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Games People Pay 3.22.2006

By Rick Racela

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY-3-22
 
Owens Signing Adds Off-Season Intrigue
Amidst the greatest multi-week sports spectacle of the calendar year, area jock talk is still dominated by the dormant sport.  The NFL remains the number one barstool agenda despite another thrilling and upset-laden NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
In a move not so difficult to figure out, the Dallas Cowboys landed free agent Terrell Owens after the star wide receiver was finally released by the Eagles.  Cowboy owner and general manager Jerry Jones, an Arkansas oilman, couldn’t resist the opportunity to make huge headlines in football’s version of the “Hot Stove League.”
As they say in the investment and labor businesses, this move is “high risk and high reward.”  Owens is undoubtedly the best playmaking wide-out in the game.  He is a unique blend of speed, strength and skill with an uncanny knack for clearing coverage despite the bull’s eye between the eight and the one on his jersey.
A true superstar makes plays even though everyone knows he’s the “go-to” guy. A true superstar makes plays on the biggest stages.  Owens cemented his glory and his fate with a remarkable nine catch, 123-yard Super Bowl performance two years ago. 
And he achieved those statistics despite returning post-haste from a broken bone in his ankle area.  But true to form, that universally televised performance also ignited his unconquerable ego and allowed low-life agent Drew Rosenhaus to swoop down and create controversy and argumentation where once there was an exciting playoff run to glory for a championship-starved city.
So, what do we make of this latest development?
Eagles’ fans are chomping for bigger and better names to sign on the dotted line in free agency.  Team management appears to be holding the course that led to four conference championship games in the last five years. 
Their approach brings to mind a line from the modern-day Scrooge portrayed by former Happy Days actor, Henry Winkler, in the holiday remake, “An American Christmas Carol.”    As miserly Ebenezer is about to terminate the employment of his overly compassionate employe, Winkler sneers at his subordinate and says, “And never, never pay a man a penny more than he is worth.”
The Eagles subscribe to the Ebenezer theory of economics.  It’s brought them financial flexibility to strike when the market moves them to do so.  Only this year, the big fish, an interior lineman from the embattled New Orleans Saints named LeCharles Bentley, took hometown money from his native Cleveland and became a Brown instead of what was reported as an inevitable signing for Philadelphia.
That rejection began the delayed free agency period on a sour note for Eagle Nation.  The last-minute completion of a new collective bargaining agreement also hurt Philadelphia, which was poised well below the previous salary cap to strike it rich in free agency because other squads would be forced to release and certain not add players under the current spending lid.  
But the new deal raised the cap by about $10 million and freed up other clubs to go after or keep big name players.
Couple the perception that the Eagles have not enjoyed an effective free agency signing period with the inking of Owens in Big D and we have mutiny among the ranks.
The fan base is howling and talk radio is chirping.  Dallas, of all teams, secured Owens – the hated Cowboys.  The ghosts of Staubach and Aikman, of Dorsett and Irvin, of Landry and Schramm, had struck again.
Calmer voices tell us that it’s far too early to know what will happen.  As expected, a relatively contrite Owens spoke of conciliation with his new squad and management.  He spoke the word “team” as if he truly understood the meaning of the word.  Some in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and even Baltimore, beg to differ.
Owens is a flamboyant talent now working for a flamboyant owner and a big boss coach.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens when a pass falls short, or sails long or never gets released because the aging quarterback with the star on his helmet is flat on his back.
Cowboy coach Bill Parcells is old school.  He likes the running game and maximum pass protection.  Owens will be forced to block as well as run and catch.  And he’d better hope that Drew Bledsoe stays healthy because there’s no Clint Longley waiting on the bench to come in and ignite the vertical passing game Owens craves.
Despite a 6-10 2005 campaign, the current Eagles’ management team has earned this writer’s faith for at least another year.  A healthy and active Donovan McNabb can make all of the difference.
Could the Eagle quarterback have handled the Owens situation better?  Probably.  Can McNabb regain his status as one of the game’s most athletic and playmaking quarterbacks?  Certainly. 
It remains to be seen what will happen in Dallas with Owens and in Philadelphia with McNabb.  But one thing’s for sure.  It’s never dull, even when the opening kickoff is still about six months away.

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