Owens, Eagles should part ways

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

Thanks for stopping by, Terrell Owens. It was interesting, to say the least, but now it's time to go.

As talented and tough a player as Owens is, the bottom line is that the Philadelphia Eagles were a very good team before acquiring him and they will be a very good team when he is gone. As long as Donovan McNabb is the quarterback here, the Eagles will have a chance to win a Super Bowl.Maybe that's what really drives Owens crazy. Maybe that's the pea under the stack of mattresses his ultra-sensitive ego rests upon. Clearly, Owens is consumed by jealousy over McNabb's stature, McNabb's talent and - most of all - McNabb's wealth.

It was bad when Owens took a minor potshot at the quarterback to further his own misguided play for a new contract. The comment about "the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl" was unfair and stupid, but likely would have faded with time.

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Not this.

Although Owens wasn't quoted directly in Stephen A. Smith's column in Sunday's Inquirer, the star receiver's acrimonious feelings about the franchise quarterback came through loud and clear. So when Smith conveys Owens' opinion that McNabb is a "company man" who is "unwittingly exploited" by Andy Reid and the Eagles, you just know that's what the receiver has said.

Does he believe it? Maybe. Is he willing to say it merely to further his own selfish aims? Absolutely.

Reid simply can't let this slide. He has built this organization a certain way, with certain kinds of people, and he took a chance by making an exception for Owens.

You can live with a distraction. You have to remove a cancer. As soon as possible.

Maybe this seems melodramatic, an overreaction to a couple of comments about McNabb. But this is about much more than that. It's about Owens cruelly taking aim at spots where he perceives McNabb to be especially vulnerable.

No doubt Owens, in his infinitely infantile worldview, is feeling persecuted by the public criticism he has been getting. It probably doesn't occur to him that he created this mess for himself. That would require a sense of accountability. Instead, he lashes out at McNabb, who is everything Owens will never be.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a player's trying to improve his contract. Owens' first mistake was in making it public and squandering the immense goodwill he had earned from Eagles fans. His second mistake was dragging McNabb into it with that first ill-advised insult. Now he has made a third, more serious mistake.

If Reid is as concerned with team chemistry as he says he is, the coach will make sure this is Owens' last mistake as an Eagle.

Phil Sheridan is a sports columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer.