Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the class of 2017. Among them was not former Bengal wide receiver Terrell Owens.
It’s a time a lot of Bengals fans blot out of their memory. This was the year before the ‘old’ Bengals became the ‘new’ Bengals. It was days of Chad Johnson (Ochocinco at that point), Carson Palmer, and Cedric Benson. It was the year that Chase Coffman was supposed to break out onto the scene. It’s overlooked a lot, but for this one year, Terrell Owens was a Bengal, and he was among the best.
Owens will always be remembered for his times in San Francisco, Dallas, and Philadelphia. A Hall of Fame talent, no doubt, Owens had nine 1000 yard seasons over the course of his career and was one of the biggest stars on every team he played for. That last part, though, might be what’s keeping him out of Canton.
Terrell Owens: A Polarizing Football Career
A third round selection in 1996, Owens started his career on a 49ers team with Steve Young at the helm and Jerry Rice alongside him, both future Hall-of-Famers. When Rice tore his ACL in 1998, Owens took over the receiving corps, breaking out as a major threat across the league. He and Rice terrorized opponents until 2000 when Rice left for the nearby Oakland Raiders.
While he started his career in Rice’s shadow, by the turn of the century, Terrell was well on his way to determining the pecking order in San Francisco. In Rice’s last game in a 49ers uniform, Owens had a career day, catching 20 passes for 283 yards. He led the team that season with 1,451 receiving yards, nearly doubling Rice’s total.
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After a few more successful years in San Francisco, Terrell had a rocky two-year stint in Philadelphia. Despite looking like one of the best receivers in the league in his second year there, as a new member of the locker room, Owens got into a fight with teammate Hugh Douglas, leading to his suspension. Just a few days earlier, Owens had also publicly taken shots at the Eagles organization and Donovan McNabb. This, of course, all lead up to his famous driveway workout press conference.
Officially released by the Eagles in 2006, Owens found a new home with Philadelphia’s division rival—the Dallas Cowboys. He found arguably the most success of his career there, topping 1000 yards in all three seasons in Dallas. After a suicide scare and multiple incidents with coach Todd Haley, Owens left the Cowboys for the Bills in 2009. It would be his last and most uneventful stop before coming to Cincinnati in 2010.
If there was ever a soul mate for TO on an NFL roster, it was Chad Johnson. The only player in the league that could keep up with Owens’ antics was Number 85, who regularly got into plenty of trouble on his own. Bengals fans prepped for the seemingly impending train wreck that was having both on the same team.
But somehow, it never happened. Relatively speaking, Cincinnati was one of the quietest stops of TO’s career. He and Ochocinco always seemed to be having a good time, but the doom some fans thought they faced in signing him never came. Instead, Owens led the team in receiving yards and receptions, despite an injury that landed him on IR in Week 14. He even gave the Bengals a 200 yard game in Week 4.
Third all-time in receiving touchdowns and second in yards, Terrell Owens had a spectacular career. Now passed on by the Hall of Fame voting committee in his second year of eligibility, time will tell if his off-the-field personality and shenanigans can keep him out of Canton. Even if they do, Chad Johnson might still be able to lend him his gold jacket.