Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Terrell Owens: offensive MVP

In reading a friend's sports blog, I saw a post about the immaturity of Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens.  It's been reported that T.O. was unhappy with his involvement in the offense this week during Dallas' 26-24 loss to Washington.  If there is a positive to this, it's perhaps that the focus is not on the Cowboys actual weakness - the defense - which is the cause for the loss, not the over-targeting of the prolific wideout.  Anyway, here's what he wrote followed by my response:

Over the past couple seasons, Terrell Owens has been surprisingly well-behaved in Dallas...aside from the whole "that's my quarterback" ordeal, and that suicide thing.


OK, he has been MODERATELY well-behaved, for T.O. standards at least.

But just like in Philly, as soon as the going got tough Owens started bitching. This is his quote after Dallas' 26-24 loss to the Skins:

"Everybody recognized that I wasn't really getting the ball in the first half," Owens said. "I'm pretty sure everybody watching the game recognized it, people in the stands recognized it, I think my team recognized it. I didn't quit. I kept fighting and trying to running my routes and trying to get open."

What's interesting is the fact that according to Brian Davis, Owens was targeted in 18 out of the Cowboys 58 offensive plays. Hell, he even got two carries on a couple end-arounds, which was just six fewer than the Cowboys running back Marion Barber.

This is just a classic case of Owens' true colors coming to light: he is a selfish child who is all about one thing: T.O. That's part of what made his tear-soaked defense of Tony Romo so hilarious, because HE MEANT NONE OF IT!

The truth is, Owens is no more valuable to the Cowboy offense than Marion Barber.

The Cowboys went 13-3 last season: in all three losses, Barber had fewer than 10 carries. The only exception to this would be the Cowboy's playoff game against the Giants, where Barber ran well in a losing effort. I'm more willing to write that off as an aberration though given Tony Romo had a very bad game.

While Barber didn't get the ball in all three losses, there were also three wins where he had fewer than 10 carries. The difference in those games however was the fact that Barber was a threat through the air (18 catches).

The point I'm trying to make here is the Cowboy offense is ten times better when they consistently run the football, or at the very least utilize Marion Barber in the passing attack. So far in 2008 Barber has 16, 18, and 28 carries in three wins, and 8 carries in one loss.

T.O. may be an outstanding receiver in terms of talent, but if he really cared about his team he would shut the hell up and be happy with those 18 targets, because the more Dallas tries to force the ball into his hands and ignore Marion Barber, the more they are hurting their chances of winning the game.

Where to begin?

Amazing to see everyone - not just you, Foley, but the media in general - jumping all over Terrell Owens for his post-game comments after the Cowboys first loss of 2008 to the rival Redskins. Yes, TO said he was upset about how the ball was distributed, however what the national media didn't report, but what was reported on the KTCK 1310-AM, the Cowboys flagship radio station, by Mickey Spagnola of is that reporters asked Owens "six or seven times" about how much he had been getting the ball trying to bait him into saying something along these lines.

They got what they wanted along with a new "Is TO unhappy?" plot to run with.

But not only that, it seems everyone is misinterpreting Owens' quotation. As you noted, Foley, TO said: "Everybody recognized that I wasn't really getting the ball in the first half," Owens said. "I'm pretty sure everybody watching the game recognized it, people in the stands recognized it, I think my team recognized it. I didn't quit. I kept fighting and trying to running my routes and trying to get open."

He was talking about the first half where he had 1 rec, 7 yards. The Cowboys then came out in the second half and began targeting, and in my opinion over-targeting, Owens; the result was TO targeted in 18 of 58 offensive plays.

And while the Cowboys running game MUST set the tone for the passing game to open up (a la Emmitt Smith establishing a solid ground game that opened up passing lanes for the super-accurate Troy Aikman to hit playmaker Michael Irvin), there is something to be said for getting the ball in the hands of your best players. Owens is one of the Cowboys best players and (I'd argue) the MOST important offensive player.

I know what you're thinking: Romo or Barber or Witten are more important, but you'd be wrong. Case and point:

True Marion Barber needs his carries, but the running game in general needed carries. Felix Jones, who has already proven to have what it takes to contribute in the NFL (see Week 2 kick-return TD or Week 3 60-yd TD run), did not register an offensive touch in the loss to Washington. Regardless of if Barber or Jones gets the ball, SOMEONE other than T.O. on an end-around needs to run the ball. Whoever is getting the carries doesn't matter. It didn't matter last year when Barber split time with Julian Jones, and it won't matter this season.

Also, to your point that Barber's lack of production the playoff game as an aberration, I'd challenge that statement not because of the results of his running but because of how he was used. Julius Jones started all 16 games in the regular season, and Barber was used to pound the ball late and churn the clock down while punishing defenders. The Cowboys coaching staff - in a move that still puzzles sports pundits in DFW - decided to start Barber in the playoff game. I submit that Barber ran well initially in the playoff game, however he succumbed to arm-tackles late in the game, something that Cowboys fans did not see happen throughout the 13-3 regular season.

Back to the point of who is the Cowboys most important offensive player...

It's either Terrell Owens or Jason Witten, and if I'm not torn between the two, I'm leaning toward Owens. He is constantly drawing double- (and even on occasion a triple-) team from opposing defenses, opening up the rest of the field for other Cowboys receivers (Witten over the middle, Crayton in the slot, Austin to the post).

Marion Barber and/or Felix Jones could be productive as the starting back. While Cowboys fans can only hope to keep both starting tailbacks healthy throughout the season (Pittsburgh is down the their fourth-stringer after only four weeks), neither are paramount to the Cowboys' success.

Tony Romo is the player I'd assume sports pundits would view as the Cowboys most important offensive player. Consider, however, that the #2 QB in Dallas is Super Bowl champion Brad Johnson who, behind an O-line like the Cowboys have - would be more than functional. Actually, on that note, I want to rewrite my entire theory.

It's the Cowboys offensive line as a unit that is the most important part of the offense. The most important individual? Leonard Davis? Big Flozell Adams? Center Andre Gurode? There's a solid case for each of them. But if we assume the line is more of a unit than standout individuals (and all the best lines through history have been), then Terrell Owens stands alone as the best player on the Cowboys offense.

I think it's clear Owens cares about this team. Watching him being interviewed this season, I've seen time and time again media members grill him just trying to get something controversial out of his mouth (see the post-game sit-down he did with the ESPN Monday Night crew after the Cowboys/Eagles game in which Chris Berman, Steve Young and Emmitt Smith prodded him until he gave the answer they wanted).

As we've seen in the NFL and in all sports, winning cures all. The Cowboys did not win this week, thus it's TIME TO PANIC in Dallas. With games coming up against the Bengals, Caridinals and Rams, looks like a cure is on the way.

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