From November 10, 2005: Jerkoffs finish last (but only if they’re losing)

On the John

Jerkoffs Finish Last (but only if they’re losing)

Completed on November 10, 2005

The only time teams really get bothered with T.O. is when they're losing.

The only time teams really get bothered with T.O. is when they're losing.

As we float around the halfway mark of the NFL season, the general sentiment of fans and analysts is that this is a pretty boring year. On the field, the Colts are the only sure-fire Super Bowl contender, as injuries have taken the bite out of New England, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, off the field stories have dominated, the most damaging of which involved the Minnesota Vikings and their “Love Boat” orgy party during their bye week.

The current story that has everybody talking?

Terrell Owens’ suspension from the Eagles due to repeated instances of conduct detrimental to the team along with his general dick-headedness, and Philly’s subsequent announcement that T.O. will not play for the rest of the year.

Oh boy, do we love controversy.

In case you’re late to the opinion party, don’t worry. We’ve divided the room neatly into two halves; all you have to do is pick. On the left is the “T.O. is a team-killing bastard who pushed the Eagles one too many times, and so we would like to applaud Philly for being “team-first” and disciplining Owens, who, as far as we’re concerned, can go back to San Francisco where we hope he promptly jumps into the bay” side of the room. That side filled up pretty quickly, and when there was no place else to stand and all of the little cheese appetizers were gone, they opened the “You guys are being too hard on T.O., a guy who doesn’t use drugs and has never been arrested, and the Eagles knew what they were getting when they acquired him” side of the room.

Both sides are appealing, so if you’re having trouble deciding where to stand, let’s review.

The always candid and often caustic Terrell Owens began the season by demanding that the Eagles restructure his contract, a contract that he signed just a year ago. The team suspended him for insubordination during training camp, and since returning he has been his usual bastard-self, stating in an interview that the Eagles would not be struggling if they had Brett Favre at quarterback rather than Donovan McNabb. That statement, to go along with his usual routine of jackass behavior, seems to have been the tip of the iceberg that led to Owens’ season-long suspension.

So, yes, Owens is a less-than-ideal teammate. On the other hand, he always performs at a high level, and he is not an off the field problem. The man has never been arrested, which is (unfortunately) something to be proud of in sports these days. Jamal Lewis pled guilty to setting up a drug deal, spent four months in a halfway house, and was back on the field this preseason. Countless NFL players are arrested and continue playing every year; it’s almost pointless to list them. Teams are willing to overlook any criminal indiscretion short of murder in order to get their best players on the field; wins and losses have truly become the end all-be all in sports…

…which is funny, because if the Eagles were 6-1 instead of 4-3, would they have still suspended Owens? Consider this: at the time of his suspension, Owens had caught 47 passes for 763 yards, a 16.2 yards per catch average, and six touchdowns. He was among the league-leaders in all of those categories, and his projected totals over sixteen games were 107 catches for 1744 yards with about 14 scores. For a potential Hall-of-Fame receiver to have a career year on a winning team…what more could the Eagles want?

Well, there’s the rub: they are not a winning team. When Owens returned in the preseason and people were wondering how he and McNabb could play together if they weren’t speaking to each other, this was what coach Andy Reid said: “It’s not The Dating Game. They’ll be fine on the field. That’s where our business is done.”

All we heard from McNabb, bless his heart, was that they didn’t have to like each other or speak to each other to be successful, and for a while that seemed to be the case. Philly began the season 3-1, and all was well. Then they got blown out by Dallas and Denver by a combined score of 82-31, and that’s when the Eagles decided that they’d had enough of Owens’ schtick. It was as if they said, “We can deal with T.O. being a jerk, and we can deal with losing, but we can’t deal with both at the same time, and since we can’t change our record…”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad that the Eagles had the balls to cut Owens loose. They Took a Stand and they Made a Statement, and for that I’ll applaud. But in the end, just like everything else in sports, they made their decisions with only one thought in mind: winning and losing. Like Andy Reid said, our business is done on the field. Being a jerk? Well, Owens has always been a jerk. A 4-3 record? That’s why he’s going home.

So that’s the story. There’s space on either side of the room; just pick one and make yourself comfortable. As for me, I’m heading to the “Should Barry Bonds’ stats have asterisks next to them if he’s convicted of steroid use” room. They’ve got more cheese there.

Copyright 2005, jm silverstein

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