Being a sports fan means living a litany of “what-ifs.” What if Jerome Brown and Pelle Lindbergh had lived? What if Harold Katz hadn’t made those insane trades at the 1986 NBA draft? What if the Eagles had tackled Joe Jurevicius in that 2002 playoff game?
My all-timer? What if the Eagles and Terrell Owens hadn’t divorced?
I think about this because I had the opportunity to question Owens for an hour last week at an executive’s club dinner where I played James Lipton. He played T.O.
I’ve always believed that if T.O. had stayed, the Eagles would have finally won that elusive Super Bowl. Turns out, he feels the same.
“Andy Reid was the best coach I ever played for,” he said. “We could have made magic for years.”
So why didn’t it work out?
Owens’ answer there is meandering. He talks of contract issues, a sensational local media and Donovan McNabb’s jealousy of T.O.’s popularity. There’s certainly a sense of betrayal that McNabb didn’t back him in his quest for a new deal, especially after Donovan had publicly endorsed the same for Brian Westbrook.
Owens puts little blame on himself beyond conceding that – looking at it 12 years later – he wishes he’d handled a few things differently. Perhaps no sit-ups in the driveway.
“I loved playing here, with those players and these fans,” Owens said. “The biggest regret of my career was not winning a Super Bowl in Philadelphia.”
As someone who covered that soap opera, I’ll say there was plenty of blame to go around. Eagles ownership should have torn up T.O.’s contract while he was still dripping sweat from that magnificent Super Bowl performance. McNabb should have backed a teammate. And Owens – well, let’s face it. There was always the chance of that volatile personality exploding.
Even now he harbors some animosity. I asked him to name his favorite QB from three he played with over his career – McNabb, Jeff Garcia and Tony Romo. His answer? “Ryan Fitzpatrick.” Owens and the bearded QB shared one season in Buffalo, which turned out to be the least productive of T.O.’s career.
Owens retired after 15 seasons in 2010. At age 43 he follows a diet and workout regimen that would put most active players to shame. He plays competitive basketball every week and still looks in game shape. Indeed, every time an NFL team losses a receiver, there’s T.O. on Twitter (@Terrellowens), publicly flirting with the idea of returning.
Could he really?
“I couldn’t do the magic of the old days,” he said. “But if a coach knew how to use me properly, spot me in and use my strengths . . . I could make several big plays a game.”
That’s not going to happen. The next stop is likely Canton, as Owens is a favorite to make the Hall of Fame this year. You can’t argue the numbers – second all-time in receiving yards, fifth all-time in TDs. A more electric, exciting player never existed.
We got a season-and-a-half of that here. Imagine if we’d gotten more.