Hall of Fame sportswriter Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News:
Expect Terrell Owens to have a monster debut season with the Cowboys. Expect him to return to his Pro Bowl form. Expect him to be driven to prove all of his doubters wrong. Owens will work harder than he’s ever worked in 2006. He’ll play harder than he’s ever played. He’ll be a better teammate and a better person than he’s ever been. He’ll be out to prove he got a bum rap at Philadelphia and, before that, San Francisco.
For a year, anyway, the Cowboys will see the lovable, talented side of Terrell Owens. So did the Eagles. But then that second year, watch out.
The Cowboys had some players in the locker room who could stand up to Owens. Had. The strongest presences at Valley Ranch have been evacuated this off-season. Keyshawn Johnson. Gone. Dan Campbell. Gone. La’Roi Glover. Gone. Dat Nguyen. Gone. Who’s left to remind Owens that football is a team game?
Owens turned on McNabb in his second season. He also turned on Reid. Just as he turned on his quarterback and coach (Steve Mariucci) at San Francisco.
Do you detect a behavioral pattern? I bet Cowboys coach Bill Parcells does. I bet Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe does. But they shouldn’t be concerned for a year. Owens must prove what a good player and good guy he is in 2006.
All bets are off in 2007, though.
His colleague Tim Cowlishaw, who tried to warn the Cowboys away from this signing, thinks T.O. is “the only sure winner” and wonders why the Cowboys paid so much considering that it is “unclear . . . what teams the Cowboys were actually bidding against in providing Owens the opportunity to make more the next three years than Randy Moss will earn in Oakland.” That said,
[Cowboys owner/GM Jerry] Jones believes â€“ and here he may have a point â€“ that the team getting Owens after his turbulent year cost him nine games in Philadelphia will get a new Owens.
Let’s not go so far as to call him humbled. But more careful?
That’s what Jones is banking on. The fact that so much of Jones’ money is already headed for Owens’ bank â€“ he gets a $5 million signing bonus â€“ suggests Owens doesn’t really have to be on his best behavior to make this a winning move for him.
For sure, Owens is a greater talent than the man he replaces, Keyshawn Johnson, who could also be a royal pain. However, whatever complaints Johnson had about quarterback Drew Bledsoe, he kept to himself or he kept off the record. At least he did until he was released and started whining about never having had a great quarterback to support him.
Jean-Jacques Taylor explains, in a nutshell, why Jones was willing to take this gamble: it has been a decade since the Cowboys last won a championship.
“This is America’s Team. I’m a star among stars,” said Mr. Owens, wearing a cream-colored suit with navy shoes and matching shirt. “I couldn’t be more elated. It’s another opportunity to play football. I’m looking forward to getting with Coach [Bill] Parcells. My focus is to win ballgames and win a championship.”
That would bring joy to Mr. Jones, who hasn’t celebrated a playoff victory since 1996. The nine-year drought is the longest in franchise history. Dallas has missed the playoffs the last two seasons, despite a 7-3 start in 2005.
Mr. Jones said the addition of Mr. Owens would make teammates such as receiver Terry Glenn, tight end Jason Witten, running back Julius Jones and quarterback Drew Bledsoe more effective. “I became a better quarterback today without doing anything,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “I’m excited because our team just got better.”
At least for a year, that’s almost certainly the case. And with an aging starting QB and a coach staving off permanent retirement on a year-by-year basis, the present is what matters.
Stephen A. Smith, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, thinks the Cowboys just got a lot better while the hometown team got worse.
In case you missed it, Terrell Owens is now a member of the Cowboys, a team that instantly becomes a contender with him. There are those who want to play psychiatrist, swearing that Dallas will rue the day it took this malcontent into its already fractious environment. That thought is understandable for a city blessed with a contender that has the heart to stave off an opponent with an infusion of talent.
A show of hands from anyone who believes the Eagles are that team?
The Fort Worth Star Telegram‘s Mac Engel notes resurrections of problem players on new teams has precedent.
As countless NFL observers listened to and read the optimism flowing from Valley Ranch on Saturday, it should be noted it can happen. It’s uncommon, but there have been athletes who have successfully shaken behavior problems to become good players, and teammates. Here is a look at a few:
Corey Dillon, Patriots: The former Bengals headache was traded to New England, where he became a key member of the Patriots’ Super Bowl run two years ago.
Nick Van Exel, Mavericks: Considered damaged goods when the Mavs acquired him, Nick The Quick was a big reason Dallas reached the Western Conference Finals in 2003.
Ed Belfour, Stars: The enigmatic goalie had been a major distraction with the Blackhawks and Sharks but was the spinal cord in the Stars’ Stanley Cup winning team in 1999 and the runner-up in 2000.
Carl Everett, Rangers/White Sox: Unloaded by Boston because of his mouth, the Rangers picked him up and turned him into a commodity. He became a key member in the White Sox World Series team last season.
Keyshawn Johnson, Cowboys: Unwanted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of his attitude, he was a hit in his two seasons with the Cowboys.
Jaromir Jagr, NY Rangers: Wasted talent personified with both the Penguins and Capitals, he has rediscovered his passion for the game and is having an MVP-caliber season.
Plaxico Burress, NY Giants: A talented me-myself-and-I whiner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he both behaved and produced in his first season with the Giants.
Ron Artest, Sacramento Kings: OK, so it hasn’t been long since he was traded to the Kings, but the NBA’s two-time winner of the Most Volatile Player award has behaved. It’s advised not to hold your breath.
Rasheed Wallace, Pistons: A complete jerk in Portland, ever since he’s been traded to Motown he’s been both good on the court, and invisible off of it. That’s a good thing.
Vince Carter, Nets: He turned himself into a distraction with the Raptors, so they would have to trade him. And since he’s been traded to the Nets, he’s played like an All-Star again.
Jason Williams, Heat: He was a problem in Sacramento and Memphis, but maybe he’s found the right place in Miami, which is in first place in its division.
Charles Haley, Cowboys: The 49ers traded him to the Cowboys because they thought he was destroying the locker room; he was the final piece to a dynasty in Dallas.
His colleague Clarence Hill is optimistic as well.
But more than replacing the capable [Keyshawn] Johnson, Owens brings an explosive playmaker to the Cowboys that they haven’t had since the days of Michael Irvin. In fact, Owens is the team’s first bona fide No. 1 receiver since Irvin retired after the 1999 season — a fact Irvin said will make a huge difference for a Cowboys offense that lacked consistency last season.
The Cowboys finished 13th in the league on offense in 2005, 15th in passing. Poor blocking and a lack of a running game were the team’s biggest problems. But they also lacked a constant big-play threat.
Irvin says Owens solves all those problems because he gives the immobile Bledsoe someone to throw to quickly when protection breaks down. His ability to draw double teams will take pressure off Glenn and open things up in the running game for Julius Jones because opponents can’t crowd the line of scrimmage. Add in tight end Jason Witten and his ability to make plays down the middle of the field and Irvin says the Cowboys have potential to be unstoppable on offense. “In order for the Cowboys to get where they want to get, they need a No. 1 receiver,” Irvin said. “Do you know what Terry Glenn can do with one-on-one coverage? Julius Jones can become the back he was supposed to become when they drafted him. It’s a great move for Dallas. It puts them in the Super Bowl.”
Going from 9-7 to the Super Bowl is a huge jump but certainly not unthinkable in this era. The Cowboys were a decent kicker away from the playoffs last year. Oddly, they still haven’t addressed that need. Presuming that they will do that and continue their recent string of solid drafts, they should be a contender.
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