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When in doubt, write about T.O.

JJT - provocateur extraordinaire. If there's nothing else to write about in the offseason, there's always T.O. In case you missed it, JJT dropped a little T.O.-infused news on us this morning - an article I had to read twice. The first time, just to get the facts, and the second time, looking for anybody who backs up those facts. I was looking for the quotes, or at least an anonymous source referenced as an ex-coach or something, someone who is backing up what JJT was saying. I couldn't find one.

It's not that I don't believe what JJT's proposing, in fact, I think it's entirely possible. I don't have any difficulty believing that Terrell Owens didn't know the playbook last year. I don't question Owens' dedication to the physical side of the game, he is always in shape and we've seen him repeatedly play through injury. But does he know the playbook? I don't know, but JJT says he knows. Here's my problem though, JJT says he knows, but never says how he knows, he never cites a specific source. I think that's what bugs me about this article. It reads like a stated fact, but when you really read it, it sounds like an opinion masquerading as fact.

JJT contacted Owens and asked him if he knew the playbook. Owens reply -

"I knew my plays," T.O. wrote in a text message. "I put everything I love on that."

And that's that. No, I don't mean just because Owens denies it that it's not true. What I mean is that JJT just blows right by that in saying:

The way his mind works, he probably thinks he did know his plays.

Case closed. Mind reading is always a solid way to build a factual case. But if you want facts, this is as close as you'll get:

In training camp, the Cowboys asked him not to focus on a segment of the playbook because he was having a difficult time grasping it.

Or this:

Within the organization, T.O.'s lack of familiarity with the playbook wasn't a secret. Players knew. Coaches knew. Front-office personnel knew.

Really? It was common knowledge to everyone in the organization and presumably to the press, since JJT knew. Then why didn't we know? Why wait until the middle of March in the offseason to tell us common knowledge that sure would've been interesting to know during the season? Am I the only one who finds this odd? Maybe I missed previous articles on this subject. If I did, maybe this whole rant is out of line.

JJT also cites the fact that Romo had to tell Owens what to do on several plays after breaking the huddle in the Seattle playoff game. If that's the basis of indicting a player for not knowing the playbook, then the list would be a lot longer than Owens. You see QB's in every game doing that with players. It happens. Now, if you cite an overly-abundant number of times this happens, consistently from game to game, then you have a case. JJT doesn't do that.

Basically, I'm ripping on the tone of the article versus the content presented. JJT makes the case that Terrell Owens' knowledge of the playbook was so lacking that it was hurting the team and not what you should get from a highly paid player. And he makes the case like it's just a fact. Everybody knew it. But yet, not one solid fact is given by anybody other than JJT. No ex-coach anonymously backs this up; no player is cited as going off the record to confirm it. In fact, no one else corroborates this, except the general "everybody knew." I need more than that. JJT deals with the lack of source material this way:

Let's be real. It doesn't do Romo, Jerry Jones or anyone else any good to publicly acknowledge T.O. didn't know the entire offense or comment on it. Not when you have a high-strung, emotional player who carries a grudge with the best of them.

So basically, he's saying that no one will publicly acknowledge it. Fair enough, but what about in private? JJT is sure that Owens didn't know the playbook, but Owens didn't tell him that, in fact, he denied it. And yet JJT cites no one else to counter that claim. Where are the lines like "three players on offense who didn't want to go on record confirmed that T.O. didn't know the playbook." Or "I spoke to an ex-coach off the record..." Give me something, even if it's recycling something from a previous article. Otherwise, it's just strange to drop this kind of "news" on us in mid-March, without any acknowledgement of the journalistic research that prompted the writing of this article at this particular time.

Again, it's not that I can't believe the central premise that Owens doesn't know the playbook as well as he should, that's entirely possible. But you've got to work harder to convince me that it's absolutely true, the evidence presented by JJT was soft at best. It felt like ESPN during its monthly T.O. crisis: Opinion stated as fact, because everybody thinks they know Terrell Owens. The amount of people who can read Owens' mind continues to astound.

Come back with some sources, even if they're anonymous, and I'll probably believe you, JJT. But just saying it's so doesn't make it so.

For the record, I will state that I like JJT as a writer, even though I know a lot of you don't. But this piece smelled of biased opinion wrapped in a factual façade.

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