Jerry Jones is an owner and a GM who is known throughout the NFL for making bold moves. Sometimes, those moves involve bringing in a player or two who other franchises have discarded for off-the-field transgressions relating to the law or the locker room. In an admission that this philosophy doesn't always work, Jones has turned out Terrell Owens, deeming his services no longer central to the Cowboys quest for a sixth Super Bowl.
More after the jump.
When the rumors first surfaced years ago that the Cowboys were interested in signing T.O. after the mess in Philadelphia, I was against it. I loved T.O.'s talent and ability but I didn't like his attitude. The Cowboys were in the middle of a rebuilding project under Bill Parcells and I didn't want a loose cannon in the locker room no matter how talented. Still, once the deed went down, I climbed on board like I always do and rooted for the player with the star on his helmet. To my surprise, T.O. was not a distraction in any serious way for the first couple of years. I even took to calling him a Pod Person because he seemed such a changed man. I found myself defending him to outsiders who still had the image of the old T.O. in their minds. It truly looked like this reclamation project was going to work and that T.O.'s legacy would be rescued in Dallas. Not his on-the-field legacy, which is undeniable, but his off-the-field legacy, which was always suspect.
Alas, it wasn't to be.
I will say that T.O. hasn't been near the problem in Dallas that he was in Philly - that situation got out of hand quickly. That episode was like a small fire that instantly accelerated into a house-burner. But you could feel the heat building in Dallas over the last year and Jerry the Fireman (you can add that to his titles) decided to play Smokey the Bear and prevent a forest fire. Owens was starting to question how he was used on a regular basis; questioning the play-calling, his touches, and most of all, the fact that if the Cowboys wanted to win they needed to use him more and more. The problem with that is not if it's true or not, some of it was true. No, the issue is when you start doing it publicly you start bringing other teammates over to your side and it soon becomes OK for anybody to start questioning the coaches abilities. By definition, when you say you deserve more touches you are saying someone else deserves fewer touches. Even if you don't name names, it's what you're saying. This is the genesis of dividing a locker room. It's the genesis of undermining the coaches. It's the genesis of locker room chaos.
Don't get confused here; dumping T.O. is not some kind of all cure-all elixir that will make everything just fine at Valley Ranch. He was hardly the only issue an under-achieving Cowboys team is dealing with. There's no denying his on-the-field production will be missed unless Jason Garrett can figure out a way to better use the playmakers he still has, something he failed to do well last year. Do I sound just like T.O. with that last statement? Sort of. But I don't play for the team and I'm not going to influence one thing that goes on at the Ranch. That's the benefit of being an outsider, I can say whatever I want and it doesn't mean a thing. On the other hand, if you are part of a team and you can influence the relationships that occur inside the facility, you have to be more circumspect about the way you express your opinions. That is a lesson T.O. never learned.
The idea that somehow the media made Jerry do this is laughable. Jerry, while being quite media-savvy and always examining how the Cowboys are viewed by the outside world, is not going to dump a player of T.O.'s talent because of the media. Seriously, this idea is not even plausible. Equally absurd in my eyes is the idea that T.O. was the victim of a media witch-hunt; that they were just making up stories about the guy because they didn't like him. Sure they exaggerated stuff, they focused on the negative and relentlessly pounded stories for ratings; but they didn't make stuff up out of whole cloth. There was always a core truth beneath the surface. That's the problem with T.O., after a while, he grates on teammates and some are no longer able to fully embrace him and sides must be chosen. The evidence is clear, this has happened now on three different teams.
I'll have a companion piece on this later talking about the issues this creates for the Cowboys on the field. Obviously Owens was a focal point of opposing defenses and it's now up to Jason Garrett and company to try and figure out how to function without T.O. in the lineup.
But on a pure off-the-field, chemistry-in-the-locker room basis, the Cowboys made the right move. The distractions, real or perceived, needed to go. Jerry Jones made the right call.