T.O.-Buffalo union has the makings of storybook one-year marriage
Historically speaking, Terrell Owens always behaves well in Year 1 with a new club
Coach Dick Jauron truly needed a spark to revive Buffalo's anemic offense
So the answer to the most hotly debated question over the last couple of days has been answered, yet that answer has only sparked more questions. What we do know is that enigmatic wide receiver Terrell Owens is going to the Buffalo Bills on a one-year deal worth $6.5 million. What we don't know is whether this is simply a football move borne out of head coach Dick Jauron's realization that this is likely his last year in Buffalo -- if the team doesn't make major strides? Or is this just as much about sparking some excitement among the Buffalo fan base and increasing ticket and merchandise sales? And maybe the most intriguing of all, how is T.O.'s flash gonna play in blue-collar Buffalo? I mean, picturing T.O. in Buffalo is kind of like imagining the Queen of England at a monster truck show. Just doesn't seem to fit.
Let's start with the reason for the move itself. Jauron is respected league-wide and universally liked by virtually everyone that has ever played for him. The problem is, other than the 2001 season with the Chicago Bears, he has not had a great deal of success as a head coach in the NFL. Bills owner Ralph Wilson deliberated long and hard before deciding to bring back Jauron for 2009; and Jauron likely knows this is his last chance, not only in Buffalo but as an NFL head coach. Some would say he is desperate, others might just say he is swinging for the fences on this Owens signing. I say, what does he have to lose? In a tough division with improving teams all around him, Jauron likely realized it might take a bold maneuver to get his Bills over the hump. Signing T.O. definitely qualifies as a bold maneuver.
From a football standpoint, T.O. gives Buffalo an excellent receiving duo with Lee Evans; and if you combine that with running back Marshawn Lynch you have an excellent skill position unit, provided quarterback Trent Edwards can bounce back from a sophomore slump after he got injured in Arizona last season. The Bills have been very competitive the last couple of years -- but needed something more. Their hope is that T.O. is that something more.
That being said, it's hard not to picture the Bills brass giggling with joy when pondering all the national attention they've brought to the franchise. Most of the fans I spoke with in Buffalo were thrilled with the move, immediately after the news broke on my Sirius NFL Radio radio. T.O. gives the Bills relevance. T.O. makes the club a part of the national conversation. People everywhere are talking about the Buffalo Bills -- and not mentioning the loss of four straight Super Bowls in the same sentence. The fans wanted a major change, and now they got it. Ticket sales will likely increase, no small consideration with a franchise that has struggled at times in western New York. T.O.'s #81 jerseys should fly off the shelves.
So, why did the Bills feel like they needed to pay him $6.5 million? If T.O. really had any other options, wouldn't he have waited before he pulled the trigger? I mean, how about T.O. once again reaping the financial rewards of being jettisoned by yet another franchise. Unbelievable. This guy makes even more money at a time when most people won't even think about signing him. The Bills will likely argue $6.5 million is adequate compensation for a player of his ability and production ... and they may be right, but why pay more than you had to? Was anyone else willing to get even close to that? I doubt it. If there were other teams interested, I would like to know who, because it sure seems like T.O. has once again increased his pay via a one-team market. The Bills are no doubt buoyed by the faith of a one-year deal and that T.O. is always on his best behavior in year one with a new franchise. Let's hope for the Bills' sake that trend continues.
As a former Bill, I am anxious to see how T.O. will fit in with the rest of the team and the city. The first two text messages I got back from Bills starters offered a pretty interesting dichotomy: One text said, "If it helps us win games I'm all for it ... can't have enough talent." The next one, however said, "I don't know him. I don't know what his character is really like." But that is T.O. in a nutshell, isn't it? The talent is undeniable. The drama and intrigue with his personality is always there. The man is a lightning rod for attention, and that is exactly the way he likes it.
But Buffalo? T.O. will bring his big-city ways to a decidedly mid-major environment and mentality. Glitz is out. Wings are in. Good-bye Vodka Martini. Hello Labatt Blue. It will be an adjustment, to be sure. I am sure T.O takes consolation in the fact that it is likely only a nine-month stop on his path back to being a major player on the NFL landscape. The funny thing is that, from the Bills' perspective, they might be just fine with that.
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