To the extent that the Hall of Fame voters unofficially opted for receiver Marvin Harrison over receiver Terrell Owens due to a de facto waiting line among wideouts, the unofficially official explanation was that Owens was a disruptive presence in multiple NFL cities. Another unofficially official explanation may have been available.
Former Jets and Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma recently explained that his teams didn’t game plan specifically to stop Owens, like they did with Randy Moss or Calvin Johnson. That an argument was used to keep receiver Art Monk out of the Hall of Fame for years, before he eventually got in.
Whatever the unofficially official reason, Owens eventually will get in. He’s now in the same waiting line that put Monk, Harrison, and others in after a delay from which only Jerry Rice has been exempt. And the waiting line is the officially unofficial reason for the decision to keep Owens out, at least for a year.
In contrast, quarterback Brett Favre got in on his first try with, reportedly, a six-second debate — even though it could have been argued that his annual flirtation with retirement from 2002 through 2007 followed by a retirement and strategically-timed unretirement in July 2008 was disruptive and distracting to his latter years with the Packers. While Favre’s wishy-washiness helped deliver Aaron Rodgers to Green Bay in the first round of the 2005 draft, Favre’s lack of a clear, unequivocal commitment to the game for nearly half of his career was a non-issue when it was time to coronate him with a spot in Canton.
For Owens, the coronation eventually will come. But someone had to lose the numbers game in 2016, and it was Owens. Apparently, an unofficially official explanation unrelated to disruptiveness may have been available.