The Seattle Seahawks cut wide receiver Terrell Owens on Sunday as part of their moves to get their roster down from 90 players to 75. The move came 19 days after Owens was signed by Seattle and was likely the final transaction of the 38-year-old wide receiver’s numbers-rich but hardware-lacking career.
That will ensure the clock counting down Owens’ Hall of Fame eligibility dates back to the 2010 season, meaning he will be eligible for enshrinement in 2016.
But will he get in? Based solely on numbers, one would think Owens would eventually get in. According to pro-football-reference.com, Owens is sixth all-time with 1,078 receptions, second all-time with 15,934 yards and tied for second all-time with 153 touchdown receptions (although if Randy Moss can score even one this season for the San Francisco 49ers, the tie would be broken).
However, it’s more complicated than just numbers. For starters, look at the wide receivers who are eligible to have a bust in Canton and don’t yet. Going down the career receptions list, there is Cris Carter (1,101 receptions, fourth), Tim Brown (1,094, fifth), Andre Reed (951, 10th). It took Art Monk, who was at or near the top of every meaningful receiving category when he retired after the 1995 season, until 2008 to be enshrined, after finishing as a finalist seven straight years (2001-07).
Between now and the time Owens would be eligible, Marvin Harrison (1,102 receptions, third all-time) and Isaac Bruce (1,024, seventh) will be under consideration.
Owens also held the NFL’s single-game record for most receptions when he grabbed 20 for the San Francisco 49ers against the Chicago bears on Dec. 17, 2000, breaking a mark that had stood for more than 50 years since Tom Fears of the Los Angeles Rams snagged 18 passes against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 3, 1950. Brandon Marshall is the current record holder with a 21-reception game for the Denver Broncos against the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.
Owens was also a six-time Pro Bowl selection who was named All-Pro five times.
But those are the tangibles. Harder to quantify in terms of his potential Hall of Fame candidacy are the intangibles.
First there are those very public battles with so many of his quarterbacks. He feuded with Jeff Garcia in San Francisco. He battled Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia. He turned on Tony Romo in Dallas. There was never a quarterback good enough for Owens in his prime. He even told USA Today in 2010, “I know hands-down I’d be close to Jerry Rice’s records if I had been with quality quarterbacks like he had. He had Joe Montana and he finished with Steve Young. That wasn’t a dropoff. Say I had been with a guy like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees all of my career. Are you kidding me?”
Yeah, so to say Owens wasn’t the best teammate would be an insult to the entire community of bad teammates out there. This guy was in a class by himself.
One coach told CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge that Owens was “the most divisive guy” he’d ever coached.
Owens’ supporters point to a lack of off-field legal problems as proof Owens wasn’t as bad as people claimed. But can anyone else think of a Hall of Famer who was cut not once, but twice during the prime of his career? The Eagles did it. The Cowboys did it. And that came after the 49ers sent Owens out of the Bay Area for about 25 cents on the dollar when they traded him to Philadelphia.
Is Terrell Owens a Hall of Famer? I’m not a voter but I’d be glad that if I were, I’d have another several years to figure out the answer to that question. But not even time will change the fact that Owens’ career is a complicated one to evaluate.