Jeff Garcia

Owens' unlikely Hall of Fame supporter steps up

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AP

Owens' unlikely Hall of Fame supporter steps up

Wide receiver Terrell Owens put up the kind of statistics over his 15-year career worthy of becoming a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But the biggest question mark and area of debate – more than 45 minutes of debate on Saturday -- had little to do with his on-field production.

Selectors are instructed that only a player’s on-field performance should be taken into account when weighing Hall-of-Fame credentials. But, with the polarizing Owens, the playing field grew to the point that the sideline and locker room were considered, too.

Was Terrell Owens a good teammate? Did he make teams better? Why did the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys trade or release him at the peak of his career?

Owens helped quarterbacks maximize their levels of production. Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo achieved their best win-loss records in seasons Owens was the No. 1 target.

Garcia, McNabb, Romo and, before any of them, Steve Young recorded single-season career-highs in passing touchdowns with Owens getting into the end zone far more than any other receivers on those teams.

The on-field aspect of Owens’ resume was unquestioned. But there were questions about whether the impact he had on those teams was always positive.

In his first two years of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, Owens did not survive the cut from 15 finalists to the final 10 players to be considered for the five modern-era candidates for enshrinement.

Owens might have needed some of his teammates to step up for him in order to get into the Hall of Fame.

Two weeks ago, the 48 Hall of Fame voters received an 11-page document that included nearly 30 testimonials from former teammates and coaches with quotes supporting Owens’ candidacy. Some of the comments were from published reports, but the majority were statements provided exclusively to Hall of Fame voters.

Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Bryant Young, Garrison Hearst, Derrick Deese and Gary Plummer were among Owens’ former 49ers teammates who voiced support of him.

But Garcia might have provided the most-impactful statement of all.

“He was a teammate,” Garcia said upon learning Saturday night that Owens was elected into the Hall of Fame. “I can look at a lot of things we did together as positive.

“I’m excited and thrilled for a former teammate to be acknowledged and recognized for his great contributions to his teams, as well as the game of football, on the field. It’s about time. Congratulations to Terrell Owens.”

Garcia and Owens formed one of the game’s top pass connections in their 74 regular-season games together. No NFL quarterback played more games with Owens than Garcia – and it is not even close.

Owens ranks second all-time behind Rice with 15,934 receiving yards. He had 153 touchdown receptions, No. 3 all-time behind Rice and Randy Moss. Owens caught more touchdown passes from Garcia (50) than any other quarterback.

Yet, Owens and Garcia were never friends. And toward the end of their time together, they were not even friendly. There were times when Owens seemed to lobby for backup Tim Rattay to replace him. It appeared to get personal.

But Garcia made it clear he supported Owens’ induction into the Hall of Fame. Any grudges of the past appear to be over for Garcia.

Here is a portion of the statement Garcia provided for the selection committee and that he repeated to NBC Sports Bay Area. He gave permission for his statement to be shared with the public:

“My response to your question about Terrell Owens is that I believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

“Personality and off-the-field reputation put aside, he was one of the most feared players at his position and was highly productive despite all of the extra attention and defensive game-planning that came his way in order to disrupt his performance.

“He was one of the hardest workers on the practice field, and come game day, he always gave all that he could give, despite at times dealing with personal injury.

“He was a physical beast on the field and created matchup problems in favor of our offense. The combination of size, speed and physicality that he brought into a game made him difficult to defend.

“He wore his emotions on his sleeve and sometimes that was taken in a negative way, but there's no taking away from the fact that he wanted to win badly and is near the top of every important receiving category in the history of the NFL. No matter who his QB was or what team he played for, his production was consistent and raised the standard of the position from a performance aspect.

“The proof is in what he did on the field.”

It is not known exactly how much impact was provided by the words of Garcia and the others. But, clearly, some voters who did not check the box next to Owens’ name on previous ballots made a change this year.

Garcia and many of Owens’ teammates with the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys may have helped recalibrate the conversation of Owens back to the strictest possible definition of the playing field.

NOTE: Matt Maiocco is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and made the opening presentation on the qualifications of Terrell Owens.

Jeff Garcia 'can see the capabilities' of Shanahan, Garoppolo together

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USATSI

Jeff Garcia 'can see the capabilities' of Shanahan, Garoppolo together

The 49ers head into the final week of the season without a victory this season against an NFC West opponent.

The Los Angeles Rams (11-4) have clinched the division title and are locked into hosting a game in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs. The 49ers (5-10) can draft as high as No. 5 overall with a loss or as low as No. 11 with a victory.

Former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia, now an analyst on NBC Sports Bay Area, said on the 49ers Insider Podcast he sees a great opportunity for Kyle Shanahan’s team to continue to build momentum for 2018.

“I think this is a great opportunity for them to prove their value and show it wasn’t a fluke that they beat a playoff team against Jacksonville and even with the win over Tennessee,” Garcia said. “Being able to compete in their division and also against a young team that has risen to the top very fast under a new coach (Sean McVay).”

Garcia said he was especially impressed with the performances of Shanahan to mesh his game plan against the top-ranked Jaguars defense to fit Jimmy Garoppolo’s skillset. The work of Shanahan and Garoppolo together during the 49ers’ four-game win streak bodes well for the future, Garcia said.

“He’s able to expand the offensive installation with Jimmy,” Garcia said. “Now that Jimmy has had a better chance to get a firm grip on the system and really start to bring everything he has within his playbook, you can see the capabilities of what this offense can produce.”

Ex-49ers Pro Bowl QB's advice to team on Jimmy Garoppolo's contract is...

Ex-49ers Pro Bowl QB's advice to team on Jimmy Garoppolo's contract is...

The 49ers could place the franchise tag on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the next two seasons for a deal that would amount to a two-year contract worth approximately $50 million.

But that is not nearly enough, former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

“I say you have to lock it in for five years and build around him and not even worry about it any more,” said Garcia, the last 49ers quarterback to earn Pro Bowl recognition.

The 49ers are 3-0 with Garoppolo as the starting quarterback entering Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the team’s home finale at Levi’s Stadium.

“I think you see everything that you would hope for and probably more than what you expected,” Garcia said. “This young man is showcasing ability that can be locked in for a long time for this 49ers franchise.

“I’m mean, he’s not just getting lucky out there on the field. He is showcasing everything you want to see in a quarterback. And, plus, he has extra things that we have not seen, yet. He’s got the ability to extend plays. He’s got the ability to be athletic on the field. But he shows great pocket presence, great awareness, great timing. He’s flawless in his mechanics. So many things that you want to see in a quarterback, he brings to the table.”

Garoppolo has completed 79 of 115 pass attempts (68.7 percent) for 1,026 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions since coming to the 49ers in a midseason trade with the New England Patriots. His passer rating is 98.0. Garcia said Garoppolo has helped his teammates become more productive, too.

“He’s showcasing the leadership ability where the locker room gravitates toward him, supports him and they’ve shown they believe in him,” Garcia said. “Now, they’re raising the expectations in themselves because of what he brings to the table.”

The 49ers and Garoppolo's agent, Don Yee, are expected to enter into contract negotiations at the conclusion of the regular season. If the sides fail to reach a multi-year agreement, the 49ers would place the franchise tag on Garoppolo at any point from Feb. 20 to March 6.