McNabb hungry to prove T.O. wrong
Beneath Eagles QB's joking demeanor, he's burning to have great season
By Don Pierson
It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact time when Terrell Owens felt irreversibly disrespected by Donovan McNabb.
It’s especially hard to believe Owens’ contention that it might have had something to do with him being open and not getting the ball, which he mentioned in his recent book. Not that Owens wasn’t open, of course, but this is the same book in which Owens contends he was misquoted.
But the time that makes the most sense in a rather senseless saga was after Owens got hurt during the 2004 season. Asked incessantly about the effect of losing his star receiver, McNabb pointed out that the Philadelphia Eagles had won games before Owens arrived and would win without him.
Whether McNabb was being sincere, naïve, insensitive or all of the above, his comments were enough to make Owens take notice. What? He’s saying I don’t matter? To Owens, it was a hurtful remark.
A more diplomatic and sensitive McNabb might have altered his answer to placate his mercurial teammate. He might have said something about how much the Eagles would miss their great superstar and how they wished him godspeed in his recovery and how they would do their best to struggle along in his absence. Instead, McNabb chose to buoy the spirits of the other receivers who would be taking Owens’ place.
The relationship was never the same.
Now McNabb has reason to feel disrespected. Owens continues to pour salt in old wounds to the extent that McNabb’s father has compared the receiver’s behavior to “black on black crime.” That’s serious stuff, enough to convince you that underneath McNabb’s humorous attempts to brush off Owens’ charges, there is a ticking time bomb. It is set to go off on Oct. 8, when Owens and his new Dallas Cowboys visit McNabb and the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Already, Owens has been reported to count his workout reps with the numbers 10 and 8 to constantly remind himself of Oct. 8. McNabb doesn’t even have to circle his calendar.
Recovered from surgery to correct the sports hernia that destroyed his 2005 season, McNabb is eager to make good on his comment that the Eagles won before Owens arrived. He has no choice in the matter.
According to Owens’ book, McNabb was jealous. Owens said when he told McNabb he was open in a game against the Giants, McNabb told him to shut up in the huddle.
Wrote Owens: “I was concerned that Donovan resented the fact that I was getting so much of the Philadelphia glory that used to be his. I wanted to believe that I was wrong. I wanted to believe that Donovan didn’t throw me the ball as coach Reid had called for because he made an honest mistake. ... I wasn’t trying to steal Donovan’s thunder; I was trying to make us a legendary tandem like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. That was what I wanted for us, but in that instant in the huddle I knew he wasn’t like Joe or Steve (Young). They were positive, respectful and encouraging in the huddle toward their receivers. ... The only thing I could think of was that he disliked all the credit I was getting on his team.”
McNabb’s version: “He told me, ‘Hey, I was open on that. Throw me the ball.’ And you guys believe that, I’m sure. I mean, you think about that.”
Owens implies that McNabb lost the Eagles’ locker room. But McNabb says, “I’ve never felt I lost the locker room and I don’t feel I need to get the locker room back. To be honest with you, the way that you win anything is by winning games. The way of handling it for me is just to get out on this football field, make plays and then win games.”
Owens claimed one of the Eagles’ offensive coaches told him McNabb gets tense in big games.
“It’s funny how they would just come to him,” McNabb said. “Why wouldn’t they just say something to me? To say that I can’t play in big games, I don’t think that’s a true statement at all, so I don’t get offended by anything he may have said in his book that he was misquoted.”
As for Owens’ implication that McNabb influenced management’s decision to suspend Owens, McNabb replied: “If I had that much pull, a lot of changes would be made.”
Presumably, one of the changes would have been to add more firepower after Owens departed. As much as McNabb might dislike Owens personally, he’s smart enough to admit: “He’s a great player. He works hard. He gets out on the field and makes plays. That’s all you ask.”
The Eagles added Jabar Gaffney, who caught 55 passes last season as the No. 2 receiver behind Andre Johnson in Houston. Obviously, coach Andy Reid’s hopes lie in the return to full health by running back Bryan Westbrook and McNabb.
To win without Owens, McNabb will have to remember that he did it with his legs as well as his arm. McNabb hates the thought of being labeled a mobile quarterback, but the truth is he was always more effective as a two-dimensional player. There are scouts who have turned skeptical about McNabb’s desire or ability to run as well as he once did. If he can’t or won’t, they fear he is no more than an average quarterback.
McNabb tried to play through injuries last season, but threw costly interceptions in the fourth quarter in each of his final three games. The last one was against the Cowboys. Safety Roy Williams returned it 46 yards for a touchdown with 2:43 left to lead the Cowboys to a 21-20 comeback victory that dropped the Eagles’ record to 4-5.
That’s the same Roy Williams’ whose 2004 “horse collar” tackle of Owens, now an illegal maneuver, injured the receiver and was the beginning of the end. Owens and Williams are now teammates, and it’s McNabb against the world.
“The good thing in life is that you can put the past behind you and move on and kind of create your own future,” McNabb said. “This team is definitely hungry. This team is looking forward to getting out there and answering the critics.”
Nobody is hungrier than McNabb, not even Owens.