Terrell Owens omitted from all-time team

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With the league’s 100th season comes an effort to name the NFL’s all-time team, with (coincidentally) 100 players named to it. It’s not the best 100 players of all time, but a 100-member NFL team with a specific number of players at every position.

At the receiver position, the all-time team has 10 roster spots. Somehow, Terrell Owens didn’t get one of them.

Earning placement on the team were Lance Alworth, Raymond Berry, Larry Fitzgerald, Marvin Harrison, Elroy Hirsch, Don Hutson, Steve Largent, Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, and Paul Warfield. Judy Battista of NFL.com attempted to explain the most glaring omission from the NFL’s all-time team to date.

“Owens was elected to the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility, and part of the reason he did not get in on his first two tries was his behavior with teams during his career,” Battista writes, echoing an overblown concern that was used by people who simply dislike Owens to keep him out of Canton, temporarily. “Owens played for five teams over 15 seasons, and he clashed with front office personnel and teammates on several of them. It’s hard to say if that is why Owens did not make the all-time list — nobody on the panel said as much, and we do not know how each other voted — or if he ran into the same problem so many other stellar players at every position did: There were so many great candidates but so few spaces open.”

The fact that the panel voted secretly allowed Owens to fall victim to a more fundamental reality than not enough spots: Human nature.

A lot of people truly don’t like Terrell Owens as a person. He was rude at times. He was brash all the time. But, surely, he was one of the 10 best receivers in the history of the game.

Which guy would you want on your favorite team, Terrell Owens or Steve Largent? All due respect to Largent, do you even have to consider that for more than a nanosecond? (And, yes, I’m old enough to have seen Largent play.) Frankly, there are several other receivers (Isaac Bruce, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Steve Smith) who I’d take in their prime before Largent in his. (By the way, the “era” argument doesn’t really apply here; Largent’s career was almost entirely played after the NFL began opening up the rules to enhance passing and increase scoring.)

The New England Patriots play later today, and here’s hoping that someone after the game asks coach Bill Belichick whether Owens was on Belichick’s list of the 10 best receivers, and if not why not? Of all the members of the panel, Belichick is the only one who had to devise a defensive game plan to stop Owens in the Super Bowl — and Belichick failed. Owens, playing on a broken leg that hadn’t fully healed, had nine catches for 122 yards against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. If the Eagles had won the game, Owens would have been the MVP.

As to anyone on the all-time team panel or the Hall of Fame selection committee or anyone else appointed to create made-up football lists, Belichick would be the most likely to do so rationally, fairly, and dispassionately. We should all want to hear what Belichick has to say about the subject, because of all the people who have ever walked the face of the earth he is the most uniquely qualified to do so.

Here’s hoping that, if/when asked about it following today’s game, Belichick answers the question with something other than, “Yeah, we’re just focused on the Dolphins, Tom.” Too many people seize on too many irrelevant narratives to deny Owens the recognition he deserves; if Belichick has reliable information to support the notion that Owens clashed with front office personnel and teammates on several of his teams and that those squabbles (as if no one else on the all-time team ever had them) supersede a guy’s undeniable skills and abilities, it’s important to hear about it.

Because only Belichick would have the ability to persuade others regarding the decision to omit the man who owns the No. 3 spot on the all-time receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns list.

80 responses to “Terrell Owens omitted from all-time team

  1. Why does this team have 12 running backs and only ten receivers? What offense has more running backs than wide receivers? That right there could have helped solve that problem.

    Also, they invited Michael Irvin on to give his “reaction” without telling him if he made the team or not. Not sure if he went on but that was kind of a jerk move.

  2. I get your point, but you also are ignoring one glaring issue that Owens had for his whole career. How much damage did he do to each team that he played for when he decided he was done? He may have been the MVP if the Eagles won the SB but look at the damage done the next season.

  3. Oh oh … the usual call to arms for Owens to do what he does.

    What will it be? Popcorn or push ups in the driveway?

  4. Football is the ultimate team game and most of us remember what a selfish teammate he was, and especially remember his behavior toward Donovan McNabb when he was on the Eagles.

  5. OJ Simpson though is on the list for RBs right?
    His numbers are fantastic, they will be broken though as the NFL is Pass Happy and was for most of his career. But who would you take off for him?

  6. I can’t stand Owens. He was an obnoxious cancer on most of the teams on which he played, but to deny he was one of the top receivers in the game is just silly. The man had GAME, and he should be on the list (as well as on the biggest jerk list, along with AB, Dez, OBJ, etc.).

  7. If we’re talking about the hall of fame, Owens is unquestionably a first-ballot guy. If we’re talking about the ten best receivers, he’d most likely be on that list too. If we’re talking about the ten receivers I’d want on my team if I was a coach or front office guy, probably not.

    I guess it’s how you look at it.

  8. Sometimes there is penalty in life for being a disagreeable jerk. A good lesson for all to learn.

  9. Given the malcontents and characters BB has picked up over the years, from Dillon, Chad, Randy, Hanesworth, Blount, Browning, Gordon etc., etc., to AB, it’s doubtful that he would NOT have voted for him. Who else was on the panel? I assume that his individual vote would only count for a small percentage….. BTW, you already know he’s not going to snitch on the others on that panel…..

  10. Agree 100%.

    TO, while a douche bag, was a great WR. Not pretty good, GREAT. Throughout most of his career, he was a game changer.

  11. As a Cowboys fan, I would take Michael Irvin over TO any and every day. TO would too often drop the 3rd down pass while wide open. Irvin made tough, contested critical catches his whole career & sadly had his career cut short by injury.

  12. When Steve Largent retired, he was the NFL all-time leader in receptions. Owens was 5th, almost 500 receptions short of the leader. Before Largent retired, there had only been 13 – 4,000 yd passing seasons. During Owens 15 year career, there were 61 – 4,000 passing seasons, so to make the argument that Largent and Owens played similar type passing eras is intellectually and statistically dishonest. That being said, Owens was a better receiver, but he was a terrible teammate. He divided every locker room he was in, and run out of every team he was on. Ask this question, why would 5 teams run a top 10 WR out of there building? Did these teams not want to win? I think the phrase “addition by subtraction” was coined or at least made famous because of Owens. Top 10 talented WR? Yes. Top 10 WR player/teammate? Not even close. But if you’ve never been on a team, in a locker room or in a huddle, you do not value what it is to be and have a good teammate

  13. Owens was an A$$ but there’s no denying the man was one of the greatest receivers ever. I also agree that Steve Smith should have been up there. He played And absolutely dominated the field when he stepped on it. He defied all stereotypes against shorter receivers. No doubt both of these guys should’ve been up there in lieu of some of those other guys.

  14. Is the NFL a behavior league or a production league? Punishing the behavior after the fact makes no sense while the NFL ignores it as long as they can make millions off the players. Broken system, TO was an idiot, but no one can argue his production, work ethic, and commitment to be one of the best WR ever.

  15. I’m not sure you can blame his omission on the personality stuff, if OJ Simpson made the team…

  16. “But, surely, he was one of the 10 best receivers in the history of the game.“

    That’s a pretty bold statement. Great player for sure but there’s been a lot of receivers across the eras in NFL history. Top 10 is a real special group.

    When you consider names like Cris Carter, Michael Irvin and Sterling Sharpe not on the list as well…lots of great players over the years.

  17. I’m also old enough to have seen Largent play at a time when Seattle was my AFC team, and Largent was one of my favorite players. There is no contest; Owens is unquestionably better. In fact, he’s better than at least 4 of the WR named.

  18. “Frankly, there are several other receivers (Isaac Bruce, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Steve Smith) who I’d take in their prime before Largent in his. (By the way, the “era” argument doesn’t really apply here; Largent’s career was almost entirely played after the NFL began opening up the rules to enhance passing and increase scoring.)“

    You’ve really discredited yourself with this statement. Are you kidding me? A 300 yard passing game in Largent’s era was a big deal. A 4,000 yard passing year a rare achievement. There is no comparison give me a break.

  19. Owens wasn’t covered tightly and caught a ton of passes during the superbowl but he did nothing with it after the catch. There should have been multiple TD’s but TO couldn’t plant at all. Lets not change history. That happened. The Eagles won those games in the playoffs that TO didn’t play in by the way.

  20. OK put him on the list. Who does he replace? dude was vastly overrated most of his career. I saw countless games where he would make unbelievable receptions and then drop easy ones that would Move chains and most likely and games.

  21. Owens should definitely be there, but so should Cris Carter and probably Tim Brown. The people who put these lists together showed obvious bias and they have no basis in reality. The sad thing is people who don’t really know football might see them and think they are correct, but they aren’t even close.

  22. Did you ever consider Belichick let TO run wild and devoted the defensive efforts elsewhere? It wouldn’t be that unusual and seemed to work out okay.

  23. Owens antics don’t transfer to Largent’s no showboating era. Can you imagine what Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert would do to this guy if he tried running out to the Steelers 50 yard line after a score? Just look what Lambert did to Cliff Harris for showing up his kicker (Lambert threw Harris around like a ragdoll). What do you think Tatum and Atkinson would do to Owens? Mel Blount? There is a reason why there were no showboat receivers when Largent played.

    And Belichick defeated Owens with a backup rookie corner who didn’t even start til week 6 along with a dime corner. Both of whom were forced to start with season ending injuries to Ty Law and Tyrone Poole. To put Owens Super Bowl vs the Pats in it’s proper perspective.

    Owens fought with multiple quarterbacks, coaches and even had an actual fist fight with Eagles team captain Hugh Douglas in the lockeroom. Those temper tantrums simply wouldn’t play in the first 70 years of NFL football. So he’s not on the list…to no surprise for any real football historian.

  24. Owen’s omission invalidates the list. But I understand. If they could they would omit Jim Brown for his prior activism. The list has little to do with ability to play the game or Terrell would top the list.

  25. This NFL 100 thing is just an entertainment program. I can’t believe how some people get so up in arms about the selections. These guys people complain about are already in the Hall of Fame, and not being selected for this made-up team doesn’t detract from that whatsoever. I just watch the programs and am entertained by the film segments and the storytelling from the hosts and guests.

    Why should Bill Belichick be expected to answer any question about TO or any other individual? And what if he did? If he said yes, he voted for TO, then it’s implicitly throwing the rest of the panel under the bus. And if he said he voted no, then it suddenly becomes a big negative thing between BB and TO, detracting from the good feelings about the program and NFL 100 honorees. Bill Belichick loves football and this program is all about positive recognition. When Don Shula was named as one of the NFL 100 coaches, Belichick heaped praise on his, in spite of the fact that Shula has consistently said very ugly things about Belichick. That should be proof enough that you’re not going to draw Bill Belichick into any negatives around this NFL 100 team and its process.

  26. Okay, not a Pats fan and yes Owens caught 9 balls for 122 on a bit fully healed broken leg but didn’t the Pats win that game? How is that a failure? Winning the game is the goal, not stopping a player. I’m pretty sure Belichick will make that deal every time.

  27. Yep. Owen’s is a jerk. Sometimes telling it like it is just wrong. People definitely don’t like jerks and people that can’t get along well with others.


    Donald in DC

  28. Terrell Owens was a free agent four times. At no time did Belichick ever seriously consider signing him. Terrell Owens’ “I love me some me” attitude was the absolute antithesis of the Patriot Way. We all know this answer, yet people feel like they need to ask Belichick.

  29. remizak says:
    December 21, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Why should Bill Belichick be expected to answer any question about TO or any other individual?


    Most people are fully aware of Owens time spent in Dallas with Belichick’s mentor Bill Parcells. When Parcells constantly referred to Owens as “The player”. One year of Owens was obviously enough for Parcells. Then when Parcells took over football operations in Miami the following season and needed a receiver. Parcells had no interest at all in Owens, who signed with in division rival Buffalo. While Parcells went out and signed Brandon Marshall the following year in Miami.

    So no need to question Belichick as to whether he has inside info on Owens as we all know he did…

  30. guy sure gets a lot of publicity for having one big playoff catch and a nice statistical super bowl game in a losing effort. how many critical drops did he have? so many you cant even count.

  31. Yes, TO played the super bowl on a broken leg and yes he always gave 110% when he was on the field. Key word being field. At every other instance he was a terrible guy to have on your team. Crappy teammate, narcissist diva, ranted and whined to the press constantly, showed up his quarterbacks and coaches and etc etc etc.

    I’ve never heard a single colleague say good things about him aside from how talented he was. Part of being an all time great is being a good teammate and productive part of the organization. He wasn’t. And that’s why he’s not on the list. He did it to himself.

  32. In 1995 there were 12 players with 1200+ yards receiving and 23 with 1000+ yards, 8 WRs with 100+ catches, and 11 players with 10+ TDs.

    In 1985 there were 3 players with 1200+ yards receiving and 11 with 1000+ yards, 5 players had 10 TDs and the top 3 WRs had 91, 79, and 75 catches.

    In 1978 there were no WRs with 1200+ yards and 4 with 1000+ yards, 3 players with 10+ TDs, and the top 3 WRS had 71, 66, and 62 catches.

    TO entered a league in 1996 that was an arcade game compared to the league Largent played in starting in 1976. You are welcome to your own opinions but not your own facts.

  33. Would love to put Megatron on the list, he’s better than 4 guys. But, no way he was better than Owens.

  34. Strange complaint to have TO off this list. There are tons of others who belong on it before him. Charlie Joiner, Fred Biletnikoff, Megatron, Lofton, Swann.

  35. Strange complaint to have TO off this list. There are tons of others who belong on it before him. Charlie Joiner, Fred Biletnikoff, Megatron, Lofton, Swann.

    His career was short but Calvin Johnson is the best receiver I remember seeing. Being a wide receiver is more than just speed and sticky gloves. It’s about separation and battling for the ball when you can’t get that separation. It’s about running crisp routes so you’ll be where the qb expects you to be. It’s about improvisation on a broken play. It’s about throwing a block downfield. TO had the speed and separation thing down but not the other stuff.

  36. My starters would be Rice, Hutson, Moss and Fitzgerald then back ups Berry Harrison,Alworth and Warfield, don’t need him in my team really

  37. marvin harrison was and still is the purest, most crisp route runner. of all time. add that to the numbers he put up and that is why he is here. part of the position is route running. your routes cant all be posts

  38. Terrell Owens is the Kobe Bryant of NFL WR’s… cursed by playing in the immediate shadow of the greatest player of all time but played just as great the greatest of all time so people won’t ever show proper respect while misleading the younger generation that missed out on witnessing such greatness Which I feel is an injustice to the youth… T.O. is as much of a Top 5 WR, as Kobe is being Top 5 nba player all time but since both weren’t a$$ ki$$ers they get penalized And disrespected, gtfoh with this dumb all time team

  39. 1) Owens was a distraction, and like it or not that does negatively affect teams. So he was “only” in the running and fell short of selection; that’s still a HIGH HONOR.

    2) The BS here about Largent is ridiculous. When Larget retired, he was the all time leader in all three major receiving categories (receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs), and he did it with his two QBs being Jim Zorn and Dav Krieg, both whom had major limitations in their production despite having Largent on board. For an example of better experts properly understanding his legacy, Largent in 1999 was ranked the 46th best NFL player of all time by Sporting News. Largent is not in the first tier of receivers of all time, but he ABSOLUTELY is on the same tier as Owens – who, by the way, spent virtually his entire career enjoying being paired up with Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, and Tony Romo…pretty nice list!

  40. Leargent retired with the most TDs at the time. He accomplished that wth Jim Zorn and Dave Craig as his QBs. He was a good teammate and didn’t drop passes. He was a better receiver than Owens.

  41. No thanks I’ll take Largent! Owen’s is what’s wrong with the nfl too many me first babies that only care about money,stats! This was a man’s mans game where guys put team first and ran through walls for coaches I miss those days.

  42. As a Packers fan I agree Carter deserved to be ahead of Owens. Carter could catch whether contested or by toe-tapping on the sideline. He was focused and committed. Owens was the first real fast and powerful receiver who had great RAC yards because he was so much more physical than the DBs trying to tackle him. So I put hands and ability to catch as a prime prerequisite.

    I am also in the minority in that I believe Jerry Rice is one of the most overrated players of all time. Average speed and size, couldn’t break tackles and dropped a ton of easy passes (I live in Niner and Raider country) and watched him a lot. He had two of the top QBs ever throwing him the call 95% of his career and had Carter or Largent or others had that kind of QB for a teammate imagine what they would have done. Nearly still in his prime Owens came along and started to take away Rice’s role as WR#1. And for the record Emmitt Smith is also overrated because he had a great OL for most of his career and played with a great WR and TE to take focus away. And when you average something over 4 ypc before you’re even touched then I say imagine if Jim Brown or Earl Campbell or Adrian Peterson had that OL their whole career.

  43. thatmanstu23 says:
    December 21, 2019 at 8:07 am

    I would take Art Monk over Owens any day,every day for a decade

    Monk was a compiler. I defy anyone to remember any one single play this guy made. End of story.

  44. Fitz? Sorry, but Owens has him beat by a mile. Don’t get the Largent hate either, tops in his era.
    Why is Harold Jackson, Rams/Pats receiver, not ever mentioned in any receiver list? This dude is HOF worthy and amassed amazing numbers in the not so pass happy 70s. And don’t get me started with the Cliff Branch snubs.

  45. Not one of the 10 best. One of the 20 best? Maybe. Not the top 10. Chris Carter for sure in front of him.

  46. As far as I’m concerned a top 3 WR not being on the list, well that makes the whole list worthless!

    This list and the HoF are supposed to be ALL about what they did on the field, not in the lockerroom, the lockerroom antics should have 0 to do with how great they were once they hit the field!

    OH and like someone above mentioned whoever made this list needs to learn a little about team building, only 10WRs and 12RBs, what’s wrong with this picture? A real team of this size would have 14WRs and 8RBs, but its funny how people’s personal feelings and hatred for a player cloud their eyes and get in the way of what that player accomplished!

  47. T.O. thought he was bigger than the game.
    At the end, he was begging for a WR job.
    When he couldn’t get another chance, he grew resentful.
    It only got worse when he wasn’t elected 1st ballot.
    So he publicly snubbed the HOF ceremony.
    Now the NFL gets back at him by leaving him off the 100th season list.

    It’s like watching a tennis match between a strict parent and a willful child.

  48. flankerback says:
    December 21, 2019 at 10:21 am
    I would take Lynn Swann over Marvin Harrison or Larry Fitzgerald any day of the week.

    Swann shouldn’t even be in the Hall of Fame. He was very much outplayed by another receiver in his division the same time he played, in Isaac Curtis, but because Swann played on a better team than won Super Bowls, he got in, but his stats aren’t even comparable.

  49. I will say it again. I have no problem with anyone making the list. Just Like I do not have a problem with someone being left off. It is the 100 years!

    Belechick and Madden did a lot of the work researching the older era players. I think that is great. People get too caught up with the players that are being left off. Most of these players have played in the television era, so there is a bias there. People have seen players on tv and have formed their opinions based on that.

    TO was great, but I have great respect for the difficult job the selection committee did. As for people complaining more RBs than Wrs, they should look at the history of the game as a whole where WRs did not become the focal point of an offense but for the last 20 years or so. That means that the RB position was more valued for 80 years!

    Then you have someone like Don Hutson, who was chosen. Played way back in the dead ball era. Scored 99 touchdowns! Record stood for decades!

    It should be an honor just to be nominated.

  50. rogerdodger99 says:
    December 21, 2019 at 10:02 am

    At every other instance he was a terrible guy to have on your team. Crappy teammate, narcissist diva, ranted and whined to the press constantly, showed up his quarterbacks and coaches and etc etc etc.

    So lets put the blame for that press thing where the blame is due, solely on the NFL! Back in the day, the 1960s to about the early to mid 1990s you ONLY heard a player “IF” they were on the winning SB team, but in about the mid-1990’s that all changed and the NFL made it so the players had to be available for post-game interviews(they gave them a podium to rant from) and that’s when all of this started. The NFL thought for some unknown reason that all the fans wanted to hear what the players thought after every single game, but we don’t! I know hunderds of people and I don’t know a one that cares what the players think or even watches these post-game interviews, not a single one and if they do they sure won’t admit it.

  51. To comment that Don Hutson should not be on the list is ridiculous. Obviously you have no understanding of NFL history and how he dominated that era of football. He retired almost 75 years ago in a run-dominated era and he is still 11th in career receiving TDs. He is still 25th all-time yards per game. He led the league in receptions 8 times. There were times he had 2-3 times the number of receptions of the number 2 guy in the league. That would be like someone today having 250+ receptions.

  52. Which guy would you want on your favorite team, Terrell Owens or Steve Largent?

    Sorry but even asking this shows a very sorry knowledge of NFL history and its players.


    Largent wasn’t the worst of this chosen and certainly was better than better fingers TO.

    Largent played on team with no other stars or offensive options but still excelled.

    Give me Largent.

  53. Can you think of a single instance where you said, “That was a big, important game they just won, and they wouldn’t have won it without TO.” Me, neither.

  54. T.O. had a confrontational personality. It was not well received by some of the big egos he played with and he refused to back down. He’s being blackballed because the feelings he hurt caused rifts in the team. Clear as day he lost the war of egos. He’s misunderstood and was immature, but he is clearly a Top 10 Receiver all-time. No question.

  55. Many times in sports, narratives are created, and folks start running with them without applying analysis. T.O was part of the divided Philly locker room. But everywhere he has gone, teammates have LOVED him, he taught younger WR’s many a time, hell you see that on tape when Dallas was on Hard Knocks. He was full of antics, and was often delusional, but he wasn’t a douche bag as he was called in this forum. He was NEVER in trouble outside game, and gave his all inside it.

    But if we start with getting into the personalities type of folks we don’t know, we will sadly be dismayed -often. There are likely terrible people on this list, who because of the times they lived in, we know nothing about. We should keep our analysis to verifiable football facts and acts we can all assess. Cause there is surely a rapist, woman beater, child abuser, terrible teammate, totally selfish prick, and more on this list, just as well as some very good guys who are the very opposite of all those things, but the problem is – we just don’t know!!!!!

    T.O and others like Cater should be on the list. He is an all time great, that is just a fact. But also pay attention, you will see that his antics were headline grabbing, but usually harmless. I mean working out in his driveway, or popcorn? Who does that really hurt? They were attention seeking actions but THAT doesn’t break up teams. There really is fine line between T.O screaming for the ball and Brady screaming at his receivers. Both acts are about improving performance and winning. Did you ever hear T.O complain about his catches if they won the game? Nope. And why do so many former teammates love T.O? There is clearly more to the story tha
    n we all know. And I am a JETS fan, with no dog in this fight, i just think to many guys here are running with an unchecked narrative, and not being factual about what happened on the day to day, and just remembering the antics, as if they were daily and not the rarity they actually were.

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