Terrell Owens Undergoes Surgery – What will His NFL Legacy Be?

Frank Doyle | Updated Jun 27, 2011


Frank Doyle looks back on Terrell Owens’ career and wonders: any regrets, TO?

There are reports that Terrell Owens has had surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament. If so, Owens is  probably out for the year and if he’s out for the year, he’s almost certainly gone for good and always.

Football players are big and strong by definition, but they’re actually quite delicate. One of the reasons they get the big bucks is because they know that they’re only ever one bad lick away from it all being over. They’re always on a tightrope.

Whether the injury happened as part of a private workout or filming for his reality show or a top secret mission for the US Marines really doesn’t matter. Time was against TO anyway and the end has been in the mail for some time.

So what will Owens’ legacy be? Firstly, no-one doubts his gifts. The numbers are there for all to see. 1,078 receptions, fifth on the all-time list. 156 touchdowns, fourth on the all-time list for rushing/receiving, second on the receiving list. 15,934 yards  – nine miles! – receiving, second on the all-time list. The numbers are there, and NFL betting oddsmakers always had to allow for his impact on a game.

The question then is about how Owens’ attitude will color those numbers when it’s time to consider him for Canton. On the surface, it doesn’t look good.

Owens said some things about Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb, model professionals to anyone who knows anything about football, about which he ought to be deeply ashamed. But was Owens’ big mouth a contribution to the fact that Owens doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring? Did Owens poison the locker room of every team he played with – San Francisco, Philly, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati?

There’s no question that TO can be a pain in the neck. But if you were to magically take TO out of those five teams and put in Jerry Rice or Marvin Harrison or Chris Carter or even Don Hutson, would those teams have done better without TO?

And the answer is that you really can’t make that case. TO might have been a pain in the neck but come game day TO delivered. He wasn’t scared to catch them in the middle and he played in a Super Bowl seven weeks after spraining his ankle and breaking his fibula. He make nine catches for 122 yards in that loss to New England. Whoever’s fault it is that the Eagles didn’t win, it’s not TO’s.

Looking back it’s a pity that Owens never played for a gifted players’ coach like Chuck Noll or Bill Walsh or Marv Levy. Someone who might have been a father figure to a man in need of one and maybe he wouldn’t have been so foolish in what he said about Garcia and McNabb, or might have been a more attractive draft prospect to a team that could have got him a ring.

But on the numbers, TO has to go to Canton when his time comes. Love him or hate him, TO was a stud football player. There’s no doubt about that.