Buffalo Bills fans have reason to be optimistic about the upcoming football season, all thanks to last weekend's signing of controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens. Despite insulting his former teammates and dividing every locker room he has ever been in, the aging wideout is still one of the best deep threats in the game, drawing double teams to open up the field for speedy receivers like Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish.
"T.O." is second all-time in receiving touchdowns, behind only Jerry Rice, and has had over 1,000 receiving yards every year this decade except 2005, in which he played only seven games. His presence on the field can turn an average offense into one of the best in the league.
Owens has had an immediate impact on each new team he has joined. In his first year with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004, he led them to a 13-1 record in his starts and helped them reach the Super Bowl after they had lost three consecutive NFC championship games.
In 2006, Owens' first season with the Cowboys, he helped them reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons despite the team changing quarterbacks halfway through the season. During Owens' first full season with Tony Romo as quarterback, the Cowboys finished with the best record in the NFC at 13-3.
Teams show drastic declines without Owens' presence. In 2004, Owens' former team, the San Francisco 49ers, dropped from being playoff contenders to having the worst record in the NFL. The next season, the Eagles were 4-3 until Owens was suspended, causing them to finish in last place in their division, 6-10.
T.O.'s on-field success has been tampered by his status as the most controversial player in the NFL. Every quarterback Owens has ever played with has made multiple Pro Bowls, but he has also called out every one of them with a variety of grievances - usually for not getting him the ball enough. His antics have divided locker rooms and ultimately been the reason for his departure from every team he has played for thus far.
All of Owens' problems with his quarterbacks, however, have only occurred after Owens played a couple of years with the team. Owens' problems with Jeff Garcia and the 49ers didn't come until his fourth year with Garcia at quarterback. In Philadelphia, he got along great with Donovan McNabb until the middle of his second season. T.O. and Romo had a great relationship on the Cowboys until the middle of Owens' third year with the team when he accused Romo and tight end Jason Witten of creating secret plays to keep the ball away from him.
In contrast, the Bills have only signed Owens to a one-year contract. Hopefully this will allow them to have his abilities on the field without dividing the team. But if he does have a negative impact, there is no chance that he will be able to sign another contract with any other team in the NFL.
Trent Edwards has the arm strength and accuracy to get the ball to T.O. down the field enough to keep him happy, while opening up the field for guys like Evans, Parrish, and Marshawn Lynch. In 2009, expect the Bills to be serious contenders for the AFC East title and the Super Bowl.