Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens selects former 49ers coach as his Hall of Fame presenter

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AP

Terrell Owens selects former 49ers coach as his Hall of Fame presenter

Terrell Owens has selected former 49ers special teams and wide receivers coach George Stewart as his presenter into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“He knew what to get out of me,” Owens told the Hall of Fame.

“He knows who I am. To know who Terrell Owens is, you have to spend some time with him. . . George Stewart became a father figure to me.”

Owens was elected into the Hall of Fame in February. He will enter the Hall of Fame in a class that also includes wide receiver Randy Moss, linebackers Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Robert Brazile, safety Brian Dawkins, guard Jerry Kramer, and contributor Bobby Beathard.

Owens played special teams under Stewart’s direction as a rookie after coming to the 49ers in 1996.

From 2000 to ’02, Stewart worked as the 49ers’ wide receivers coach. Owens was selected to three consecutive All-Pro teams and Pro Bowls during that time. Owens ranks No. 2 all time behind Jerry Rice with 15,934 receiving yards. He is third all-time with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Stewart is set to enter his 30th NFL season as an assistant coach and his second as special-teams coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Class of 2018 will be enshrined inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Aug. 4.

All sides of the T.O. to Hall of Fame discussion

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AP

All sides of the T.O. to Hall of Fame discussion

The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee met for nearly eight hours in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Saturday to vote on the Class of 2018.

The last two players discussed took up the longest portion of the debate: Randy Moss (34 minutes, 45 seconds) and Terrell Owens (45:15).

In the end, Moss and Owens were elected, along with Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Brian Dawkins, seniors nominees Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer, and contributor Bobby Beathard.

The process, especially as it relates to Owens, is the subject of this week’s 49ers Insider Podcast.

“In my almost three decades of being in the room, this may have been the best meeting I sat through, and not just based upon the results of the vote,” said Joe Horrigan, the executive director of the Hall of Fame.

“The process by which this class was determined was, to me, the most level-headed, prepared group of men and women that came in with precise and accurate information.

“It was, ‘Here are the facts; let’s talk about them; let’s be civil; and let’s be correct, and let’s consider from beyond our own perspectives.’ This was something that was informative to me, where some perspectives from people of a younger age, in one instance, to people who’ve had similar life experiences so we can get a better insight into some of the issues that come up.”

Terez Paylor, 34, of the Kansas City Star is one voter who expressed a unique perspective on the podcast.

“For me, and for some of the other guys of my generation, no matter what you say about Terrell Owens and Randy Moss and what came with them off the field, as far as baggage, I can tell you for an entire generation, you can’t write the history of the game without those guys,” Paylor said. “Those guys were electric and they brought so many eyeballs to the sport. . . . They made football fans out of a lot of people, including me.

“What matters is that this is a performance league. And they were both great. They were great football players, and you can’t say they weren’t. By every measure, they were great professional football players.”

Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network expressed a different opinion of Owens. Judge covered the 49ers for the San Jose Mercury News at the beginning of Owens' career. He brought up the following criteria for selection from the Hall of Fame’s bylaws:

“The only criteria for election into the Hall of Fame are a nominee’s achievements and contributions (positive or negative) as a player, a coach or a contributor. . .

Judge acknowledged Owens’ productivity, but added, “There’s more to the story than that.”

Judge cited former NFL general managers Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, the first individuals to be selected to the Hall of Fame in the contributors category, as saying they did not believe Owens should be in the Hall of Fame because of his negative intangible impacts on the teams for which he played.

The 49ers traded Owens at the peak of his career; the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys released him in turbulent times. Owens concluded his NFL career with one-year stints in Buffalo and Cincinnati.

“If you got fired from five different positions at work, would we put you in the Hall of Fame?” Judge asked.

Owens' unlikely Hall of Fame supporter steps up

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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.