For the second straight year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame decided not to induct wide receiver Terrell Owens. This is despite Owens being in the top ten in all three major receiving categories. Why isn’t he being enshrined in Canton? A questionable and controversial reason.
No Fun League: The Terrell Owens Controversy
When it comes to the NFL, a player’s attitude and off-the-field issues aren’t supposed to play a big role in Hall of Fame voting. Unlike baseball, the Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn’t have a character clause. Corruption didn’t keep Eddie DeBartolo Jr. out of the Hall of Fame, risque pictures didn’t block Brett Favre, and next year, Ray Lewis will undoubtedly be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
The voters don’t get together to discuss who said their prayers, ate their vitamins, or went to church every Sunday. Their responsibility is to look at the on-the-field careers of NFL legends and decide which few deserve to be immortalized forever. Nothing more, nothing less.
If this is the case, then obviously Terrell Owens just didn’t have a good enough career, right? That’s the only logical response. Even the quickest glance at Owens’ career numbers proves that this simply isn’t the case.
In a 15-year career, Terrell Owens caught 1,078 balls for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns. All-time, Owens is eighth in receptions, third in receiving touchdowns, and second in receiving yards. Owens has nine seasons with over 1,000 yards and eight seasons with double digit touchdowns. In nine of his 15 seasons in the NFL, the team he was on went to the playoffs.
The only man with more yards? Jerry Rice, the receiver many consider to be the very best of all time. Unlike Rice, Owens wasn’t gifted with legendary quarterbacks. It’s true that Owens started his career with Steve Young, and spent the prime of it with better-than-average quarterbacks like Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb, but he also played with guys like Jeff Garcia and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“I Love Me Some Me”
The real reason that Terrell Owens has been passed over for the Hall of Fame twice is that he’s a diva. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Terrell Owens had some character issues. Owens was a very loud character that had no problem voicing unpopular opinions, especially at the cost of his own team.
While a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Owens said that he wished he could travel back to the off-season and sign with a different team. He was often very critical of quarterback Donovan McNabb and once heavily implied that former teammate Jeff Garcia was homosexual. After head coach Andy Reid suspended Owens, he hosted a press conference from his driveway, where he bashed the Eagles, his quarterback, and the media.
Owens refused to play for the Baltimore Ravens after being traded, was known for throwing temper tantrums on the sideline, and he once allegedly spat in the face of cornerback DeAngelo Hall. It’s not unfair to say that Owens was a bit of a distraction on and off the field.
However, as stated above, the Pro Football Hall of Fame does not have a character clause. This behavior is supposed to be ignored when it comes down to voting. The voters are supposed to focus on what happens on the field, and that leads to the real problem.
The Real Problem
Whether you or don’t believe that Owens should be immortalized in Canton, this does bring a real problem to light. The voting process is a nightmare, but ultimately, in order to be selected, a Hall of Famer must get at least 80% of the vote. That makes it seem like there’s a wide margin of error, until you realize that means at least 21% of the Hall of Fame voters don’t think Terrell Owens deserves to get into the Hall of Fame.
Terrell Owens has better career numbers than 29 Hall of Famers, and yet he’s been passed over twice. His numbers dwarf Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts, but Harrison was able to get in before Owens last year, even with an unresolved shooting still lingering around his name. At least 21% of the Hall of Fame voters looked at Owens’ career and either thought that he should’ve somehow surpassed Rice’s numbers to get in, or that their idea of who he was as a person was more important that his career.
This kind of subjective bias is terrifyingly unprofessional. It’s one thing to write a column about a player you don’t like, it’s a different thing altogether to put your own feelings above your professional integrity. Terrell Owens is a top five player at his position, all-time, and his omission from the Hall discredits the institution more than his career achievements.