As Buffalo skidded into oblivion last season, owner Ralph Wilson said the Bills' problem was a lack of talent -- not coaching.
You sensed desperation from the 90-year-old Wilson, who has become a public enemy in these parts.
But now we know just how desperate he was.
The Buffalo Bills have signed controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens to a one-year, $6.5 million contract. After missing out on Laveranues Coles this past week, the receiving options were reduced to a bargain bin in free agency.
So Wilson is swung for the fences. T.O. is heading north. Get your popcorn ready.
"I must move on, and it's another beginning for me," Owens said. "If I can be that extra added piece to get them to the playoffs, then that's what I'm here for. I looked at the defensive side of ball and offensive side of the ball, and these guys have all the pieces."
For better or worse, signing Owens is one major shot of adrenaline. The Bills scored three points or less in three of their last four games in 2008 and the franchise's wheels have been spinning in the dirt all decade. The Bills haven't made the playoffs since 1999. A complement to deep-threat Lee Evans seemed like the first place to start.
Owens, 35, instantly changes the complexion of Buffalo's offense and the franchise in general.
The Bills figured they addressed their receiver need last year in the draft after taking 6-foot-5 James Hardy in the second round. Hardy struggled throughout his rookie season, though, and he suffered torn knee ligaments against the New York Jets in December. It's difficult to say when he'll he be ready to go, or if he's a long-term answer. Josh Reed is best suited as a No. 3 wideout in the slot and up-and-comer Steve Johnson could be a main contributor but not anytime soon.
There's no denying Owens' talent. Arguably no receiver has been as dominant this generation. In his 13-year career, Owens has 14,122 receiving yards and 139 touchdowns. His blend of athleticism, physical prowess and tenacity is something the wide receiver position has never seen before.
The decision to sign such a team-killer could prove genius. For the first time in his career, Lee Evans will face single coverage game-in and game-out. His pure speed could break out like never before. Trent Edwards' career could skyrocket. Running backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson could run wild.
But Owens has also caused the self-destruction of every team he's been on, alienating quarterbacks and coaches like no athlete ever. He's arguably the biggest individual cancer in the history of sports.
After public feuds with Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb, it's difficult to imagine him being an abiding citizen with a young quarterback developing under center. From tossing popcorn into his face after touchdowns to getting into fights with assistant coaches, Owens is notorious for putting himself above the team and splitting locker rooms. Maybe Edwards should enroll in a summer pyschology course at UB to prep for camp.
Beyond the eccentric attitude are questions about T.O.'s sheer production. His career may be on a sharp decline a la Marvin Harrison. Owens dropped 33 passes last season and only eclipsed 100 yards receiving in a game twice (once in a 44-6 blowout to Philadelphia).
So after three seasons worth of headaches, the Dallas Cowboys cut their star receiver.
"It's been a pretty couple of interesting days for myself," Owens said. "And now I must move on. This is another new beginning for me. I'm looking forward to this opportunity and helping this organization out."
Is Buffalo going to be any different for T.O.? The same city several primadonas like Willis McGahee blasted? With a young quarterback getting him the ball?
For one year, the Bills are throwing caution into the wind.
"A great day for the Buffalo Bills organization," said the team's COO Russ Brandon. "We're excited to have one of the premier playmakers in a playmakers' league."
After the team lost eight of its last 10 games, somehow retained head coach Dick Jauron and continues to hint at a move to Toronto, the fan base is fading fast. Signing Terrell Owens will shake things up immediately. St. John Fisher will resemble a circus, not a training camp. The lemmings of fans that cancelled their season tickets may crawl back.
And the Bills will be relevant again. Whether it's for the right reasons, we'll have to wait and see.
The microwave is set on high.
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