With at least one Hall of Fame voter who resents being questioned or criticized has decided to whine about “the Mike Florios of the world,” my official response consists of two words: Thank you. (My unofficial response contains several of the same letters and one of the same words, but it can’t be repeated on a family-friendly-sometimes website.)
The criticism of the failure to induct receiver Terrell Owens in his second year of eligibility (more specifically, the failure to even put him in the final 10 in 2017) has begun to smoke out some of the voters who resent the throwing of rocks at their ivory tower, forcing them to make public their case against T.O.
MDS crafted a masterful deconstruction of the Ron Borges get-off-my-lawn essay that exposed not only his illogical drop-based argument but also the same kind of lazy arrogance (copying and pasting quotes obtained and transcribed by others without credit) that quite possibly influences every other aspect of his work, including his work on behalf of the Hall of Fame. Indeed, it’s not the first time Borges has been caught copying and pasting without attribution. (My first and only direct communication with Borges occurred more than a decade ago, when I complained to him that multiple different PFT blurbs ended up without attribution in one of this Sunday notes columns above the vague and goofy “material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report” disclaimer.) For most journalists, getting caught in what is the ultimate evidence of lazy arrogance and a hollow work ethic would be a career killer. Somehow, Borges is both still gainfully employed and a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee.
But this blurb isn’t supposed to be about Borges (even though it is). It’s supposed to be about specific arguments made to me via email by Hall of Fame voter Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. In fairness to Gary, I’ve separately published the full, approved content of an email summarizing multiple prior messages. For now, I want to focus on the primary argument Gary made: Michael Irvin is more worthy of Canton than Terrell Owens.
“Michael Irvin didn’t get in the HOF until his third year and I could easily make a case he was a better player than T.O.,” Myers wrote. “For sure, if I had a choice of having one of them on my team, I would take Irvin. Not even close in my mind. . . . [J]ust as far as their playing ability, Irvin played on three Super Bowl championship teams. He was a leader and a winner. He had much better hands. Owens dropped an awful lot of passes. Irvin imposed his will on games while Owens was carrying a Sharpie in his sock and eating popcorn with the cheerleaders.
“I was not on the committee when Irvin was a candidate, but my guess is his off the field problems are why it took him three years to get in, although the mandate from the HOF is not to consider issues away from the field like arrests and drug use. In the case of Owens and others who were considered distractions, the locker room is considered an extension of the field.”
Irvin created at least one unprecedented distraction, at least as far as anyone in the media or general public knows. He stabbed a teammate in the neck with scissors on team property. As “horrible teammates” go, that would seem to set the bar.
As great receivers go, Owens set the bar a hell of a lot higher than Irvin. He currently sits at No. 8 on the all-time list, with 1,078 receptions. Irvin is tied for 38th, with 750.
Owens is No. 2 in receiving yards, with 15,934. Irvin sits at No. 26, behind the likes of Derrick Mason.
As to total touchdowns, T.O. is No. 5, with 156. Irvin ranks 120 spots lower, tied at 65 touchdowns with Sonny Randle, Joe Morrison, Charlie Joiner, Elroy Hirsch, Calvin Hill, Terrell Davis, Gary Clark, Billy Cannon, and Emerson Boozer.
When it comes to production over the course of a career, it’s not even a close case. It’s not even close to being a close case. And while Irvin has three Super Bowl titles, does anyone think Owens wouldn’t have at least one if he’d been the third leg of the Triplets tripod, especially with an offensive line that consistently dominated its foes?
Of course, Owens still had an opportunity to win a championship, and he did everything in his power to return from a broken leg to catch nine passes for 122 yards against the Patriots in a three-point Super Bowl XXIX loss. But Myers shrugged at that achievement.
“The Eagles won two playoff games without him to get to the Super Bowl that year and then lost the Super Bowl with him,” Myers said.
Technically, that’s correct. The Eagles did get to Jacksonville without him and they did lose there with him. But does anyone really think the Eagles lost because of him?
The more accurate view is that Owens did his job more than well enough on that day to deliver an NFL title to Philadelphia for the first time since 1960, and that not enough of those around Owens did. By nonchalantly dismissing one of the brightest moments of T.O.’s career, Myers says plenty about what the panel thinks of Owens, plenty about whether it’s inclined to induct him any time soon, and plenty about whether the whole thing needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch.