The Bills made the biggest splash of the weekend by signing controversial star receiver Terrell Owens. The wideout takes his high profile to one of the NFL's smallest markets. For the first time in years, the Bills are generating headlines. What to make of this huge acquisition by a divison rival?
This move is baffling in many respects. There is no question Owens is better than what the Bills started across from Lee Evans in 2008. One still has to question the wisdom of the decision. Owens has shown himself to be a lousy teammate and a locker room disruption to say the least his entire career. It would be one thing to take the chance on a volatile personality if the Bills were one player away. They are not. Buffalo is coming off a horrific collapse to end the season. None of the seven wins the Bills registered in 2008 was against a winning team. The coach's job is in jeopardy. The quarterback is young and still trying to establish himself as a franchise guy. There is no culture of winning with strong willed leaders that will demand Owens conform. The owner's unbridled courtship of T.O. has made the receiver the most important player in the franchise. Nobody has the credibility to demand anything from him. This player who has a reputation for selfish behavior, dividing locker rooms, and undermining coaches now has all the power.
Nobody can say for sure exactly how important chemistry is in proportion to talent, but there is no question it is a factor. The Cowboys missed the Playoffs despite having as much talent as any team in the league because their locker room was not cohesive. There may have been a lot of talent, but that talent did not come together to form a quality team. In any walk of life, people are more productive when they are on the same page with others with whom they work. Owens seems to relish putting himself in the spotlight even if it costs team unity. Adding him into a situation without structure is a recipe for disaster. Rebuilding clubs first must build a foundation to give risky players a stable environment. Building
Some might use the analogy of Randy Moss, a talented receiver who had been a problem before a change of scenery in the AFC East turned him into a model citizen. Owens has had two such chances already. He made himself a locker room distraction for a Super Bowl contending Philadelphia club once he decided he wanted a new contract. That Philadelphia team had all the stability New England provided Moss. He was on a Super Bowl contender in Dallas, but he complained about getting the ball. Moss matured once he arrived in a great spot. Owens never did so. The Moss analogy might have worked for an argument for the Eagles signing him way back when. Now he is back in a place where he is the biggest show in town, and there is no stability.
The additions of Jim Leonhard and Lito Sheppard are now even bigger than they seemed at the time. The Jets already had to contend with Randy Moss and Wes Welker twice each season. Now there are two against Lee Evans and Owens. Even if there are no other elite receiver combos on the schedule, the Jets will be facing these challenges in 25% of the season. Rex Ryan is a gambler in his calls. His constant blitz calls leave his corners on their own. Darrelle Revis will likely draw the bigger homerun threat, Evans. Watching a receiver as smart as T.O. work against the inexperience of Dwight Lowery would have been agony. Owens brings a lot of issues, but he undoubtedly is still a pain for opposing defenses.
Many also now owe the Jets an apology. For the past year, a constant talking point among some observers has been the spending this team has done on veterans. Some claim this team spent foolishly looking for a quick fix. In reality, the team filled several gaping holes with high quality players in the prime of their career. Taking a receiver with this kind of baggage in his mid 30's is looking for a quick fix, not this.
In the end, this probably does not make the Bills significantly more dangerous as a threat within the division. However, they are a tougher matchup for the two games the teams will play. The Jets have done a nice job fortifying the secondary, and that is a very good thing.