With the league’s 100th season comes an effort to name the NFL’s all-time team, with (coincidentally) 100 players named to it. It’s not the best 100 players of all time, but a 100-member NFL team with a specific number of players at every position.
At the receiver position, the all-time team has 10 roster spots. Somehow, Terrell Owens didn’t get one of them.
Earning placement on the team were Lance Alworth, Raymond Berry, Larry Fitzgerald, Marvin Harrison, Elroy Hirsch, Don Hutson, Steve Largent, Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, and Paul Warfield. Judy Battista of NFL.com attempted to explain the most glaring omission from the NFL’s all-time team to date.
“Owens was elected to the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility, and part of the reason he did not get in on his first two tries was his behavior with teams during his career,” Battista writes, echoing an overblown concern that was used by people who simply dislike Owens to keep him out of Canton, temporarily. “Owens played for five teams over 15 seasons, and he clashed with front office personnel and teammates on several of them. It’s hard to say if that is why Owens did not make the all-time list — nobody on the panel said as much, and we do not know how each other voted — or if he ran into the same problem so many other stellar players at every position did: There were so many great candidates but so few spaces open.”
The fact that the panel voted secretly allowed Owens to fall victim to a more fundamental reality than not enough spots: Human nature.
A lot of people truly don’t like Terrell Owens as a person. He was rude at times. He was brash all the time. But, surely, he was one of the 10 best receivers in the history of the game.
Which guy would you want on your favorite team, Terrell Owens or Steve Largent? All due respect to Largent, do you even have to consider that for more than a nanosecond? (And, yes, I’m old enough to have seen Largent play.) Frankly, there are several other receivers (Isaac Bruce, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Steve Smith) who I’d take in their prime before Largent in his. (By the way, the “era” argument doesn’t really apply here; Largent’s career was almost entirely played after the NFL began opening up the rules to enhance passing and increase scoring.)
The New England Patriots play later today, and here’s hoping that someone after the game asks coach Bill Belichick whether Owens was on Belichick’s list of the 10 best receivers, and if not why not? Of all the members of the panel, Belichick is the only one who had to devise a defensive game plan to stop Owens in the Super Bowl — and Belichick failed. Owens, playing on a broken leg that hadn’t fully healed, had nine catches for 122 yards against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. If the Eagles had won the game, Owens would have been the MVP.
As to anyone on the all-time team panel or the Hall of Fame selection committee or anyone else appointed to create made-up football lists, Belichick would be the most likely to do so rationally, fairly, and dispassionately. We should all want to hear what Belichick has to say about the subject, because of all the people who have ever walked the face of the earth he is the most uniquely qualified to do so.
Here’s hoping that, if/when asked about it following today’s game, Belichick answers the question with something other than, “Yeah, we’re just focused on the Dolphins, Tom.” Too many people seize on too many irrelevant narratives to deny Owens the recognition he deserves; if Belichick has reliable information to support the notion that Owens clashed with front office personnel and teammates on several of his teams and that those squabbles (as if no one else on the all-time team ever had them) supersede a guy’s undeniable skills and abilities, it’s important to hear about it.
Because only Belichick would have the ability to persuade others regarding the decision to omit the man who owns the No. 3 spot on the all-time receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns list.