Every year, Dalls Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens throws himself a birthday party, which always coincides with the Christmas holiday season. For his 35th birthday in 2008, Owens scheduled his birthday bash on the same day that Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones had ALREADY scheduled the team’s own annual holiday party. Normally, Owens scheduled his own parties (who else would throw him a party? That’s a relatively small list.) in early December. What to do, what to do?
Jones re-scheduled the date of the Cowboys’ team party.
Since WR Terrell Owens has entered the NFL, he’s left a trail of broken teams, broken promises and broken relationships behind him. Most of those relationships involve his former quarterbacks – Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb – both of whom he figuratively threw under the bus in the most public of ways. He questioned Garcia’s sexuality. (“If it looks like a rat, and smells like a rat, and walks like a rat…”). He questioned McNabb’s physical prowess. (Following the Eagles failed Super Bowl bid, Owens just couldn’t help but inform the media that “I wasn’t the one who was out of breath. I wasn’t the one who threw up on the field. I was in great shape for the game.”) To date, there’s one thing that Owens doesn’t have, and may never well have despite all of the money that desperate owners have thrown his way: A Superbowl ring. Now with his third team in his third year, it looks like the aging receiver may never get what should be tops on his birthday wish list: that elusive Championship.
In early December, 2008, the Giants lost a troubling game to the Eagles at home. This was the first game that the Giants had played since losing, apparently permanently, Plaxico Burress. Were the Giants dealing with both the loss of Burress on the field as well as the ensuing media frenzy? Probably. Did it affect the Giants’ focus? Probably. The question is to what degree. Following their first home loss of the season (and the first home loss in quite some time), the Giants face the Cowboys on December 14, 2008. While the Giants have already clinched the division title, this is a must-win game for the Cowboys if they have any chance at a playoff berth.
What better time for T.O. to revert back to form than the week preceding the Giants’ game.
ESPN reported on the Wednesday prior to the game that Owens and two other receivers (including the newly-acquired Roy Williams) had approached offensive coordinator Jason Garrett about the fact that QB Tony Romo was (allegedly) throwing most of his passes to Romo’s friend and travel room mate, Jason Whitten. The complaint was that Romo favored Whitten over other wide-open receivers, and (allegedly) ‘plotted’ with Whitten while in their shared road trip quarters on plays that would exclude Owens and the others. Rumblings came out of the locker room that defensive players were backing up Owens’ complaint. (Neither Romo nor Whitten were invited to attend these closed-door meetings with Garrett.)
Wade Phillips, the Cowboys’ (bumbling) head coach, denied both knowledge of these meetings and of any rift in the locker room. So did Jerry Jones. As the week played out, Cowboys players donned Santa caps and made tepid remarks to the press denying, for the most part, any ill will amongst the team. That tactic worked pretty well until the Friday before game day, when Owens and Whitten had a verbal altercation in the locker room.
I’m putting my money on Wade Phillips to be released as the Cowboys’ head coach (if he’s even acting in that capacity, really, at the moment) before the 2009 NFL season starts. I’m betting that Jones is willing to throw Phillips under the bus – much like he did Marion Barber, in questioning Barber’s ‘toughness’ if the Boys don’t get a post-season bid. I’m also pretty certain that Jones spent much of this week placating … Terrell Owens.
Why does Jones have such a strange fascination for genuinely talented but equally troubled players?
Take a look at Jerry Jones, the man. Physically, he most strongly represents a plucked chicken: all bony arms, legs, fingers; even his face is drawn and pointed. This is not a man who possessed inherent athletic ability. This is a man whose talents lay in the boardroom and at the negotiating table. He has sports wanna-be written all over him. His interest in his franchise borders on the obsessive, so much so that many on the team credit Jones as being not just the owner, but the man calling all of the shots.
TFor a man who recently celebrated his 35th birthday (on a day in which he caught a touchdown pass from Romo but watched his team lose), Owens is in remarkable physical condition. His is a sad personal story: a man who never really knew his father, was born out of wedlock to a teenaged mother, who was raised by a strict, emotionally distant grandmother, whose personal place in the social strata is that of a bastard out of the south. Owens is, like Jones, a self-made man in his own world of sports.
Why would Jones tolerate a known trouble-maker on the field? Why would Jones go beyond merely ‘tolerating’ T.O. to the point of paying a middle-aged WR very handsomely, despite all of the emotional baggage that T.O. drags along with him from team to team to team?
Why does Jerry Jones continue to lavish respect and money on an individual worth neither?
Is it because Owens is the athlete that Jones never was, and certainly never will be? Or could it be that Owens’ troubled, poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks makes good history tugs at whatever heartstrings Jones might have? Or is their relationship a vainglorious one: does Jones honestly believe that he, Jerry Jones, can singlehandedly convert T.O. from being the emotional trainwreck off – and on – the field that he has always been? Does Jones honestly believe that his Cowboys brand of teamsmanship can save T.O. from himself – in which case Jones’ legacy is enhanced as ‘the savior of men’.
It ain’t gonna happen, Jerry. As T.O. himself has said, “If it looks like a rat, and smells like a rat, and walks like a rat…” – chances are pretty damned good that Owens will always remain that rat that shreds those around him.