, finding the “eye in the sky” camera after a touchdown and giving it a wink and a smile, and telling us to get our popcorn ready; Owens was treat for NFL fans.
However, the controversial wide out had a darker side to his larger than life personality. He constantly called out his quarterbacks, he deflected blame on others, had a falling out with more than a number of coaches, and even had a terrifying near-death experience in a confusing vitamin overdose incident. In one of his lowest moments, Owens questioned his then quarterback Jeff Garcia’s sexuality in his famous “must be a rat speech.” He was caught on camera screaming at quarterbacks, the most memorable being Donovan McNabb. There was the unforgettable “that’s my quarterback” speech he gave after a devastating loss with Dallas, which was almost certainly an attempt to deflect the blame onto quarterback Tony Romo as Owens dramatically cried on national television. Off of the field, Terrell Owens divided locker rooms and turned on coaches. On the field, he had no shortcomings other than the occasional dropped pass, a problem of his that was always exaggerated and extremely overblown.
Owens may have been a headache, a distraction, a poor teammate, and a hot head. However, none of that matters. The Hall of Fame is not a popularity contest. It is irrelevant if Owens ever disrespected members of the media or his teammates. Whether or not those in charge of selecting Hall of Fame enshrinees cared for his personality should be a non-issue. This is not media members’ time to punish players they did not personally like. Instead, the Hall of Fame is meant to honor unforgettable greatness that we all witnessed on the field.
If you don’t like Terrell Owens personality, too bad. This is a man who is near the top of the list in every major receiving category in NFL history. He almost defeated the New England Patriots single handedly in Super Bowl XXXIX. The man was as a marvel to watch as he dragged defenders with him into the endzone and performed well for all five teams he played for. Playing for five teams is sometimes a knock people use against Owens, but former Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton also played for five teams. No one holds that against him. Remember when Owens was “exiled” (poor choice of words by most media) to Buffalo in 2009 and everyone wrote him off as being too old and slow? All Owens did was put up close to 900 yards with no quarterback and even scored a 98 yard touchdown. So much for being too slow.
At the end of the day, what’s done is done. Those who want Owens into the Hall of Fame cannot get him in, they can only wait until next year and hope selectors get over themselves and stop acting as moral police. All we can do is remember Owens for what he was; an unstoppable force who entertained us week in and week out, even if his personality rubbed some people the wrong way. Let’s be honest, Owens could probably STILL start for some teams in the NFL. To deny him from the Hall of Fame was misguided, immature, and irresponsible. The best players should get in, and that was not the case this time around. Hopefully the selectors make the right decision in 2017 and give Terrell Owens a spot in place where he belongs; in NFL immortality.