A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
What is Al waiting for??
OAKLAND – Terrell Owens is a man everywhere and nowhere at all, constantly on exhibition yet still awaiting an audition.
The Raiders are a franchise that has spent recent months making logical moves in hopes of shedding years of failure and an appreciable decline in business.
T.O. is an accomplished veteran wide receiver seeking employment; the Raiders have zero accomplished veterans at wide receiver.
He says he wants a job, wants to contribute to a team’s offense; they have said Owens is not someone they’ve discussed, despite playing the worst offense in the NFL.
Is there anyone on earth who can’t see what’s wrong with this picture?
If the Raiders were in the midst of a dynasty, or even coming off a winning season, there would be no need for them to consider Owens. Their success would provide reasonable explanation for such a stance. They, like most of the NFL, could ignore T.O.
But the Raiders have slipped into the habit of performing poorly. So poorly they have chipped away at the loyalty of one of the hardiest fan bases in sports. Frankly, they’re in no position to look down upon anyone who could help — especially if that someone is better than anyone they currently have.
Owens last season caught 55 passes for 829 yards and five touchdowns as a member of the Buffalo Bills. This is, by any previous measure, well below his standard. The statistics he posted at age 36 may indeed be indicative of decline.
Yet those numbers were superior to anyone in Oakland. T.O. caught more passes and accounted for more yards than starting wideouts Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey combined. Owens equaled their combined touchdown output and finished with more yards after catch (245) than Murphy, Heyward-Bey, Chaz Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins combined.
Oakland’s receivers, of course, played under the handicap that was quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He and backups Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye posted a cumulative passer rating of 62.
But Buffalo’s team passer rating, behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards, was 71.7. Both teams finished among the league’s bottom 10 in team passer rating.
The Raiders addressed that matter by replacing Russell with Jason Campbell. He’s no All-Pro, but the acquisition makes the offense better in every conceivable way.
Adding Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator should result in better play-calling, higher energy and greater confidence.
Oakland’s offensive line, one of the league’s worst, was addressed in the draft and should improve, at least a bit, with more direct coaching. Head coach Tom Cable, who won’t be calling plays this season, will be more involved.
That brings us back to wideout, where the Raiders have done nothing to upgrade the youngest, thinnest and least productive group in the league.
Schilens looks like a star but has not been able to stay healthy. Murphy can make plays but projects to a good third receiver. Heyward-Bey has star measurables but remains a project. Higgins, at 26 the oldest of the group, is a nice return man who, on occasion, can be effective as a slot receiver.
Owens is a complete receiver. And I suspect, after a season in America’s freezer, one of the game’s most noted divas has a clearer perspective about his place and talent. Other than a few pointedly candid comments, he was controversy-free with the Bills.
Then there is the history. Whether it was Randy Moss or Jerry Rice or Andre Rison or James Lofton or Willie Gault, the Raiders, when competitive, generally will consider star wideouts nearing the end — as long as they have enough game to be productive.
Owens is not the player he was six years ago, nor is he the jackass he was in 2004. He is, however, better than anyone on the Oakland roster. And he’s a beast in the gym.
The concern, of course, is that T.O. is a brand-name for locker room poison. He infected his first team, the 49ers, and did the same to the Eagles and Cowboys. He had an insatiable appetite for attention.
He’s now getting that fix elsewhere. See T.O. at major tennis tournaments supporting his friend Andy Roddick. See T.O. on VH1 as the star of “The T.O. Show.”
Owens is shifting into post-career mode but says he still wants to play football.
Raiders boss Al Davis can consult with Cable, Jackson and Campbell, each of whom should recognize Owens can help a team with every reason to take this risk. He might even become, dare we say, a leader.
If T.O. is willing to consider an incentive-laden contract with a team in search of itself, the Raiders can’t meet with agent Drew Rosenhaus soon enough.