Redskins Are Right to Avoid Taking Terrell Owens

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By Mike Wise
Friday, March 6, 2009

Hearing the words "Terrell Owens" and "available" can make people do crazy things -- like, for instance, sign T.O.

The Dallas Cowboys cut everybody's favorite athletic malcontent yesterday, Jerry Jones releasing him from his contract. Which, if you think about it, is all you have to know about why T.O. would be an abject disaster for the Washington Redskins or any franchise that believes supreme talent supersedes genuine chemistry:

If pro football's Father Flanagan -- the man who originally thought Tank Johnson was a plus and Adam Jones was a good idea -- boots you to the curb, it's a pretty good sign the negatives outweigh the positives.

When a high-ranking team official from Ashburn sent a text regarding Washington's interest yesterday morning that read, "No way," it might have been better news than adding Albert Haynesworth to the league's fourth-ranked defense.

Haynesworth, at $100 million, brings real financial risk despite the fact that he's in his athletic prime and just 28 years old. Saying no to T.O. before Drew Rosenhaus's name shows up on call waiting is a flat-out no-brainer.

A portion of fans fill the message boards with, "Everywhere he's gone, he's been okay his first year or two," and, "We haven't had a real possession receiver since Rod Gardner."

And to them I say: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

The way things began for the Cowboys in early September, I was willing to be converted. I believed Owens had finally gotten it. I thought his gargantuan need for attention and acceptance had finally been trumped by his desire to fit in and win.

But then adversity set in, and T.O. did what he always does: When the going gets tough, he blames others.

It started with his quarterback, Tony Romo, whom Owens reportedly felt was too tight with tight end Jason Witten, to the point that he was not interested in throwing to T.O. It extended to the media, which T.O. said made up the whole story even as teammates quietly confirmed it. To Terrell Owens, humanity in general is a problem. Nothing is ever his fault.

And it's not just about his baggage, which is much too voluminous and heavy to be a carry-on. It's about his 35 years of age. He's got maybe two good seasons left before the shelf life on his talent expires. And as each minute of those two seasons ticks away, the fear builds that the T.O. time bomb will eventually blow, the way it did in San Francisco, Philadelphia and now Dallas.

In Washington, Jim Zorn would not only have to deal with an unusual dynamic in his locker room, one that makes Clinton Portis's sound-offs seem tame; he would have to circumvent the development of Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas, two second-year guys the organization isn't about to give up on.

When a team commits to $182 million in contracts as the Redskins did last week in Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall and Derrick Dockery, that's a clear sign from Daniel Snyder that he believes the right kind of upgrades could make his team this season's version of the 2007 Giants or the 2008 Cardinals -- that unspectacular unit in December that no one saw in a Super Bowl eight weeks later.

But the "right kind" should be underlined. If Vinny Cerrato learned nothing from Joe Gibbs -- whom Cerrato often credits with showing him how to build a roster -- he learned that people with character win Lombardi trophies -- not the number of future Hall of Famers, not perceptions about what a player can and can't do. Championship teams need people who believe in sacrificing themselves for the group, people who genuinely believe in the tenets of team and commitment.

Now, having seen T.O. catch nine passes for 122 yards with two metal screws and a plate drilled into his leg in a Super Bowl, I'm not prepared to say T.O. can't do that. He had fractured his fibula and severely sprained his ankle less than two months earlier and needed the procedure to stabilize the joint, and somehow still played.

Among great NFL wide receivers, his peers the last few years have been only Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson and, in more ways than his talent, yes, Chad Ocho Cinco.

But he's not the right kind of player for either Jason Campbell's or the franchise's continued growth.

Your past counts -- in life and the NFL. And when Jerry Jones, Mr. Home For Wayward NFL Souls, can admit that about a certain player, it's not very hard to agree.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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