Why Terrell Owens was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer


Why Terrell Owens was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer

Steve Mariucci coached Terrell Owens longer than any other coach. He said there is no question in his mind that Owens deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Based on the stats, of course, there is little question. Owens ranks second all-time in receiving yards; third in receiving touchdowns; fifth in touchdowns, period; and sixth in receptions.

Those are Hall of Fame numbers. And that is not being disputed by anyone. I covered Owens for the eight seasons he played with the 49ers. I have not seen many players who were as dominant and game-changing as him.

I am not a Hall of Fame voter, but I know quite a few of the 46 members that comprise the board of selectors. And I think I have a pretty good handle on what those in the room were thinking when Owens did not even make the cut from the 15 finalists to 10 -- let alone the final five who were chosen as the modern-era Class of 2016.

[RELATED: Owens: 'Disrespected,' but not surprised by Hall of Fame snub]

Most of the members who were thumbs-down on Owens told me they were not doing so because of any personal grudge or any perceptions about how he fit into locker rooms. They said they were merely taking the lead from the decision-makers who had Owens on their teams.

After eight productive seasons, the 49ers essentially traded Owens to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 for defensive end Brandon Whiting. Owens was ultra-popular in Philadelphia for one season. The next year, the team suspended him for seven games when he became too disruptive and released him in March 2006. Owens spent three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before releasing him in 2009. He signed a one-year deal with Buffalo in 2009. He was not re-signed. He signed a one-year deal with Cincinnati in 2010. He was not re-signed for 2011, and he would never play another NFL regular-season game.

The consistent theme I heard was that football is the ultimate team sport, and a Hall of Famer should be the ultimate team player. Moreover, I was told that a Hall-of-Fame player should be somebody that 32 teams desire -- someone they never want to get rid of once on their roster.

The problem with Owens is that five teams got tremendous statistical production out of him in his prime but ultimately decided they were better off without him.

When I proposed that theory to Mariucci, he acknowledged Owens was not easy to coach. But, also, he was quite clear he never felt the 49ers were better without Owens.

Mariucci recalled the time the 49ers suspended Owens for one game in 2000 after the Dallas incident. The 49ers’ starting receivers the next game were J.J. Stokes and Tai Streets. Certainly, the 49ers were not better without Owens, he said.

[RELATED: Ex-49ers WR Owens: 'Haven’t officially retired; LA, I’m ready']

In Owens’ final season with the 49ers, the team went 7-9 under Dennis Erickson. Owens was traded as part of San Francisco's roster purge. The next year, the 49ers finished 2-14 and had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. They would go eight-consecutive seasons without producing another 1,000-yard receiver.

Here’s how the other teams fared before, during and after Owens:

Philadelphia: Before Owens, the Eagles went 12-4. In Owens’ first season, they were 13-3. Owens missed the final two regular-season games and first two playoff games with a broken leg. He was exceptional with nine catches for 122 yards in a losing effort in Super Bowl XXXIX against New England. The next year, a disgruntled Owens was suspended. The Eagles finished 6-10. The year after he was released, Philadelphia bounced back to 10-6.

Dallas: The Cowboys were 9-7 the year before Owens and 11-5 the first season he was gone. With Owens, the Cowboys went 9-7, 13-3 and 9-7.

Buffalo: The Bills were 7-9 before Owens, 6-10 with him, and 4-12 the first year he was gone.

Cincinnati: The Bengals were 10-6 before Owens, 4-12 with him, and 9-7 the first year without him.

Hall-of-Fame voter Clark Judge cited a quote from Bill Polian when discussing Owens’ candidacy.

“The Hall of Fame ought to be for people who make their teams better,” Polian said, “not for those who disrupt them and make them worse.”

Clearly, a lot of voters agreed. That is why it’s difficult to imagine that Owens will make it next year, either.

The only thing that will change a year from now is that Marvin Harrison, a wide receiver who was a finalist three-straight years, is no longer standing in the way. Because there’s a maximum of five modern-era inductees per year, the voters appear reluctant to enshrine multiple players at the same position in the same year.

There is a certain amount of patience that’s required. Not every deserving candidate can get elected into the Hall of Fame on the first or second ballot.

I also spoke with multiple Owens supporters in that room. There was one voter who arrived in San Francisco with the belief that Owens was a "slam dunk." Then, as the arguments on both sides were being made, it became clear there was more than enough negativity in the room to block his selection.

“T.O. will get in,” Mariucci said. “If it’s not this year, it’ll next year, and if it’s not next year, it’ll be the year after. But his numbers support Hall of Fame greatness. There’s no debate about that.”

We agree with Mariucci’s assessment. But it might be awhile.

49ers-Chiefs injury report: Reuben Foster, Malcolm Smith return

49ers-Chiefs injury report: Reuben Foster, Malcolm Smith return

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers, in essence, added two linebackers to the team Wednesday.

Reuben Foster returned to the practice field after serving a two-game suspension, and veteran Malcolm Smith was cleared to undergo a full practice for the first time since he sustained a hamstring injury in the 49ers’ Aug. 9 preseason opener.

Rookie middle linebacker Fred Warner played well in the first two weeks without Foster or Smith alongside him. It appears to be unlikely that Warner will lose his starting role.

And Foster almost assuredly will step back into the 49ers' lineup at weakside linebacker after serving his punishment for violations of the NFL’s policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct. The team released veteran guard Matt Tobin to make room on the 53-man roster for Foster.

Smith was the 49ers’ biggest defensive acquisition on the first day of free agency in 2017. But he missed all of last season with a torn pectoral sustained early in training camp. The 49ers still view him as a valuable asset because of his fit for the defensive system.

So, is it possible Warner, Foster and Smith all could see action together?

“We don’t have the plan, yet,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. “We’ve got to see how they are, how they play. The plan is to do whatever we think gives us the best chance to win. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make a better guess at that decision these three days of practice.”

Mark Nzeocha took over as the 49ers’ starting strongside linebacker in the team’s base defense after a trade sent Eli Harold to the Detroit Lions.

“If I knew what way we were going to go this week, I wouldn’t tell you guys, but I do mean I don’t know, yet,” Shanahan said. “Rueben hasn’t been here in two weeks. Today is going to be Malcolm’s first day of full practice. So we want to see how all of those guys do, and it’ll be a tough decision at the end of the week, but a tough decision I’m going to be happy to have to make.”

Wednesday’s Practice Report

Did not practice
G Joshua Garnett (toe)
T Joe Staley (not injury related -- vet day)
S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder)

Limited practice
WR Marquise Goodwin (quadricep)
G Mike Person (foot)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle)

Did not practice
S Eric Berry (heel)
DE Chris Jones (groin)

Limited practice
LB Ben Niemann (hamstring)

Full participation
G Cameron Erving (knee)
CB Kendall Fuller (hand)
DE Jarvis Jenkins (elbow)
LB Reggie Ragland (shoulder, knee)

49ers' Marquise Goodwin noncommittal about his status for Chiefs game


49ers' Marquise Goodwin noncommittal about his status for Chiefs game

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was scheduled to return to limited practice Wednesday while still nursing a deep thigh bruise from a Week 1 collision with Jaleel Jackson, the Minnesota Vikings’ 316-pound defensive tackle.

Goodwin made no promises about his availability for the 49ers' Sunday game against the Kansas City Chiefs after being inactive in Week 2 against the Detroit Lions.

“I’ll just take it a day at a time and see where it goes,” Goodwin said.

“It’s the nature of this game. You go through a lot of stuff, you go through a lot of things throughout the season. You just have to roll with the punches.”

If Goodwin is healthy enough to play, two of the fastest players in the NFL could be on the field Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill is a speedster who ran an unofficial 4.24 seconds in his pro day before the 2016 draft.

Goodwin ran an official time of 4.27 seconds at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, which uses electronic timing and produces a slower time than handheld stopwatches.

Goodwin on Wednesday was asked to compare the speed of the two players.

“Me to Tyreek?” Goodwin asked. “I don’t compare myself to anybody, but I mean . . . “

At that point, Goodwin rolled up the sleeve on his left arm to show a tattoo of the Olympic rings. He won the U.S. Olympic Trials and competed in the 2012 London Games in the long jump.

“I ain’t sayin’ nothing,” Goodwin said, smiling. “You take that wherever you want to take it.”