I never liked T.O. very much, and he didn’t like me. No big deal. It happens all the time when you cover a team. Some guys you click with, some guys you don’t.
In 2014, nine years after he last played for the Eagles, T.O. came after me on Twitter after someone asked me who I thought was the greatest wide receiver in Eagles history, and I answered Mike Quick. Owens didn’t like that.
Time heals all wounds, and in 2015 T.O. did a guest appearance with me and Derrick Gunn on Quick Slants. We had a blast. We cracked jokes on each other, we laughed throughout the whole show, and when it was over I gladly accepted his offer to help publicize his charity whenever he had an event in Philly.
A few days later, he blocked me on Twitter.
I don’t know why. I haven’t talked to him since. It doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, and there’s absolutely no question he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and anybody who didn’t vote for him – which apparently is an awful lot of the voters – had to do it solely for personal reasons.
This is the problem with writers voting for the Hall of Fame. It’s their way of getting back at guys who didn’t give them interviews or weren’t good with the media. Guys they didn’t like.
And that’s a travesty.
How else do you explain Terrell Owens, second in NFL history only to Jerry Rice in receiving yards and third in touchdowns, being snubbed a second straight year by the Hall of Fame voters?
You just can’t argue with the numbers. So there has to be another reason.
And that reason is personal and has nothing to do with football.
Last I checked, it’s not the Hall of Good Guys. But it seems like a lot of the guys that get in these days are media types themselves, national TV analysts, color commentators. Guys who were always around for interviews during their career and were considered cooperative with the media when they played.
Heck, half of the six inductees this year work for NFL Network.
Owens is a different kind of guy and took a different kind of path. I remember trying to interview him in an almost empty locker room after he had a massive game against the Chiefs in Kansas City early in 2005.
He had 11 catches for 171 yards that day in a win that pushed the Eagles to 3-1 a year after their Super Bowl appearance.
Things were about to fall apart, but we didn’t quite know that yet.
T.O. sat there at his locker listening to music through his earbuds, his eyes closed, simply shaking his head no when I asked if he had a couple minutes to talk about the win and his performance.
Finally, without removing his earbuds, he nodded over at Greg Lewis a few lockers away and said: “G-Lew will answer any questions you have.” Then he walked away.
Multiply that sort of experience with all the football writers in the country and all the Hall of Fame voters and you see why T.O. keeps getting denied.
But what really mattered that day was the 11 catches for 171 yards, not the fact that he was surly and uncooperative.
And that’s a metaphor for his entire career.
When he was on the field, he produced. He wouldn’t always talk about it, but inside that 100-by-53-yard field, he flat-out produced.
For 15 years.
Like almost no one else.
Nine 1,000-yard seasons. Five 1,200-yard seasons. Two more over 900 yards. Led the league in TD catches three times. Averaged 10-and-a-half TDs per year over a decade and a half.
Do you know how many wide receivers have been first-team all-pro five times in modern NFL history?
There is simply no argument that T.O. doesn’t belong in Canton other than the fact that he came across much of his career as a jerk.
But that didn’t stop the Hall of Fame voters in the past.
They didn’t hesitate to induct Lawrence Taylor on the first ballot, and his list of off-the-field issues was WAYYYYY longer and way worse than T.O.’s.
Taylor was suspended twice during his career for testing positive. He was arrested twice on drug-related charges. He admitted on 60 Minutes that he sent hookers to opposing players’ hotel rooms to distract them the night before a game. He admitted submitting the urine of teammates to avoid testing positive. He once arrived at a team meeting wearing handcuffs.
All this before he was voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Now, L.T. was an incredible talent, one of the greatest defensive players in history. But he was also great with the writers. Always had a funny quote and time for an interview.
You can certainly make a case that T.O. is one of the greatest offensive players in history. He has more receiving yards than 24 of the 25 wide receivers already enshrined in the Hall.
In fact, only 11 of the wide receivers already in the Hall are within 5,000 yards of T.O.
And last I checked, he’s never been arrested. And the worst thing he did was have a knack for not getting along with quarterbacks.
We saw both sides of T.O. up close in 2004 and 2005. Brilliant enough to help carry the team to a Super Bowl – and catch 9 passes for 122 yards on a broken leg in the game – but also disruptive enough to get kicked off the roster a year later.
I’m not saying he was a choirboy. He wasn’t. But you just can’t debate 1,078 catches, 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns.
One other human being in the history of Earth has ever done that, and that’s Jerry Rice.
Now, I don’t worry about Dawk, because Dawk is going to get into the Hall in the next couple years. And as much as I love Dawk, I don’t think his omission at this point is as glaring and as egregious as T.O.’s.
With T.O., it’s simply the panel of voters saying, “We don’t like you, and we’re going to get back at you now the only way we can.”
And that’s not what the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be about.