We're having a flashback.
One year ago at this time, two characters – some would paint them as villains – dominated the NFL landscape. And they've returned like the ghost of Jacob Marley, rattling chains and snapping us out of our offseason slumber. Of course, that's not all that they are rattling.
How the mailbag has missed you, T.O. and Ricky.
Where the mail is concerned, no duet has fueled the offseason reader forum more than Terrell Owens and Ricky Williams – the two players who provoke opinions with virtually no middle ground. Either you love them or you hate them. Rarely is there compromise.
And the mailbag filled up quickly with polarizing opinions – from one fan who thinks yours truly is inappropriately blaming Owens for the Philadelphia Eagles' demise last season, to another who thinks Ricky should be coughing up his Canadian Loonies to Wayne Huizenga and the Miami Dolphins.
Beyond the infamous twosome, some readers took umbrage to the Brady Quinn-Kyle Orton comparison in last week's notebook, a few Green Bay Packers fans opined about Javon Walker and the offense and a Washington Redskins follower who thinks the 'Skins might want to hang on to David Patten just a little bit longer.
We love to hear from you, so keep the letters coming. And as always, be sure to include your first and last name as well as your city and state. Any comments I have will be in italics.
TERRELL OWENS AND RICKY WILLIAMS ("The OK Corral," June 4, 2006)
You, like most of the media, are a judgmental (expletive). You constantly twist every word or action from a guy and make it what YOU want it to mean. How can you say one guy totally wrecked a team's season? Is the team's "leader" and coaching staff that weak that the season hinges on one guy? One guy, who by the way, according to the "leader" and coach isn't needed to win? Are you a fortune teller or a journalist? Do your job and report what is going on and stop trying to make a story!
I think you're being far too narrow-minded about what kind of impact Owens had in Philadelphia. He was a constant distraction, he had a fistfight with Hugh Douglas, he ripped his quarterback, offensive coordinator and head coach, and he upset the team chemistry to the point where Donovan McNabb wondered whether he had lost the locker room. If you don't think that was a major reason why the Eagles fell apart last year, then you know nothing about how team politics can dramatically alter wins and losses.
To make the comparison between Lawrence Taylor and T.O. is naive for a football writer. L.T. had his problems and demons, but he never displayed the mutinous characteristics of T.O. L.T. also changed how the game was played. T.O. is a very gifted position player, but he isn't revolutionizing football. T.O. can only wish to have the kind of football career that L.T. enjoyed. Right now he is coming up well short.
That wasn't my point in the comparison with L.T. What I was trying to convey is that Bill Parcells has been through dramatic personality struggles with great players before. When it comes to arrogance, T.O. and L.T. aren't that far apart. The only difference, Taylor never attacked his quarterback and coaches on a consistent basis.
Why does Terrell Owens get so much credit for getting Philadelphia to the Super Bowl? I ask this because I do recall the Eagles making it to the NFC championship three years in a row WITHOUT T.O., and when they finally did win on their fourth try, it was without T.O. in the lineup, as he hadn't dressed for the last six or seven games. I know he had a great game in the Super Bowl, but did he actually ADD to the passing stats or just redirect all the passing yardage to himself? I'm not disagreeing with the fact that this man has an amazing ability, but I truly believe that he's done more in the long run to destroy a team than help it.
It was a mental thing. You had to understand what kind of unseen element Owens added to that Eagles team his first season. He gave them a swagger and confidence that they lacked in the past. They didn't back down to anyone with Owens during that first season. To me, that was the missing piece in all of the NFC championship losses.
Why are people so interested in making T.O.'s personality an issue (writing about him over and over) while there are so many other players who are just as "bad" as him?
Several reasons. No. 1, he is arguably the best player at his position and one of the top 10 players in the NFL. No. 2, he's said things that are never said publicly. And No. 3, many people are just waiting for the next explosion.
That's right, just keep T.O in the spotlight. That's how it all starts.
John R. Giannantonio
I simply can't believe Dallas Cowboys fans would support a player like Owens on their team. If that clown was brought to Green Bay, he would be booed off the field, right along with whoever had the nerve to bring him in. I guess in Texas, it's win at any cost, particularly for guys like Jerry Jones. I would hope the fans will show some pride and dignity and run him out of town.
How can the Dolphins let that (expletive) Ricky Williams play for anybody? They thought enough of his actions to suspend him for the season, yet they agree to let him play elsewhere? He should be banned from the NFL for life and his wages made elsewhere should be docked until he returns all the money he owes the Dolphins.
I'm hearing many people complaining about Ricky going to Canada. They seem to forget that this is America and Ricky is allowed to work where ever he wants. No one has to hire him. So he owes them nothing. Since the NFL doesn't take the Canadian leagues serious, why should they take the NFL serious? Drugs? Again, what has that got to do with Canada? And as for Ricky, at least he's working.
Why is it that the NFL is allowing itself to be tainted with criminals? It is becoming embarrassing as an American to also be a fan of a sport that is laden with crooks, thugs, drug addicts and killers. What kind of picture are we painting for the future? – If you're rich and famous (and in the NFL), you can do anything you want? I don't even need to quote any of the NUMEROUS examples in the recent news to give you an example of what I'm talking about. That's what's so sad about this, and why I (born and raised watching the NFL) may soon look for other entertainment.
Including practice squads and injured reserve, there are about 1,900 players in the NFL once the regular season starts. Even if incidents take place with 25 different players in a given year – with things such as drugs or arrests – that's only slightly more than 1 percent of the NFL's population. I'm not condoning things like drug suspensions or arrests, but you can't just spew an absolutely false notion that the NFL is "laden with crooks, thugs, drug addicts and killers."
BRADY QUINN ("A cut below," May 31, 2006)
The only question that should be out there about Brady Quinn is whether he can take Notre Dame to the next level – a national championship next season. As long as he keeps himself healthy and out of trouble, he is going to be a very high draft pick, probably No. 1 overall. All of the questions and comparisons to Kyle Orton leave out one glaring detail about his pro career: After being thrust into a starting role, Orton won 10 games for a Chicago Bears team that made the playoffs. He wasn't exactly Ben Roethlisberger on the way to these 10 wins, but he certainly wasn't Akili Smith, either.
East Brunswick, N.J.
I know it's not your fault, but I read what the scout said about Brady Quinn in comparing him to Kyle Orton and I was appalled. I think I would be delighted to have the kind of rookie season Orton had. Orton does have something to prove, but he's not nearly as horrible as the buzz suggests.
Quite honestly, I don't think the source was knocking Orton's overall ability. I think his point was that you can't just pencil a guy in for the No. 1 pick or the Heisman Trophy when he still has questions about his arm strength – and has yet to go through a full season before the draft. Perceptions change fast.
I hear all these experts blather on about Javon Walker being a huge pickup. Although he has a tremendous amount of talent, an injury like his is not easily recoverable, and being that he is a receiver, losing that split second of quickness or speed is critical. Nobody mentions the injury, or the fact that he has only had one good year. I think the Packers scored way more on their trade for him than if they kept him by picking up multiple draft picks in trades, the most polished receiver in the draft and a quality offensive lineman. Only time will tell.
I think you're downplaying Walker's talent just a tad. I can understand putting a positive spin on it, but he's more talented than any receiver on Green Bay's current roster. And no, the Packers didn't pick up the most polished receiver in the draft.
Interesting read on the David Patten situation in Washington. There has indeed been a lot of talk about us getting rid of him now with Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd on board. While some fans seem to not mind, many (including myself) wouldn't like to see him go – at least not yet. First off, Al Saunders will most likely use a three-wide receiver set as the base offensive package, and Patten would probably be the fourth option. I think, like in New England, Patten could step in and use his experience and skills as the fourth guy to present a considerable offensive threat, and that opportunity would seemingly arise often enough under Saunders' direction.
I disagree with your statement about Brett Favre's offensive weapons around him leaving a lot to be desired. The biggest thing that killed Green Bay last year were the injuries to the running backs. Without the run game, the Packers are lost. On defense, I agree the Pack picked up a lot of good weapons that I think will jumpstart the defense again. Overall, I feel everyone is underestimating the Pack.
W. Farmington, Ohio
Donald Driver is an average No. 1 wide receiver. Rank all of the top wideout options and he'd be somewhere in the middle. And don't assume that the running backs are all coming back and contributing. Ahman Green still hasn't practiced and looks to be in regression. The rest of the depth chart hasn't proven anything over the length of the season, and it remains to be seen whether the offensive line can be anything better than average. In other words, there is a lot to be desired..
- Ricky Williams