Friday, July 30, 2010

A Plan Destined to Fail

So after sitting quietly and alone on the sidelines for I'm sure many more months than he and his brilliant agent expected, and after recently surviving rumors that he would be forced to join the NFL's worst team in the St. Louis Rams, beleaguered wide receiver Terrell Owens announced this week that he will be playing for the Cincinnati Bengals. The announcement has come among much fanfare and speculation, with fellow Bengals wideout Chad Ochocinco commenting that he gladly "hands over the reins as the team's #1 receiver" to TO, and also questioning how any defense in the NFL is going to even approach trying to cover the Bengals with their new-found passing offense.

To which I answer with one word: Easily.

Let me begin my pointing out, both to Ochocinco and to anyone else who might be experiencing temporal confusion: this is not 2003-2005. Back in those years, a young, brash wide receiver in Cincy averaged over 90 receptions, over 1300 yards and nearly 10 touchdowns a season over that three-year span. During those same three years, a young and equally brash wide receiver in San Francisco and Philadelphia named TO averaged, on a 16-game equivalent, over 90 catches, nearly 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns in his own right. At times over the past decade or so of NFL play, each of Johnson and TO has looked downright unstoppable, and either one of them could have laid as good a claim as anybody in the league to the title of the NFL's best wide receiver.

But that was a long, long time ago now. After being run out of San Francisco, run out of Philadelphia and then eventually run out of Dallas, TO spent 2009 playing all 16 games for the Buffalo Bills, posting just 55 catches for 825 yards and 5 touchdowns. Each of these key production figures for a wideout rated as TO's lowest in his previous ten years of full-season play. To say that TO dropped off a bit in Buffalo last year would be a tremendous understatement, especially given that he failed to catch more than four balls in all but three of the team's games last season, including ending his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception after TO busted out with a big bagel in a 20-point drubbing at home by the eventual Superbowl champion Saints in Week 3 of 2009.

Meanwhile, Ochocinco, who is working on just his tenth year in the NFL as opposed to TO's 14 years of service, has also seen his numbers drop off dramatically over the past couple of seasons. The past two years have basically seen career lows for Ochocinco in both receptions (53 and 72 in the past two seasons) and yards (540 and 1047). All of this is to say, make absolutely no mistake about this whatsoever, but these two guys are both on the downsides of their careers, probably well on the downsides given the trend in each's numbers.

And this is where my feeling comes from that this supposed "match made in heaven" is going to quickly look more like one made in hell than one made up high in the sky. I mean, starting with TO, as I mentioned above and as is common knowledge among any NFL fans out there, TO has ended up feuding and eventually splitting with every single quarterback he has ever played professional bar for. Every single one, period. That's just what he does. And does anyone out there think Carson Palmer is suddenly a guy with sufficient intestinal fortitude to stand up to the onslaught from TO? Did Donovan McNabb, a guy with far more NFL success than Carson Palmer? Did Tony Romo? Didn't think so. And neither is Carson Palmer, of that you can be assured.

Moreover, TO has never in his career played on a team with another big-name, big-talking wideout since back in the days with Jerry Rice in San Fran. And how did one work out? TO spent his last few years as a 49er complaining that Jerry Rice was overhyped, that Rice got too many balls thrown his way (mostly at TO's expense), and that Rice wasn't nearly as adept at the position overall at that point in their respective careers than was TO. So that one didn't work out. In Philly, TO was the only answer in the passing offense, and we all saw how that one ended up with TO doing push-ups in the driveway of his New Jersey home on Sundays instead of playing for the Eagles. In Dallas there also was no other big-name wideout, but TO couldn't even live with the specter of tight end Jason Witten, and again ended up causing a rift with the quarterback that led him out of Dallas and eventually to the frozen tundra of Buffalo, New York last year. So now I'm supposed to believe that TO is going to find a way to peacefully coexist with Chad Ochocinco, who himself has never been good at dealing with another big receiver on the team such as was the case back in 2008 when TJ Houshmahblahblah came out of the woodwork and essentially took the #1 receiver mantle away from Ochocino in that year? Come on. This whole move, especially on this scandal-ridden team, is custom made to be a disaster.

The other thing about the TO signing that gives me more than a little bit of concern is his contract, which has widely been reported at a $2 million base salary, with six different incentive payments each worth an additional third of a million dollars if TO attains them. Rather than focus on team wins and losses to trigger the incentive payments, or on the offense as a whole or even just on the passing offense of the whole team, the incentive payments in TO's contract will pay him 333k if he reaches 60 receptions in 2010, and another 333k for 100 catches. He will receive 333k if he scores 9 touchdowns on the season, and another 333k for 13 tds. TO will get 333k if he catches balls for 1000 yards on the year, and another 333k for 1300 yards receiving. All of these individual statistics, while in a vacuum all generally good indicators of a wideout having a solid season, are going to I predict cause problems and direct conflicts of interest with a guy who has time and time again proven himself to be self-focused and self-centered to an unbelievable degree.

I mean, can't you just see it now? TO is sitting at 50 catches in Week 12, he's got four games left in the regular season, and then Carson Palmer has a bad game and TO gets just one catch on the day. Suddenly he is still 9 receptions away from his 333 thou with three games to go. What do you think TO is gonna be doing all through that next week? When he's not yelling to the media about how he is under-utilized by his team, he's going to be right up there in Carson Palmer's ear, complaining about not getting the ball thrown his way enough and actively lobbying for more attention. When a guy has proven himself to be as selfish as TO has over his career, giving a guy like that an incentive-laden contract is just begging for him to return to his former self-aggrandizing ways.

Just don't let the Bengals come running to me to complain about how "there's no I in team" when TO starts squawking about not getting the ball thrown his way enough in 2010. By signing TO to join wideout Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati, the Bengals are making their bed with two of the most flammable, outspoken and trouble-makey figures in all of their sport. Now the Bengals will have to lie in it.

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Blogger Guy Fawkes said...

Agreed 1000%.
I like how Chad keeps mentioning that him and TO talk every off-season, as if they're the two most amiable best friends in the NFL.

4:34 AM  

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