Today Eddie Utah received his first ever email. So to celebrate, I'm doing my first ever “mailbag” (which will address the email, of course).
I thought this was a good article (by Nick Eatman) on T.O. and it makes sense to me. I think he wants to be the best ever at his position and wants to win. I really think he wants to catch up to Jerry Rice. What do you think?
Chad (E. H-Town, MT)
Does he want to be the best ever? Sure, why wouldn’t he? And yeah, that means breaking all of Jerry Rice’s records. Does he want to win? Of course. As they mentioned on Sunday Night Football, he may think that getting the ball every play is the best way to help his team win, which justifies his selfish attitude about the number of plays designed for him. This logic is obviously fallacious, since the defense could just cover him with three guys every play if they knew the ball was coming his way. Ask Steve Smith how that worked out for him in the 2005 NFC Championship. Or ask Mike Tice how the “Randy Ratio” worked out for the 2002 Vikings. However, with respect to T.O., I can’t find too much fault with a guy wanting to do all he can to help his team win—even if he thinks he can do more than he really can, given the team dynamics of the game.
The problem with T.O. is that he’s never happy unless his team wins because of him. As Eatman mentioned, last year, after the Cowboys beat Detroit to win the NFC East, Owens walked off the field, unable to break a smile. Eatman speculates it may have had something to do with the fact that T.O. caught just three balls for 21 yards. Terrell had a similar reaction after Dallas’s big win over the Packers this year in Green Bay. His stats? Two catches for 17 yards. Does this sound like the behavior of a guy who primarily wants to win?
A team player who cared only about winning in those situations would be beaming from ear-to-ear and singing the praises of his teammates. Think of Shaun Alexander cheering on his teammates in a 2005 playoff win over Washington that he watched from the sideline. A mature player in T.O.’s predicaments described above would say, “Hey, our team fought hard and got the win. Did you see Miles Austin go off? He had some great catches…” And a mature player would qualify his remarks by saying something like, “But you know what—in spite of the victory, there’s always room for improvement. I didn’t have a great game myself and would have liked to contribute a little more. Fortunately, we still won the game, but I’ll be hitting the film room pretty hard to see how I can improve.” Maybe at 34, T.O.’s just not there yet. Maybe he never will be, but Sunday’s reaction give me reason to think that he’s actually improving, rather than backsliding to his old selfish ways.
Consider his reaction to the loss to Washington on Sunday. When asked if he got the ball enough, he said “no. I’m a competitor, and I want the ball.” That comes off as, they didn’t get me the ball enough. However, I’d like to think what he really meant was, “Tony may have thrown the ball my way enough, but I’m a competitor and I would have liked to have caught more of the balls he threw and made more plays with the balls I did catch.” He later said, “I didn't quit. I kept fighting and trying to run my routes and trying to get open." The old T.O. might have said, “Jeff didn’t throw spirals,” or “Andy's play-calling sucked.” The Cowboy faithful should be encouraged that T.O.’s remarks involved pointing the finger at himself and not at others and that his venting about routes and throws went straight to Tony Romo and not the media. The guy may never be completely understood, but I tend to agree with Eatman, that T.O. may be more of a team-guy now than he ever has been in the past.
Can Owens be the greatest ever? Probably not. He’s got a long way to go before his 899 receptions, 13,334 yards and 133 touchdowns even approach Rice’s 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards and 207 touchdowns. Even more difficult to reach is Rice’s record of five Super Bowl victories. I’m fairly confident that won’t happen. But if T.O. keeps up this positive trend of less selfishness and wins a Super Bowl in the next few years, he’ll definitely be a Hall of Famer and one of the best ever.