Friday, August 25, 2006

Buyer Beware – Terrell Owens

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones likely believes he’s the smartest owner in the National Football League. Jones has made his share of good decisions during the years he’s owned the Cowboys. By the time the Cowboys complete the 2006 NFL season it’s a safe bet he’ll regret the day he signed Terrell Owens. As talented a football player Terrell Owens believes he is, he has been nothing but trouble. Owens remains today, what he’s always been; a cancer for whatever team decides T.O. has too much talent.

Tossed off the Philadelphia Eagles for a multitude of sins (boorish behavior would be an apt description), Jones signed Owens to a three-year $25 million contract. The contract includes a $5 million signing bonus and an additional $5 million base salary for 2006. He has a pair of $3 million roster bonuses due over the next two years, and is scheduled to receive a $5 million base salary in 2007 and a $4 million in base in 2008. For an athlete who consistently has put himself ahead of his teammates, the Cowboys decision to sign Owens makes no sense.

Consider the Terrell Owens timeline of misdeeds, as offered by About.com’s James Alder:

2000 - During an October contest in Dallas, Owens celebrated scoring a touchdown by running to midfield of Texas Stadium and posing on the star logo of the Cowboys. When he repeated his actions after a TD later in the game, he was blindsided by the Cowboys' George Teague, which resulted in a skirmish between the teams.

2001 - After blowing a 19-point lead in Chicago and losing in overtime after Owens mishandled a pass that Bears free safety Mike Brown intercepted and returned for the game-winning score, the disgruntled receiver accused head coach Steve Mariucci of protecting good friend Dick Jauron, head coach of the Bears

2002 - In an October contest on Monday Night Football in Seattle, Owens pulled a 'Sharpie' marker out of his sock after catching a TD pass.

He then proceeded to autograph the ball and hand it to his financial adviser sitting in an end zone luxury suite rented by Shawn Springs, the cornerback he had just beaten on the scoring play.

2002 - After scoring a touchdown in a December contest with the Green Bay Packers, Owens celebrated with a pair of Pom-Poms borrowed from a 49ers cheerleader.

2003 - Following a bumpy season that included several sideline tirades by Owens, he and the team decided to part ways.

2004 - Owens’ agent failed to meet a free agency deadline in March, making him ineligible to become a free agent. Because they retained his rights, the 49ers then traded him to the Baltimore Ravens, but Owens refused to report to his new team. He expressed his desire to play in Philadelphia, and filed a grievance, claiming he should be granted free agency. After a series of negotiations, a deal was worked out between the three teams which sent Owens to Philadelphia where he signed a seven-year, $49 million deal against the advice of the players’ union.

2004 - In an interview with Playboy magazine, Owens hinted that ex-teammate Jeff Garcia was gay, a claim he later recanted.

2004 - In a November contest with the Baltimore Ravens, after scoring a touchdown, Owens openly mocked Ray Lewis by performing the middle linebacker’s trademark celebration dance.

2004 - In a Monday Night contest later that month, Owens appeared in a controversial skit to kick off the network’s presentation of the game which resulted in an FCC investigation.

2005 - Owens hires agent Drew Rosenhaus in April and announces he is not happy with his contract and wants to renegotiate with the Eagles. He also tells CNBC that, despite making $7.5 million in 2004, he needs a new contract to “feed his family.”

2005 - After hinting that he might hold out of training camp, Owens shows up with a bad attitude, refusing to acknowledge the media or speak to his teammates. After a confrontation with head coach Andy Reid, he was suspended for one week.

2005 - During an interview with ESPN's Graham Bensinger on November 3, Owens took shots at the Eagles franchise for not publicly recognizing his 100th touchdown catch. During the interview he stated the Eagles showed a "lack of class". He also suggested the Eagles would be better off with Packers QB Brett Favre instead of Donovan McNabb.

2005 - On November 4, Owens issued a half-hearted apology through the media, but failed to deliver comments regarding Donovan McNabb, which head coach Andy Reid insisted he include.

2005 - Owens was suspended November 5 by the Eagles for the club's contest against the Washington Redskins on November 6.

2005 - On November 7, Owens' suspension was stretched to four games, and head coach Andy Reid added that Owens would not play for the remainder of the season.

History didn’t teach Jerry Jones anything – as far as Jones is concerned, Terrell Owens makes the Cowboys a better football team.

"I really know we're better as a team than we were a few months ago," said Jones, who admitted the Cowboys made quite a few background checks on Owens before finalizing the deal. "We've done our homework in a lot of ways. We appreciate the good things that we've heard from people that have worked closely with Terrell and what he is as a person. Those things are going to make us all be at the level that this transaction should certainly be.

"But I know right now, that he makes a better team. I have no doubt about that."

Earlier this month speaking to the media at the beginning of the Philadelphia Eagles training camp, owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear, he has buyer’s regret after the Eagles where forced to deal with Owens erratic behavior last year.

"Looking back on it, you could say there was one year that was great and the second year was a disaster," said Lurie during a nearly 30-minute news conference. "Nobody should be able to be as disruptive and really cut the energy of a team down like what happened this past year. So I think we all learned from that."

Lurie didn’t say very much as Owens tore apart the Eagles who won the NFC a year earlier, appearing in the 2004 Super Bowl.

"It was very hard to stay quiet," he said. "You want to try to exhibit as much professionalism as you can and not lower yourself to other standards, but I am, and I think you all know, extremely proud of the people we have with our team, the players, coaching staff, every member of our organization from the top down."

It remains to be seen if Jerry Jones is going to experience the lesson in ownership Lurie experienced after signing Owens to a contract.

"You definitely learn from the last experience," he said. "And again, you don't want to cancel yourself from being a risk-taker, but you've got to really clearly evaluate the complete personality of those you're thinking of acquiring."

Lurie signed Owens to a seven-year contract worth an estimated $46 million contract before the start of the 2004 season.

The Eagles paid Owens $9 million in 2004. Owens delivered on the field, with 14 touchdown catches, 1200 yards on 77 catches in 14 games (that’s why he was paid $9 million).

Soon after the 2004 season ended, Owens fired his longtime agent David Joseph and hired Miami based NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus. At that point, everything fell apart almost overnight between Owens and the Eagles. Rosenhaus insisted Owens contract be renegotiated. The Eagles and many NFL executives were very upset with both Rosenhaus and Owens tactics.

"If Drew Rosenhaus says that it is acceptable that a player go back to a team when he feels that the player has outperformed his contract," an unnamed NFL executive told Fox Sports Brian Baldinger, "then why isn't he approaching them to give money back on Jerome McDougle? If he's underperformed, he is not a starter, if he doesn't live up to the contract, why doesn't he give money back? The Eagles have the highest paid defensive end in the league in Kearse, is he going to give money back from Kearse if he doesn't make the Pro Bowl again next year? Didn't they pay him to do that?

"Why should a team have to cut a player?" he continued. "Why should that be the only remedy? You can't have it both ways. If you open the door, open it both ways. Why doesn't he take some of Kearse's money and give it to Owens? He represents them both!"

The unnamed NFL executive said what most people where thinking when it came to Rosenhaus attempts to hold the Eagles hostage.

"The Eagles structured the deal in such a way that instead of giving him a large signing bonus, they gave Owens a very large roster bonus which can not be spread out over the length of the contract or the five-year limit now in effect in the NFL," the official said. "The Eagles considered it a market-value roster bonus for a Pro Bowl receiver combined with a signing bonus made it a really generous, nice signing bonus that makes them pay (big) in the third year. It is structured in a way that they have to pay him a lot. They have him for two then they have to pay him again in the third year. He doesn’t like that now."

"I don’t think there is anything in that deal that takes advantage of the player in anyway," the official said. "When you analyze deals you look at the guaranteed money which is the signing bonus, roster bonus…you look at the first three years and then you might look at the overall average of the deal. But it’s the first three years which is the key point. There is only one deal which is better than the Terrell Owens deal in the first three years and that’s Marvin Harrison. And it was done after (Owens’ deal) was done. So what does he want?"

The first few weeks of T.O. and the Cowboys have gone according to script. If anyone believed Owens was going to change how he behaved they’ve made a mistake. Owens hasn’t played in either of the Cowboys pre-season games, claming he’s injured. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells made it clear earlier this month, he isn’t interested in the circus atmosphere that exists when T.O. comes to town, trying his best not to become involved in the T.O. debate.

"As I told you the other day, I'm trying to integrate this player into the system," Parcells said. "Right now, he can't really proceed exactly the way he'd like to proceed. But when (he) can, I will try to do it.

"In the meantime, I'm getting the sense that most of the media is just waiting for something to be controversial in that regard. And I'm here to tell you, it's not going to happen from me. So you need to get that in your head. OK? So don't use those words that have ambiguous meaning like 'clouded,' and expect me to respond to it, because I won't. OK?"

You know there are issues with Owens when someone that has much media savvy as Bill Parcells won’t mention Owens by name when he’s talking about Terrell Owens. After missing two weeks of the Cowboys camp and 12 consecutive practices, Parcells made it clear to Owens he wasn’t a happy coach last week.

"I don't know the player very well," Parcells said. "I just have to give him the benefit of the doubt right now. I can just look over at Terry Glenn, and I can tell what he is feeling like. I haven't been around this player. I don't want to jeopardize him for the season. But, at some time, he is going to have to practice and play like everybody else."
"We need to get (Owens) into the offense," Parcells said. "We've missed a lot of work. I certainly don't want to jeopardize him for the season, so I guess I'm erring on the side of caution. But at some point, he's going to have to practice and play like everybody else."

Owens finally returned to Cowboys camp Monday. Media reports surfaced over the weekend suggesting that Owens had missed last weekend’s practices after learning he wouldn’t dress for the Cowboys pre-season game on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Jerry Jones stepped into the ongoing Cowboys T.O. saga doing his best to set the record straight.

"There is no substance to that. That's not the deal," Jones said at halftime of Monday night's game. "Bill [and] Terrell are on the same page regarding his playing time. They are exactly aligned. They both want him to be out there. They want him to be out there without risk of further injuring his hamstring.

"It's not an issue. It's just not."

By the time the 2006 National Football League season ends the 49’ers, Eagles and Cowboys will collectively have paid Terrell Owens $37.399 million for six seasons of football. In his six years of wrecking havoc on his teammates, ruining one organization (the Eagles) Terrell Owens average salary stands at $6.23 million.

It made no sense for the Cowboys to sign Terrell Owens. He remains a plague on every team he’s played for. Jerry Jones the Cowboys owner and general manager should serve as the poster boy for refusing to look before you leap. Jones decision to sign Owens might easily destroy any chance the Cowboys had of contending in 2006. Bill Parcells likely will retire once and for all by the end of the 2006 season after he experiences the “joy” Terrell Owens brings to whatever team he victimizes. Enough is enough already – its time to show T.O. the door.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: San Antonio Express News, About.com, Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Fox Sports