Readers chime in on Owens

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 11, 2005



We received quite a vocal response to the Terrell Owens piece we ran earlier this week ("T.O. meets the gridiron Ginsu"). Clearly, even when sidelined, Owens is a polarizing figure in football.
 
Most of the responses centered around an unintentionally misleading effort on our behalf. We compared Owens to Torry Holt, saying that Holt is clearly the better receiver. Most readers thought we were saying that Owens is the second-best receiver in football.
 
"Your article, other than (stating Terrell Owens) is an ass, which we all know, would seem to indicate he is the second-best receiver in the game – and No. 2 isn't shit," wrote frequent e-mailer Rick Stoppe, echoing the sentiments of many readers. "Your TO argument doesn't hold water, other than he is an asshole."
 
It was not our intent to say that Owens is the second-best receiver in football. We were just comparing him to one receiver who stands head and shoulders above him in every way, from onfield performance, to team-first attitude, to the quiet way in which he goes about letting his record-setting performances speak for themselves.
 
A comprehensive effort to compare Owens to the league's best would have also included Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison and, probably, Chad Johnson, all of whom are clearly more productive than Owens. Receivers like Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad and Isaac Bruce also would have warranted consideration.
 
Still, we can see how people could think that we were saying Owens is No. 2. But that's not the argument we were making.
 
Perhaps the most insightful rebuttal to our piece, one filled with Cold, Hard Football Facts, came from reader Robert Moynihan. What follows is the text of his e-mail.
 
***
The Cold, Hard Football Facts did an excellent job debunking the myth of Terrell Owens being the top receiver in the NFL with its comparison to Torry Holt ("TO meets the gridiron Ginsu"). But a reader might have concluded that Owens was the second best, since Holt was the only receiver to whom Owens was compared. 
 
Well, the Cold, Hard, Football Facts don't support that contention either. While only a fool would opine that Owens wasn't one of the top talents at the wideout position, he's only one of a sizeable group of elite receivers, and not actually the best at anything.
 
Let's examine Owens' career along with those of a number of his peers – namely, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Steve Smith, Chad Johnson and Randy Moss. Of this group, only Harrison and Moss stepped right into their lineups as their team's top receivers in their rookie years, so to compare No. 1 players to No. 1 players (or in the case of Holt and Bruce, co-No. 1s) we'll drop everyone else's first season from the comparison. 
 
Also, since not everyone played 16 games every year, let's take an average game's performance and extrapolate it out to a 16-game season. If we do that, their average projected seasons look like this:
 
Player   
Rec.
Yards
Average
TDs
FD %
40+ %
Harrison
97
1,274
13.1
11
67.1
3.8
Holt
95
1,489
15.7
8
68.9
5.6
Johnson
86
1,292
15.0
8
75.2
6.0
Owens
86
1,271
14,7
12
68.9
5.6
Bruce
83
1,264
15.2
8
70.9
3.8
Moss
82
1,324
16.1
13
71.0
9.2
Smith
81
1,178
14.5
8
62.0
5.6
 
Owens winds up in the middle of the pack in nearly every category – tied for third in receptions, fifth in yards, fifth in yards per catch, tied for fifth in percentage of catches for first downs and in a three-way tie for third in percentage of catches of 40 yards or more. In the stat for which he is most renowned, TD receptions, he finishes second to Moss.
 
Is Owens an outstanding receiver? Absolutely. But the Cold, Hard, Football Facts say there's no area in which he stands head and shoulders above his peers, and he's probably no better than third or fourth in the NFL today.

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