If you go strictly by the numbers, it’s a no-brainer: Terrell Owens is a Hall of Famer. Maybe even on the first ballot.
He’s second to Jerry Rice in receiving yards, third among receivers in touchdowns and eighth in receptions. Those are all slam-dunk stats to make it into Canton.
Yet the controversial receiver didn’t make it into the Hall of Fame on his first try in 2016. Not last year, either.
Enough, already. It’s time to put Owens in the Hall of Fame when this year’s vote takes place Feb. 3 in Minneapolis on the eve of Super Bowl LII.
Owens’ temperamental personality clearly is the reason he isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet. Enough voters considered his frequent dust-ups with teammates and coaches enough of a reason to keep him out.
This voter believes Owens is Hall of Fame-worthy.
That’s not to ignore the reality that Owens often was a divisive figure and created problems in the locker room. There’s no question he grated on teammates, particularly his quarterbacks, and often was a difficult player for coaches. Look no further than his suspension by Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2005 as the most obvious example of how disruptive he could be.
But between the white lines on game day, Owens was a transcendent player whose accomplishments merit a place in the place where only the greatest players are admitted.
In Owens’ case, the numbers don’t lie.
His 15,934 receiving yards are more than any other receiver in NFL history except Rice (22,895), who’s arguably the greatest receiver of all time.
His 156 touchdown catches are more than any other receiver except Rice (208) and Randy Moss (157).
And Owens is eighth in NFL history with 1,078 catches.
The value of that kind of production isn’t even up for debate. It’s more than good enough to be in the Hall of Fame.
There’s no getting around his behavioral issues, but you simply can’t ignore the fact that he made players around him better by virtue of what he did on the field. And those players include the same quarterbacks he didn’t always get along with.
* 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia had his best season in 2001, when he went 12-4. His top receiver that year: T.O., who almost singlehandedly beat the Giants, 39-38, in the wild-card playoff round with 177 yards and two touchdowns. When Garcia put up 4,278 passing yards in 2000 — the most in 49ers history — Owens had 1,415 yards. Rice had 815.
* Before Garcia, Steve Young threw a career-high 36 touchdown passes in 1998, and Owens had a team-leading 14 TD receptions. Rice had nine.
* Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was 13-2 in 2004 and went to the Super Bowl that year. Owens returned from a broken leg to play in Super Bowl XXXIX and put on a spectacular performance in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots. He had nine catches for 122 yards, and I’d argue that the Eagles would have won the game if just a few of Owens’ teammates had elevated their play the way he did.
* When Tony Romo went 13-3 with the Cowboys in 2007, Owens was his No. 1 receiver. He led the team with 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns.
So the notion that Owens’ infighting was disruptive to the point of negatively impacting his teams on the field is simply not accurate. If you want to make the case that his inability to consistently be a good teammate was counterproductive and ultimately led to his ouster in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas, that’s true. But before he left each of those teams, their quarterbacks benefited from what Owens did on the field.
It’s a complicated debate, to be sure, and Owens came out on the wrong end of the argument the previous two years. It certainly is possible that he will remain on the outside looking in this year, too, given that he didn’t even make it to the final 10 when the field was reduced from 15 in 2016 and 2017.
What will make things even more interesting is how the vote goes with Moss, who also is eligible for the first time. Will voters hold Moss accountable for his own history of failing to get along with teammates and coaches? Will he be penalized for essentially admitting he didn’t play hard all the time during his time with the Raiders? Will he be held to the same standard as Owens, who hasn’t gotten in because of what he’s done off the field?
It will be a fascinating debate, especially in a year when only Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis stands out as a can’t-miss first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But make no mistake about Owens: What he did on the field should determine whether he goes to Canton. And if that’s the deciding issue, there’s no debate: T.O. is a Hall of Famer.
Bobby Beathard, GM
Tony Boselli, T
Robert Brazile, LB
Isaac Bruce, WR
Brian Dawkins, S
Alan Faneca*, G
Steve Hutchinson, G
Joe Jacoby, T
Edgerrin James, RB
Jerry Kramer, G
Ty Law*, CB
Ray Lewis, LB
John Lynch, FS
Kevin Mawae*, C
Randy Moss, WR
Terrell Owens, WR
Brian Urlacher, LB
Everson Walls**, CB
*Played for Jets
**Played for Giants