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Facts Overlooked In Ongoing Terrell Owens Hall Of Fame Argument

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- I'm not sure how exactly we got here, but the decision of the group of 48 voters to keep Terrell Owens out of the Hall of Fame remains a contentious point of debate.

Really, it shouldn't be. Owens was as big of a diva donkey as the sport has ever seen. Nobody in the world would ever deny that. But objectively speaking, the man belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He ranks second all time in receiving yards, third all time in receiving touchdowns and eighth all time in receptions. In the history of football.

He is, without a doubt, a Hall of Famer.

But, of course, Hall of Fame votes being what they are, Owens' case has gone political. Last year, when he didn't make the cut in his first year of eligibility, Gary Myers of the New York Daily News argued that it was because Owens "tore teams apart" and made teams eager to get rid of him. (That, to my knowledge, is a new standard of evaluation in the Hall of Fame process.)

This year, when Owens again failed to get voted in, many believed that the same reasoning applied. But over this past weekend, Ron Borges of the Boston Herald decided to shift the argument from locker room problems to ... dropped passes.

"Owens not only led the NFL in drops once, he finished in the top four in drops seven other seasons during his 15-year career," Borges wrote in one of the more condescending football columns you'll read this month. "To help those suffering from 'lazy thinking,' let me help you. That means for more than half the years he played, Terrell Owens was annually among the top four receivers in drops. Sorry, but that's not my definition of 'first-ballot Hall of Famer.'"

OK, well, this wasn't Owens' first ballot, and also drops aren't typically an end all-be all type of statistic when evaluating Hall of Fame worthiness. Brett Favre, George Blanda, Fran Tarkenton, Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino and Y.A. Tittle are all in the top 10 for most interceptions all time. They're also all in the Hall of Fame. Peyton Manning ranks ninth all time in interceptions; he'll undoubtedly be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Favre, in addition to being the all-time leader in interceptions, is also the all-time leader in fumbles. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

But, I guess, not all mistakes are equal? I don't know. I've been informed that I'm not qualified to weigh in on the matter.

In another explanation, Gary Myers again explained some of the thinking behind Owens not making the cut in year two. In an email to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Myers said, "I know a lot is made of his courageous Super Bowl game and it was pretty amazing. But the Eagles won two playoff games without him to get to the Super Bowl that year and then lost the Super Bowl with him."

This is, objectively, amazing.

I'm going to share this again: "I know a lot is made of his courageous Super Bowl game and it was pretty amazing. But the Eagles won two playoff games without him to get to the Super Bowl that year and then lost the Super Bowl with him."


Evaluating "quarterback wins" is enough of a specious endeavor, but now we're going with "Wide Receiver Wins" to determine Hall of Fame worthiness? And we're using a game in which that receiver caught nine passes for 122 yards while playing with a broken leg as the barometer for failure? In a game where his quarterback threw three hideous interceptions and lacked the cardiovascular endurance to lead a fourth-quarter comeback? We're holding that loss against Owens?

We are, truly, stepping on bold new ground.

In the wake of so many people opening their yaps about Owens, I feel required to share a bit of information that I uncovered last year around this time, when Owens was at the center of this conversation for the first time.

And look, it's not a pleasant position to be in, having to defend Owens. All the charges of him being obnoxious and annoying and self-centered? None of those are inaccurate. But at a certain point, as a media member tasked with voting for the Hall of Fame, you have to remove your personal feelings of disdain when examining a candidate whose Hall of Fame credentials are beyond question.

So, here's an examination of the type of impact Owens had on the teams for which he played. I compiled this last year. Again, one wide receiver is not most responsible for wins and losses. But the idea still persists that Owens was such a bad teammate and such a locker room problem that he tore teams apart, and rather than further speculate, I'd rather just inject some facts into the conversation. So here you go.

San Francisco, 1993-95 (pre-T.O.): 34-14 (.708 win %), 4-2 postseason
San Francisco, 1996-2003 (with T.O.): 76-52 (.593 win %), 4-4 postseason
San Francisco, 2004-06 (post-T.O.): 13-35 (.271 win %), zero postseason appearances

Philadelphia, 2002-03 (pre-T.O.): 24-8 (.750 win %), 2-2 postseason
Philadelphia, 2004-05 (with T.O.): 19-13* (.594 win %*), 2-1 postseason
Philadelphia, 2006-07 (post-T.O.): 16-16 (.500 win %), 1-1 postseason

*Owens played just seven games in 2005, with the Eagles going 4-3 with him and 2-7 without him. In regular-season games in which T.O. played, the Eagles went 17-4, a winning percentage of .810.

Dallas, 2003-05 (pre-T.O.): 25-23 (.521 win %), 0-1 postseason
Dallas, 2006-08 (with T.O.): 31-17 (.646 win %), 0-2 postseason
Dallas, 2009-11 (post-T.O.): 25-23 (.521 win%), 1-1 postseason

Buffalo, 2008 (pre-T.O.): 7-9 (.438 win %)
Buffalo, 2009 (with T.O.): 6-10 (.375 win %)
Buffalo, 2010 (post-T.O.): 4-12 (.250 win %)

Cincinnati, 2009 (pre-T.O.): 10-6 (.625 win %)
Cincinnati, 2010 (with T.O.): 4-12 (.250 win %)
Cincinnati, 2011 (post-T.O.):  9-7 (.563 win %)

For a loser, T.O. sure did win a lot. And teams didn't exactly thrive after Owens left. (Cincinnati shouldn't count against him; Owens was arguably the best player on that 2010 team.)

It's almost as if ... he was an outstanding player ... one who topped 1,000 yards nine different times ... one who posted double-digit touchdown numbers eight times and led the league in TDs on three occasions ... one who averaged over 85 yards per game in six seasons and averaged over 100 yards per game twice.

It's almost as if he was an obvious Hall of Famer. While we don't know exactly what is said in the closed-door meeting of Hall of Fame voters, we do know what's being said publicly. (Full credit, earnestly, to Myers for at least providing his thoughtful explanation.)  And if dropped passes and a Super Bowl loss are the best they can come up with, it might be time to steal the gold jacket off Dan Marino's back. The Dolphins won two Super Bowls in the '70s without him but zero Super Bowls in the '80s and '90s with him. He threw just 32 touchdowns to 24 interceptions while going 8-10 in his postseason career. He posted a 66.9 passer rating in his lone Super Bowl appearance, and he even led the league in interceptions in 1989.

Yet Marino was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Weird, huh?

And wait, Jim Kelly was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, too. He led the league in interceptions in 1992 and averaged 16 interceptions per year! In the playoffs, he threw 21 touchdowns and 28 interceptions and had a losing record. In four Super Bowls, he threw two total touchdowns and seven interceptions.

We could play this game all day. If you really don't want someone in the Hall of Fame, you could nitpick your way into a justification. You could cite top-four finishes in drops or you could cite a postseason record over a two-week span.

But if you want to appear to be a group of mature adults, and if you want to shed the label of being a vindictive bunch, then you just go ahead and vote in the man with the second-most receiving yards and third-most receiving touchdowns in the history of football. It's not that complicated.

And the best part of voting Terrell Owens into the Hall of Fame next year? We can all stop talking about Terrell Owens and the Hall of Fame.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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