Terrell Owens not wrong in Hall criticisms, but the 49ers deserved better

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: Athlete Terrell Owens attends The Weinstein Company & Netflix's 2015 Golden Globes After Party presented by FIJI Water, Lexus, Laura Mercier and Marie Claire at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for FIJI Water)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: Athlete Terrell Owens attends The Weinstein Company & Netflix's 2015 Golden Globes After Party presented by FIJI Water, Lexus, Laura Mercier and Marie Claire at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for FIJI Water) /

Terrell Owens, finally got his overdue reward for a remarkable career, but true to form, his induction became a lightning rod of controversy.

His career taken as a whole, Terrell Owens was one of the best receivers to ever set foot on an NFL field. And over the course of his career, he was bold, brash, outspoken, and a frequent lightning rod of controversy.

So, why should his induction into the NFL’s Hall of Fame, after a long, remarkable career, be any different?

After the San Francisco 49ers made Owens a third-round pick out of Tennessee-Chattanooga back in 1996, Owens saw himself go from Bay Area hero to league-wide villain in the eyes of many – even in the eyes of some of San Francisco’s faithful.

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If there’s one bone to pick with how Owens chose to enter the Hall, it’s his outright disrespect for the team who drafted him. The team who showcased his talents and made him a star and an all-time great.

It’s fair to wonder – did being able to cut his teeth with all-time greats like Steve Young and Jerry Rice already on the roster help make Owens who he is? Did playing alongside future Hall of Famers help make Owens as dominant as he was?

Simply put, if the Cleveland Browns had drafted Owens back in 1996, would we even be having this debate about Owens and the Hall of Fame?

But rather than honor or even acknowledge the team who drafted him, the team he spent eight of his fifteen total seasons with, he was inducted as a Philadelphia Eagle – a team he spent two total seasons with – his second being a tumultuous, soap opera-esque year.

And yet, he vowed that he would not represent the 49ers in Canton. Frankly, the 49ers deserved better than that.

It was that defiant, “I’ll do things my own way,” attitude though, and that sort of demeanor and personality that often brought him into conflict with the opposition, with teammates, with team management, and yes, the sports media.

It was that latter group, the media members – more specifically, the Hall of Fame voting-eligible media members – that helped delay his entry into Canton, after what many recognize as a sure-fire first ballot type of career.

Make no mistake, when it comes to the NFL’s receiving royalty, it’s former 49er Jerry Rice – and then everybody else. Rice has set marks at the position that will likely never be touched – such as his 22,895 receiving yards.

To put that jaw-dropping number in perspective, Owens is second on the all-time list, and he “only” has 15,934 total yards to his credit – which is a number that will surely be surpassed this season by Larry Fitzgerald and his 15,545 yards.

Fitzgerald is also the only player in the all-time top-twenty who is still active. Though, this may be the 15-year veteran’s final season in the league, which means he’s not going to pose a threat to Rice’s record.

When it comes to Owens though, there is no doubt that he is one of the game’s all-time greats. No matter which way you try to slice it, he’s got to be considered the second best receiver to ever play the game. Or, perhaps third, if you want to debate about the merits of one Randy Moss.

Either way, be it the second or third best receiver to ever touch a field, the fact that Owens was denied entry into Canton for two years is – well – pretty ridiculous. It’s even more ridiculous when you consider that Moss – who is neck and neck with Owens for second best ever – got in on his first ballot.

Consider – Owens has more receiving yards than Moss (Moss is fourth all-time with 15,292). He has more receptions – 1,078 to Moss’ 982 – which ranks them eighth and fifteenth all-time respectively. The only category Moss has the edge in is receiving touchdowns with his 156 to Owens’ 153 – which ranks them second and third all-time respectively.

So, why then, was Moss enshrined on his first ballot, but Owens was forced to wait two years before being inducted? It all goes back to that tumultuous relationship Owens had with members of the sports media – specifically, those members of the sports media with a Hall of Fame vote.

To many members of the media – and perhaps even some former teammates – Owens was abrasive and disagreeable. Some saw him as petty and vindictive. The words “diva” and “locker room cancer,” and “toxic” where thrown about with regularity when it came to Owens.

And yes, he could be all of those things.

But, when it comes to the Hall of Fame, none of that matters. Or at least, it shouldn’t. According to the Hall of Fame’s own Mission Statement, Canton is about honoring the “Heroes of the Game,” and celebrating excellence. It’s core values preach, “Commitment, Integrity, Courage, Respect, and Excellence.”

To think that Owens failed to live up to those core values as a justification for snubbing him – very arguably the second-greatest receiver to ever touch a field – two years in a row is as mind-boggling, as it is absurd.

Especially when you have a guy in Moss, who is an all-time great in his own right, but still has inferior credentials to Owens get in on his first try. And let’s not even pretend that the head case, diva, and locker room cancer, bad citizen labels weren’t applied to Moss from time to time over his illustrious career.

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And unlike Owens, Moss was sometimes accused of dogging it and not giving full effort on every play.

The only difference between the two that seems to stand out is that unlike Owens, Moss normally didn’t go out of his way to needle and irritate the media – some of whom have Hall of Fame votes.

And some of these guys call Owens petty, vindictive, and spiteful.

Which was why Owens’ decision to not attend his official enshrinement in Canton, but to have his own Hall of Fame celebration and ceremony at his alma mater, Tennessee-Chattanooga, not just a typical Owens thing to do – cut against the grain – but also, for him, it was the right thing to do.

Sure, in his speech, when he spoke about standing up for the next guy, and the guy after that, may have been a little self-aggrandizing and grandstanding. Maybe.

But, he also wasn’t wrong when he took the all to task for their inconsistencies – perhaps even hypocrisy – when it comes to their core values.

"“It’s about the mere fact that the sports writers are not in alignment with the mission and core values of the Hall of Fame. These writers disregarded the system, criteria, and by-laws by which guys are inducted, and ultimately the true meaning of the Hall of Fame, and what it represents.”"

By any criteria, Owens’ credentials for his on-the-field work are sterling. They are undeniable. And they exemplify the excellence, the Hall of Fame claims to seek out in members.

And for that reason alone, he should have been enshrined on the first ballot.

But, he was faced with a Hall of Fame voting media who had some personal axes to grind. And after a career spent alienating some of those media members, they finally had their revenge.

Next. Goodwin Emerging As Viable Number One Receiver. dark

Owens wasn’t wrong to skip the official Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. And he certainly wasn’t wrong in his criticisms of the Hall voters.

Though the 49ers deserved better from Owens when he finally made it past the gatekeepers in Canton, the Hall of Fame voters certainly did not.

Owens entered the Hall of Fame the same way he played the game — on his own terms.