Monday, November 7, 2005

The 4-4 Eagles find themselves in an eerily unknown environment: last place in the NFC East division. A lot of factors have contributed to that, but nowhere in the list of on-the-field detriments will you find Terrell Owens' name. Off the field, however, is a different story. In between being sent home from training camp before the season, and being sent home from Week 9's game against the Washingon Redskins, Terrell Owens has caused a fury by publicly choosing Brett Favre over teammate Donovan McNabb, criticizing the well-run Eagles organization for not celebrating personal achievements, not to mention the numerous accounts of insubordination during training camp. Oh, and challenging the entire Eagles team to fight him after engaging in fisticuffs with team ambassador Hugh Douglas, too.

Finally drawing the line, the Eagles organization exclaimed their superiority by suspending Owens indefinitely due to his unwillingness to apologize for criticizing the organization. This would have been a great move if they had placed the duct tape over Owens' mouth before the season began and they developed an offensive dependency on his playmaking ability. But now that they find themselves in jeopardy of not even making the playoffs, they need an offensive firecracker, and without Owens, not even Brian Westbrook with a new 5-year, $25 million contract can give the Eagles the burst of life they need.

Andy Reid has always been known as a pass-first breed of head coach, and now that Owens is on the sidelines and Todd Pinkston is out for the season with an injury, the Eagles are more than shorthanded in the passing game. Quarterback Donovan McNabb is perpetually injured, and it seems like more players join the list of ailing Eagles every week. Who is going to step up and fill in for all of these players? If Reid and the rest of upper management managed to swallow their pride for all of preseason and the first half of the season, they could have, and should have swallowed it at least until the Eagles showed that they could manage without Owens. But now with no passing game to suit its lack of a running game, they will have to win on defense, and perhaps special teams as they did in Week 7 against San Diego.

T.O. is no doubt a poison in the locker room, and his ego may end up hurting him in the long run; more and more teams in the NFL are switching over to the "team first" mentality rather than the supermarket sweep of superstars that you see so much in other sports. If the prodigal mouth of Owens had been shut half the time, and channeled that energy to production on the field, the Eagles might have had nonstop calls from other teams inquiring trade possibilities. Everyone knows that Owens won't be donning an Eagles jersey circa 2006, so why not maximize his value? If it's money he's after, though, he's still getting it, as his current suspension comes with full pay.

This is just the wrong time to remove the best player on your team, especially for something as flimsy as words. The Eagles are two games behind the 6-2 New York Giants and their season would be a failure in every light unless they at least return to the Super Bowl. That ship has sailed, and even making the playoffs via Wild Card would suffice. Reggie Brown, Lamar Gordon, and Greg Lewis aren't the guys you want putting their hands on the ball after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Some athletes are born to handle pressure and perform in the clutch. Terrell Owens is one of them. And the Eagles are almost guaranteed at the most a close game - if they're lucky, or playing stringent defense - in the fourth quarter with the way their offense has been performing.

Furthermore, it's an insult to the fans, who have showed up in flocks to see the Eagles match last year's run at the Super Bowl, to remove your most important playoff piece. No Owens, no playoffs. That's just how it is, and I'm sure everyone within a 10,000 mile radius of the United States is aware of that. The Eagles need Owens exponentially more than Owens needs the Eagles, and once the regular season started, there was no turning back in their letting him off the hook everytime a T.O.-ism broke free. The Eagles organization has handled most situations beautifully in every meaning of the word, but they have butchered the Owens situation and let him push the team - namely Brad Childress and Donovan McNabb, and Hugh Douglas more literally - like it was his own personal punching bag.

The Eagles' Super Bowl equation must include Owens. Should they choose to set sail without him, it might be back to the drawing board with this organization. Don't expect to recognize too many faces once 2006 preseason begins.