As I was getting ready to drift off into never-never land last night, I took a look at the 'Zone news feed, just to make sure that I hadn't missed anything ground breaking...and what I read was enough to give me nightmares. According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Terrell Owens hasn't ruled out a return to the San Francisco 49ers. As I lay down, I tried in vain to reconcile what T.O.'s return would mean...but couldn't come up with a single positive.
Catches, Yards, and Points...Why Not?
I can already hear the chorus of shrieks rising up from the "T.O. remnant" of the 49er faithful: "AJ, are you insane? T.O. set almost all of his career highs here in San Francisco! Can you imagine what he could do for our offense?" Yes. I can imagine what Owens would bring to the table. He'd bring spectacular catches, lots of yards, and even a few TDs. As nice as that sounds...the allure of Owens' potential stats just don't make his return a plus for the Niners. You see kids, high priced free agents do not create winners...just ask Daniel Snyder. Oh...and if you were thinking that Terrell might wax sentimental and come to San Francisco for a bargain basement price...think again. This is T.O. we're talking about, remember? So the question becomes a simple one: Should the Niners pay top dollar for a 36-year old prima donna that has sown discord in every locker room that he's spent time in over his 14-year career? The answer is no. Hell no.
In Through the Out Door?
For the more detail challenged reading this right now, let me remind you of the particulars of T.O.'s exit from San Francisco. The year before he left, T.O.'s on-going feud with Head Coach Steve Mariucci played a huge part in Mariucci's firing at the end of the 2002 season...which set off a string of losing seasons the team is still enduring. After growing tired of catching passes from Jeff Garcia and sensing that the Dennis Erikson era would border on pathetic, T.O. decided that he wanted out. After failing to file the proper paperwork to become a free agent, TO was traded to the Ravens for a 2nd round pick...a move the T.O. fought tooth and nail to have overturned. T.O. went to the NFLPA and the media. Terry Donahue, the worst GM in the history of modern sports, was outmaneuvered, outgunned, and ultimately outfoxed. After what seemed an interminable amount of p*ssing and moaning, the trade was overturned, Owens was granted a trade to the Eagles, and the 49ers were granted a 7th round pick, and "also ran" defensive end Brandon Whiting. All of the aforementioned begs the question: If Owens was to return, would he create as much drama on his way in as he did on his way out? You bet he would.
The Process of Building a Winner
The 49ers are at a critical point in their development under Head Coach Mike Singletary and newly anointed honcho, Jed York. As with all things, building a winning football team is a formulaic thing...and unless the proper process is followed, the formula for creating a winner can come out all wrong. To this point in the 49ers latest iteration, the team has identified its quarterback for at least the next few seasons, has identified its star runner, its number one wide out, its number one tight end, and the major players in the front 7 of its defense. Given what we know about T.O., it would be safe to assume that he would demand to be thrown at...and that would take touches away from Crabtree, Davis, and Gore. Given the strife T.O. has had with entrenched starters Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo, is it safe to assume that he would likely butt heads with newly reinvented Alex Smith? Yes...almost definitely. This team is in a dangerous place right now...where even the slightest misstep could destroy chemistry that has taken a season and a half to build.
So, 49er fans...are you ready for bench presses in the driveway? Are you ready for posing on the star? Are you ready for tears at the postgame podium? Are you ready for alligator arms, sideline temper tantrums, and spontaneous press conferences? I'm not...and if you care about the future of this franchise, you shouldn't be, either. The 49ers are a team on the come...but are they a team that will be made better with the addition of an aging, overpriced, overly vocal superstar that has proven his acuity at acting like a petulant child when he doesn't get his way? No. Not by a long shot.