By the end of the 2009 season, most assumed that wide receiver Terrell Owens had little, if anything left in the gas tank. Apparently, first-year Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix was among the doubters. He made the decision weeks before free agency began last winter that the Bills would not make an attempt to re-sign Owens, making him a one-and-done player.
It wasn’t that Owens furthered damaged his reputation while in Buffalo. He was on his best behavior and at times almost robotic with the media and his “I’m just going with the plays that are called” verbiage. Rather, it was concluded because Owens’ time in Buffalo would end because at age 36 his best football was long behind him and the team was ready to give other, younger guys an opportunity.
His statistics certainly backed Nix’s thinking. Owens had 55 receptions for 829 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games for Buffalo. The touchdown total was his lowest since 1999 and the 55 catches his fewest since his rookie season in 1996.
As it turns out, both parties have benefited by Nix’s call.
By essentially promoting unproven Stevie Johnson into a starting role, Nix took a big chance. It’s paid off.
After a slow start to the season, Johnson has become arguably Buffalo’s go-to receiver. He’s up to 41 receptions for 554 yards and six touchdowns. He has a legitimate chance to break Billy Brooks’ team record of 11 touchdown catches in a season. He’s grabbed 24 passes over his last three games, including a career-high 11 last Sunday against Chicago.
The Bills also have plenty of young, untapped talent in rookies David Nelson and Marcus Easley, although Easley saw his season end before it began with a knee injury. Plus, Roscoe Parrish got an opportunity in this Chan Gailey offense and was having a career year before a broken wrist suffered on Sunday officially ended his campaign Monday.
None of that probably happens if Owens was still in town.
Meanwhile, Owens is having a monster season for a vastly overrated Cincinnati Bengals team. Expected to contend for an AFC Championship, the Bengals are just 2-6 and ready to make tee times at the same golfing resort the Bills will be occupy the day after the regular season ends. But that’s certainly not Owens’ fault. In only eight games, Owens has already matched his 2009 Bills reception total (55) and has 770 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s on pace to have more receiving yards than any season in his career as well as matching a career-high for touchdown receptions.
After nearly talking and griping his way out of the league two years ago, Owens is proving he’s still one of the game’s best players. He’s leading the AFC in receiving yards and is third in the NFL. Should he decide to keep playing beyond this year, he should have no problem getting another contract.
Not bad for an old man. In fact, it was a win-win for both parties.