Donovan McNabb dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Friday to discuss numerous topics, including his former teammate, Terrell Owens, who was not voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility despite having Canton-worthy numbers.
McNabb was the only player to quarterback Owens to a Super Bowl, so if anyone can comment on the mercurial wideout, it’s him.
“The thing about Terrell is, on the field, outstanding talent,” McNabb said on Tiki and Tierney. “Probably one of the best receivers that I played with in the pro ranks. He’s one of the best to have ever done it, and will he be a Hall of Famer? Absolutely. But basically what you have to understand is, when you get put in a situation as a player and things just keep revolving around the same thing in each and every spot that you land, it’s never the people around you. It’s you. Terrell never really realized what he was doing.”
Owens, perhaps not surprisingly, was a problem in the Eagles’ locker room from the start.
“Andy (Reid) was a very disciplined guy,” McNabb said. “He wanted things structured. We fly, we dress up – shirt and tie, sweater, shoes, whatever. Terrell, (the) first (time he) came in on a plane, he had a sweatsuit on. Andy talked to him (and said), ‘Hey, that’s not how we do it.’ (Terrell said), ‘I like to be relaxed.’ Then he came back and he’s got jeans on. So what Terrell was doing was what a lot of these young guys (do). ‘Oh, well he can do it, then I’ll do it.’ So people (began) to follow Terrell, and Terrell knew that. Terrell had these guys (thinking) this is the way to do it, when, no, that’s not how we did it in Philly. We’re going to do it the way it’s supposed to be done. People felt some type of way on Terrell’s side, just like (some) people (were) on my side.”
While Owens certainly had issues with authority, he also made the Eagles better. A lot better. After coming up shy in three consecutive NFC Championship games, the Eagles finally broke through in 2004-05, advancing to the Super Bowl.
Owens was a big reason why.
“Absolutely (he made us better),” McNabb said. “I’m not saying he’s comparable to this guy, (but) when the Miami Heat needed something to get them back over the top, Dwyane Wade was the face of the franchise out there in Miami. When Dwyane Wade brought LeBron James to Miami, it was what got them over the hump. It wasn’t Chris Bosh. Chris Bosh was a guy that started becoming a jump-shooter. He wasn’t the same guy we had seen in Toronto. I went out and got T.O. and I talked to Andy and (said), ‘Hey, we need to get this guy.’ Because we needed something to get us over the hump on offense.”
In 2004, Owens had 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games.
“Every top quarterback in the league always had a No. 1 receiver that teams had to focus on, and I didn’t have that,” McNabb said. “T.O. gave us that extra oomph that we needed on offense to become that passing attack that would be more of a problem for defensive coordinators to try to stop. So he gave everybody the confidence that my game could rise too. You saw (all these guys) have a career year. I had a career year – because I had a guy I knew I could get the ball to (who could) pick up extra yards after the catch and become a problem. (The) middle (of the field) was wide open for our tight ends and running backs to continue to dominate throughout the game because of T.O.”
The Eagles, however, lost to the Patriots, 24-21, in Super Bowl XXXIX. Even worse, Owens criticized McNabb afterward, saying the quarterback was out of shape and vomiting on the sidelines during the game.
McNabb, 39, is over it. In fact, he was never really on it.
“It doesn’t bother me because I know the truth,” the six-time Pro Bowler said. “What he may have said as his honest opinion isn’t the truth. If you go and watch the film, you don’t see me throwing up. No, I did not throw up. No, I wasn’t sitting there tired. I wasn’t scrambling. How do you get tired just from dropping back? They wasn’t allowing me to scramble, so I wasn’t tired. So it’s always something when it comes to a finger-point toward my direction because it becomes a big story instead of just basically saying, ‘Hey, you know what? We gave all that we had, it was a great opportunity, we missed out on opportunities over the course of the game which would have led us to win, but it just didn’t happen.’”
In the end, McNabb spent 11 of his 13 NFL seasons with one team. Owens, 42, bounced around constantly, playing for five different teams overall, including four in his final seven seasons.
McNabb doesn’t have a lot of sympathy.
“First time, shame on you. Second time, shame on me. Third time, you need to look in the mirror and find out what the problem really is,” he said. “Something’s got to tell you, ‘Okay, I need to look at myself and try to change things because things aren’t changing for the better for me.’”