Terrell Owens' critics sniped that he would bring down the Cowboys' franchise but in his two seasons in Dallas he has caught 166 passes for 2535 yards (third best in the NFL) and 28 touchdowns (best in the NFL; he led the NFC in that category each season). Owens has moved into the top ten all-time in receptions (882, ninth), receiving yards (13,070, 10th) and touchdowns (129, third behind only Jerry Rice and Cris Carter, who he will tie with his next TD). Owens is devoted to keeping himself in top condition and shows no signs of slowing down even though he is 34 years old. The Cowboys have rewarded his production and dedication by reworking his contract so that he will receive $34 million for the next four years; his old deal would have expired after paying him $7 million for the upcoming season. The most significant number in any NFL contract is the signing bonus because NFL contracts are not guaranteed (unlike NBA and MLB contracts); Owens will get a $12.9 million signing bonus plus $100,000 of his $830,000 base salary in 2008 has been guaranteed.
People who asserted that Owens would be disruptive no matter what failed to understand what really motivates him. Owens put his career on the line by playing in Super Bowl XXXIX just weeks after he suffered a serious ankle injury--and he caught nine passes for 122 yards, a performance that likely would have earned him Super Bowl MVP honors if his Eagles had beaten the Patriots. As I wrote last November, "People act like Owens brought down the Philadelphia Eagles when the reality is they played their best ball when he was there and they have been on the decline since he left (for a multitude of reasons, but lack of a big play wide receiver is a major one). All Owens wanted in Philadelphia was to to be involved in the offense and to renegotiate his contract so that it reflected his value to the team and recognized that he potentially risked his career by playing with a broken ankle during the Super Bowl. I guess the Eagles sure have taught him a lesson for wanting to be a big play receiver and for wanting to be compensated like one."
It is no secret that Owens is a sensitive person who wants to feel appreciated for how hard he works and how well he plays. The Eagles took exactly the wrong stance with him, as did former Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells, who dehumanized Owens by stubbornly referring to him as "the player" and not calling him by name. Truly great coaches like Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson understand that you treat all players equally but you don't treat them all the same: as the saying goes, some guys need a kick in the rear and some guys need a pat on the back. Owens is a self-motivated person who does not need anyone to tell him to work hard but who needs a pat on the back when he does well. Auerbach put it best when someone asked him about how he handled certain players and he replied that you handle animals but you deal with people. The Cowboys have dealt with Owens fairly and he has responded by being a highly productive player.