T.O.’s HOF factors provide convenient cover for those who don’t like him

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Back when I actually worked for a living, I primarily handled cases arising from the firing of employees. Those lawsuits typically turn on the question of whether the reason given for the decision is the real reason, or whether it’s a pretext for one or more factors protected by the law.

They’re hard cases to prove, requiring lawyers to pierce behind excuses like “Joe was late for work too many times” in search of evidence of other employees who were late as often or more, without getting a pink slip.

As it relates to the Hall of Fame candidacy of Terrell Owens, his well-covered difficulties with teammates and coaches potentially provide a plausible basis for those voters who may be inclined to keep Owens out simply because they don’t like T.O. The question is whether it’s a pretext for voters who simply don’t like Owens because of who he is or how he treated them personally or collectively.

“They feel his disruptive behavior over the course of his career is sufficient grounds for keeping him out of Canton,” Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News writes regarding the voters’ views on Owens. And while Domowitch supports Owens’ case for Canton, “[T]he locker room is an extension of the field, and therefore, voters are allowed to consider Owens’ disruptive behavior.”

Here’s the problem with allowing the line to be drawn somewhere beyond the actual field of play. We’ll never know how many other players have engaged in “disruptive behavior” but nevertheless got in to the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter was “disruptive” at times (in fairness, not like Owens), but the voters never really made that case publicly when keeping Carter waiting over and over again. The thinking was that the voters simply didn’t like Carter; with statistics not so strong that entry was obvious, the voters didn’t feel compelled to cobble together a case against Carter beyond the gridiron.

“For the past two years, Owens has been buried in the room, portrayed as a divisive figure who cares only about himself,” writes Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com. “These views aren’t fake news — they are comments shared by former coaches and former teammates who couldn’t wait to get rid of a supremely talented player.”

Who are the former coaches and teammates who believe Owens was divisive and selfish? Donovan McNabb says Owens should get in (then again, McNabb thinks McNabb should get in). Brian Dawkins supports Owens’ enshrinement. Where are the former teammates who think he shouldn’t be enshrined?

Those who want to ignore T.O.’s statistical achievements should get every coach and quarterback and other key teammate on the record, if the narrative will continue to be that coaches and teammates thought he was too disruptive or too selfish or so much of an overall turd that it undermines his on-field performance. Along the way, those who want to keep Owens out also should take a closer look at the number of divisive and selfish players who made it to Canton during an era when the tendency to disrupt or be selfish wasn’t widely known.

Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, for example, potentially could have been known as a very disruptive and selfish player in the age of social media and Twitter. As one media source told PFT several years ago, the 49ers’ P.R. staff during Rice’s career knew when Rice potentially would be inclined to say or do something controversial (typically after not getting the ball as much as he wanted it). They’d whisk Rice out of the locker room before it could happen. In today’s NFL, it’s a lot harder to hide those tendencies.

Owens played most of his career during an age when we know much more about players than we ever did. The increasingly-competitive media environment has compelled reporters to seek out scraps of scoop that could be used to advance a storyline, such as (for example) the idea that Owens deliberately created a rift in the Dallas locker room. To the extent that those kinds of things happened in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, how would anyone have known?

Speaking of the 1990s, Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin stabbed a teammate in the neck with scissors.

In contrast, Owens never got in any trouble. Yes, he had verbal and possibly physical altercations with teammates. But none were attacked by T.O. with scissors or any other weapons. Since Irvin has a bronze bust, the absence of violent assaults by Owens should count for something.

Arguably, the worst thing Owens ever did was to want to be compensated for a level of performance in 2004 that nearly carried the Eagles to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. The Eagles flatly refused to modify his contract after an MVP-caliber performance in Super Bowl XXXIX six weeks after breaking his ankle. Owens decided that, if the Eagles weren’t going to pay him, he’d try to go to a team that would.

Stubbornness on both sides created a huge mess and non-stop media frenzy for the 2005 Eagles, but at least it shows that there was a method to the apparent madness of T.O. Yes, he could have handled it better, but the way in which he chose to exercise business leverage over the Eagles should not disqualify him from Canton.

If this process is going to continue with voters hiding behind the reputation of Terrell Owens without considering whether and to what extent others already in Canton have done similar things (or worse), it’s important for the voters who oppose T.O. to have something more tangible and more persuasive and more categorical than the “T.O. was a bad teammate mantra.” Surely, plenty of Hall of Famers were bad teammates. For Owens, whose statistically is the second or third greatest receiver of all time, there needs to be proof that he was a dramatically worse teammate than other bad teammates who already been given permanent residence on the team of pro football immortality.

Meanwhile, the fans and those in the media who believe T.O. should have a spot in Canton should demand that folks who ostensibly spend their professional lives getting to the truth will get to the truth about whether and to what extent Owens was so bad away from the football field to justify disregarding how good he was on it. Anyone who is willing to vote “no” on Owens without doing that work perhaps shouldn’t be in a position to vote on Owens or anyone else.

66 responses to “T.O.’s HOF factors provide convenient cover for those who don’t like him

  1. T.O. is arguably the 2nd or 3rd best WR to ever play the game. And he played hard as well. In the SB against NE he was playing his behind off with a broken foot whilst Donavan McNabb was puking in the huddle.

    If he doesn’t deserve to be in the HOF…..who does?

  2. As a 49er fan, I appreciate what he did for our team. He was a disruptive figure, but if he were 22 again and the 49ers had a chance to draft him, I hope they would.

  3. Four words… That’s all it takes…”It’s a no brainer”… but the NFL HOF is fast becoming just as much a joke as the pro bowl .

  4. Owens played most of his career during an age when we know much more about players than we ever did.

    Owens IS the reason we know so much about him. So much more than anyone needed or wanted to know. He is one of those guys who makes you regret inventing twitter. He was THE Kardashian of NFL players.

    But who wouldn’t love a self centered narcissistic attention grabber?

  5. It is quite clear that writers have and probably allow their personal feelings to dictate their lack of objectivity when it comes to what he did on the field. Now, he never got arrested, DUI’s, killed anyone, burned houses, beat up girlfriends, i could go on. What a joke of a selection process.

  6. So why hasn’t WR Isaac Bruce got in? He is one of the all-time top receivers and helped the Rams win a Super Bowl. Putting a receiver in the HOF is like pulling teeth for those guys.

  7. Any debate and voting process that puts Tony Dungy in the Hall while keeping Coryell & Flores out is screwed up beyond redemption.

  8. There are way worse people in the HOF. Terrell Owens should have been in on the first ballot. The people in the media who are against him aren’t exactly saints, either.

  9. You make the case against your own argument. Carter got in eventually, but had to wait. So let it be with Owens. Tell him to take a 10+ year vacation and get back to us.

  10. He’s an idiot, but if that last batch of players can make it into the HOF, then he should too.

    That was a crazy weak list, the HOF has a joke just like the Pro Bowl.

  11. I love the Cris Carter example. Cris had a massive drug problem, and he gets in before Owens? Give me a break.

    I don’t particularly care for TO the man, but as a player he was fantastic. The HOF has less credibility in my eyes until TO is in.

  12. I hate the “disruptive” argument. So, by that measurement, are they going to keep Tom Brady out of the HOF?

  13. @busch1724 says:
    Feb 7, 2017 12:49 PM

    You mention the Super Bowl run in ’04. They got there without him.
    Not really. While it’s true he missed the playoff games, they would not have won those regular season games to make that far. Don’t act as if he didn’t play a huge role in the success of the 2004 team.

    You sure you’re not Hugh Douglas hiding behind a fake name?

  14. The HOF is irrelevant. To solve the problems stop voting and put everyone in. Fans know who the best players were and are. The whole thing has become a farce. Sick and tired of all the bitching that goes on now days.

  15. T.O. was a true difference maker and playmaker. I don’t care that he had (has) a bad attitude. He was one of the best of the best for years, and he should be enshrined.

  16. The HOF needs to redefine their rules for eligibility. Is it on the field, off the field, both? I vote for on the field and leave the other stuff for Walter Payton Man of the Year Awards.

  17. HOF started losing credibility once they let guys like Dungy in and now Terrell Davis. TD had 2-3 good years and only played for like, 5 or 6. Its a joke. People dont hold it in high regard anymore.

  18. nhpats says:

    T.O. is arguably the 2nd or 3rd best WR to ever play the game. And he played hard as well. In the SB against NE he was playing his behind off with a broken foot

    And I recall the media actually bashing him for playing hurt, calling him selfish.

    Charles Haley beat off in front of teammates in the locker room.

  19. artvan15 says:

    The HOF is irrelevant.

    It officially became irrelevant when Dungy got in.

  20. I was shocked to hear Dungy (1 SB) say on PFT the other day that Owens should get in because it should be about on-field/stats only. Again, that’s what 1SB Dungy says, so perhaps he’ll surrender his place for T.O.?

  21. He shouldn’t get in because he was disruptive? Well, if that were true, it would show in the performance of the teams he played for, right? And, ultimately, performance comes down to wins and losses.

    Well, Owens’s teams were 130-88 in games that he played. And that includes two losing records in his final two seasons when he was no longer the same player. Take those out, and Owens’s teams were 121-67 in the games he played.



  22. Pretty sure Michael Irvin (and others on those teams) were a huge distraction, as well as Lawrence Taylor. TO is a childish baby, but has not had any run-ins with the law, abuse, drugs, etc. Of course he should be in.
    When LT made it (which obviously he should have), we heard over and over that the only thing that is considered is what the player did on the field.

  23. The HOF conversation regarding wide receivers and what they have done is directly a result of one coach that changed the game

    Don Coryell

  24. The voters hold biases, it is plain to see. Cris Carter an TO both should have be in on the first ballot. We’ll see next year how much voters care about character when Ray Lewis is eligible.
    Of course the media hires these bad character guys for their crappy shows. Carter, RayRay, Irvin, Deion & Sapp. ( I just realized 3 of these are from the U.)

  25. Not gonna say who does or doesn’t belong in the HOF, but there does seem to favor the ones who are regularly employed with the NFLN or ESPN are the ones who have a leg up on the others who are trying to get in without a TV gig. Just look at the past years and who was on TV about then.

  26. The guy above made a great point, by this standard are they going to keep Brady out? According to the league Brady did something wrong and was disruptive. What about Belichick, not only did he get caught for cheating, he is “disruptive” at press conferences. Those are football related antics that one could use, but of course they are both GOAT at their respective jobs. There are way worse teammates with disruptive behavior from the 70s that are in the HOF. Yes TO was selfish, but so were a large percentage of top WRs. For the most part TO just wanted to stand up against the NFL for cracking down on celebrations and making it less fun to watch.

  27. It’s weird how these sports journalists that claim he can’t get into the hall because of his personality and antics were probably the same ones ooing and aching over him doing sit-ups in his front yard. Owens in his prime was always the top story, he gave these writers a story. He is 3rd all time in TD receptions. Lynn Swann is in the HOF and he averages 3 catches a game for 47 yards. Different era I know but still. And when the whole thing with him and Witten came out, he was actually right, Romo was forcing it to Witten, they struggled down the stretch and missed the playoffs that year. Owens probably should have went about it a different way. But he also almost never missed a game minus the couple playoff games where he broke his ankle, and would have been Super Bowl MVP had the Eagles won

  28. HOF voters lost integrity with me after it took 33 years for Chris Hanburger to get into the HOF. Played 14 years, voted into 9 Pro Bowls and was selected 4 times 1st team and 2 times 2nd team All Pro. Started 135 start games.

  29. He’ll get in eventually…so, he has to wait a few years, so have others. He was the original media Ho and set the pace for the other clowns and nitwits that we’ve had to contend with since then. Yes, he was a great player but his skills on the football field were over shadowed and quickly forgotten when he opened his mouth or there was a camera anywhere within 100 miles. He strutted and acted the fool and is now crying fowl because his behavior has caught up with him. Boo Hoo, actions have consequences and maybe some of our young players will see this as a cue that they should think about what they really want…there fifteen minutes now, OR the respect and admiration of future generations, that comes with being in the Hall.

  30. First, let me say he belongs in. But to say there is no evidence he was disruptive is wrong. He was one of the best of all time, but couldn’t stay on a team. Teams kept letting him go. Then, while he was still pretty good, he could not get a job at all. That is very strong evidence that there was something more to it than on field performance. Based on his performance, teams should have been lining up for him, but they were not. I think we all know the reason why.

  31. “I walk into his room and Dwight whispers to me, ‘Marvin Harrison shot me,'” said Santiguida, who will testify as a witness Wednesday. “He didn’t know what to do. He was worried about saying anything because of retribution if word got out and people thought he was a rat. It’s a street thing.”

  32. It’s a joke that Owens isn’t in the HOF. He should have been 1st-ballot. It’s not character that is keeping him out, it’s personality. And that is pathetic. To my knowledge the guy was never arrested. Was never suspended for recreational drugs or PEDs. Has kept his nose clean since his absurd blacklist from the NFL. The dude has been an upright citizen since as far back as high school. Meanwhile guys like Marvin Harrison, who was involved in multiple shootings, etc. Guys who were clearly on drugs. Guys who beat their wives. Guys who were generally trash human beings are in. Owens had nearly 10,000 more yards-from-scrimmage than Terrell Davis and nearly 100 more touchdowns. Like I said, it’s a joke.

  33. Anyone who voted for Terrell Davis over Terrell Owens should be banned from the process immediately.

    Terrell Davis’ career doesn’t compare to TO’s. It’s not close.

  34. The HOF is not irrelevant. It is a very big deal to the players and deservedly so. I simply don’t understand the process and protocol. One year you are not good enough and then years later you are? Doesn’t make sense to me but I don’t have a vote. I do concur with the five year waiting period and I think the Hall should have a separate wing for players and coaches, etc. Just my 2 cents.

  35. I’m just glad Terrel Davis got in. I nice guy to both teammates and sportswriters and the best four year run as running back (besides Dickerson) in NFL history

  36. @badmoonrison says:
    Feb 7, 2017 1:22 PM

    HOF started losing credibility once they let guys like Dungy in and now Terrell Davis. TD had 2-3 good years and only played for like, 5 or 6. Its a joke. People dont hold it in high regard anymore
    Out of all the HOF inductees, you single out these two gentlemen.

  37. While Owens was a very gifted football player, he was also the prototype of a diva receiver. Who know, maybe it was Rice who taught him to be like that.

    All I know was that most of the teams he played on go did not get better by his presence long term. Maybe for a season or two, but then he would have broken up the locker room and thrown his QB in front of the bus several times. I think he should get into the HOF, so we don’t have to hear about this me me turd every year just before the superbowl.

  38. @ collectordude says:
    Feb 7, 2017 2:16 PM

    Both Owens & Carter don’t deserve to be in the HOF.
    Dungy as well.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Other than it’s your opinion, why don’t they belong? Same can be said of Kevin Greene and a many others.

  39. Who cares? The New England Patriots are world champions AGAIN. Have a nice off season.

  40. If idiots can keep Art Modell out of the Hall of Fame, a man who is instrumental in TV and the NFL, Monday night games, the AFL, etc… because they don’t like that he moved the team, then they certainly can use any reason they choose to keep TO out. Just shows the favoritism and stupidity that drives the process that chooses who goes into the HOF.

  41. “…should demand that folks who ostensibly spend their professional lives getting to the truth will get to the truth about whether and to what extent Owens was so bad away from the football field to justify disregarding how good he was on it.”

    The professional lives at TMZ did this just a few weeks ago, posting a video of Owens insulting the Hall voters and saying that if he doesn’t get in this year, the whole voting process needs to be reviewed. Anyone think that’s not “so bad away from the football field”?

    Try this experiment: apply for a job and go through the interview process. Be very comfortable about the fact that you will be the perfect choice to fill the position. Before they call you with their decision, post to your favorite social media account that this company would be stupid not to hire you, and if they don’t, they need to seriously reconsider who is running their Human Resources department. Let’s see if they still give you that job.

    It boggles my mind that people are finding it hard to understand what’s going on here…

  42. “Terrel Davis …. the best four year run as running back (besides Dickerson) in NFL history”

    I’m not arguing your point at all. I just thought it would be interesting to list some great 4 year stretches for RBs. I will also project to 16 game seasons for Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, which is fair since there were less games back then and they didn’t miss any games. Jim Brown made the list twice for non-overlapping years!

    RushYds RushTDs RushAvg Rec RecYds RecTds

    Terrell Davis 1995-98 (64 games)
    6413 56 4.8 152 1181 5
    Eric Dickerson 1983-86 (64 games)
    6968 55 4.8 118 874 2
    Barry Sanders 1994-97 (64 games)
    6989 40 5.4 149 1133 5
    Marshall Faulk 1998-2001 (64 games)
    5441 43 5.0 337 3551 26
    Leroy Kelly 1966-69 (56 games)
    4402 51 5.0 94 1212 8
    Kelly projected to 64 games
    5031 58 5.0 107 1385 9
    Jim Brown 1958-61 (50 games)
    5521 48 5.2 105 991 5
    Jim Brown 1058-61 projected to 64 games
    7067 61 5.2 134 1268 6
    Jim Brown 1962-65 (56 games)
    5849 49 5.4 141 1453 14
    Jim Brown 1962-65 projected to 64 games
    6685 56 5.4 161 1661 16

  43. A new, better Hall of Fame should be designed. It would have a room/section for every team (plus other specialized rooms based on Super Bowls, player positions, defunct teams/leagues, etc.). The team, the league, and the hall administration would collaborate on what players and information to include in each team’s room/section. Perhaps even include fan polls for some displays. Also, change it up now and then like a normal museum; move stuff around; redesign displays, etc.

  44. If you’re trying to make the case that turds like Irvin shouldn’t be in the HOF, I agree!

  45. aww he hurt too many peoples’ feelings, or didn’t murder enough people;

    probably a combination of both come to think of it.

  46. He’ll get in soon, no worries. I like that it’s not just a robotic calculation. Football is a team sport, big time. Maybe a reminder out there to the other primadonna’s in the NFL. Everything will be evaluated on your day of judgement when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

  47. So, 3 teams thought this guy was such a pain that they were willing to let him go somewhere else. Teams who have employed Randy Gregory, a drunk dude who uttered racist slurs at a concert, and a guy who threatened to blow up an airport…and those same teams let this guy walk. And then, when he had plenty of tread left on the tires, 29 other teams who have also hired wife beaters, PED users, child abusers, etc. said “no thanks” and you wonder why he isn’t in the HOF? These teams are generally willing to hire some despicable folks and they all thought he wasn’t worth the trouble. That says A LOT.

  48. TO wasn’t so much a distraction as Irvin the crack addict. The difference is that TO would come in, post some nice stats, then get the defense to side with him while ripping the offense. This would inevitably lead to trouble in the locker room for which he was the direct cause.

  49. It was just pointed out to me that Ahman Green will never even be mentioned for the NFL HOF, but has significantly more career yards, catches, and total TDs than Davis.

  50. jcrileyesq says:
    Feb 7, 2017 6:57 PM
    I wonder is Favre antics were ever discussed in his HOF voting
    There was an awful lot of ground covered by the HOF committee concerning Favre during their marathon six-second discussion about him, so I’m guessing maybe they did…

  51. I never liked TO. Couldn’t stand to watch what he did to his coaches and teammates. I actually would prefer he never get in the HOF. He acted like an ass! Let him rot.

  52. On top of being a huge distraction. TO had bad hands. In the prime of his career look at the number of drops he had each season.
    2000- 49
    2001- 62
    2002- 59
    2003- 66
    2004- 50
    2005- 45
    2006- 65
    2007- 60
    2008 – 71
    2009- 54
    2010 – 72
    Over seventy drops in a season twice. Over sixty drops in a season 4 times. His hands weren’t that good. He just had a lot of chances because he was a selfish player that demanded it. His coaches allow him to do it.

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