Well-traveled NFL wideout Terrell Owens, who has made just as many headlines over the years bashing his All-Pro quarterbacks as he has making spectacular plays, says he would be recognized as the best receiver in history if those throwing him the ball had been better.
"I know hands-down I'd be close to Jerry Rice's records if I had been with quality quarterbacks like he had,” quipped the lippy Buffalo Bills wide receiver. “He had Joe Montana, and he finished with Steve Young. That wasn't a drop-off.
"Say I had been with a guy like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees all of my career. Are you kidding me?"
Few dispute that Rice is the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. During his career, which lasted from 1985-2004 (with the 49ers, Raiders and Seahawks), Rice caught 197 touchdown receptions and accumulated 22,895 receiving yards. In 1987, he caught an astounding 22 touchdowns; in 1995 he finished the season with 122 catches for 1,848 yards and 15 touchdowns.
But a case can also be made about T.O.’s ranking at the top of history’s receiving corps. USA Today this week named Owens the best receiver of the 2000s on its All-Decade team. During his 14-year career, T.O. has caught 143 touchdowns and has a total of 14,886 yards. Remember, Rice was in the league five years longer.
However, it’s never been Owens’ performance on the field that people grew tired of. It’s been his off-field antics in every city he’s played in – San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas and Buffalo.
He dissed San Francisco’s Garcia, telling Playboy magazine that the quarterback is gay, a charge Garcia denied. He also said Garcia had a weak arm. But Garcia is one of only eight quarterbacks in NFL history to have achieved two consecutive 30-touchdown passing seasons (2000 and 2001), and he threw 60 passes to T.O. in his first year. Over the next four years, Owens pulled in 97 passes, 93 passes, 100 passes and 80 passes hurled by the supposedly weak arm. Twice during that period Owens led the league in receptions.
His next stop was in Philly, where he played with six-time Pro-Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb. In 2004, McNabb threw 14 TDs to Owens. That year, McNabb averaged 8.26 yards per pass attempt, completed 64 percent of his passes and threw a total of 31 touchdown passes (he also ran for three more) – all while amassing only eight interceptions. With an amazing passer rating of 104.7, McNabb became the first quarterback in league history to throw more than 30 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions in a single season. But Owens time in Philadelphia was short-lived, because he badmouthed McNabb and the Eagles’ organization in the press and even caused a fistfight in the locker room. McNabb and Eagles coach Andy Reid were so glad to get T.O.’s disruptive energy out of town that they even paid him not to play in the final two games of the following season.
For Philly fans, nothing could have been better than T.O. surfacing in hated Dallas. Owner Jerry Jones, like the Eagles, figured that Owens’ talent would outweigh his divisive nature. He was wrong, too. After one season, the troubled wideout drove a wedge through yet another team and would soon be banished to the icy regions of Buffalo.
There are reports that the 2009 season might be his last in Buffalo, where he caught 55 passes for 829 yards and broke the team’s single-game record of 197 total reception yards on nine catches.