Struggling T.O. is detriment

Terrell Owens' sluggish play derails the development of James Hardy and Steve Johnson. Now that Hardy is back, Buffalo must consider shrinking Owens' role in the offense. The Bills must see what they have in these two young wideouts, says BFR's Tyler Dunne...

Please don't tell me you were at the airport for Terrell Owens' grand arrival. And if you were, lie to me. Please.

Eight games in, it should be a consensus. The experiment failed. It's time to wean Owens to the sideline. Time to bench a dwindling star, much like Allen Iverson was weaned out of the lineup in the NBA. Owens' presence delays the development of Buffalo's other receivers.

Let's stop wasting time. Owens is not what he used to be — especially on this team with this quarterback. Eight games is ample proof. Buffalo's passing game ranks 30th in the league. Owens ranks 79th in receptions. The Bills are 3-5.

Has there ever been a more crowded receiving corps in the NFL that has been so unproductive? Despite being frat-party crowded at wide receiver, the Bills haven't struck any fear into any defenses. Enough is enough. With James Hardy healthy and Steve Johnson waiting, Owens must be escorted to the sideline. He isn't the put-this-offense-over-the-top playmaker everybody thought he was.

To the slot he must go.

Owens will not be on this team next year. Not a chance. That much was clear the day he signed. From day one, this was a one-year job interview for one last multi-million dollar contract. Now that Owens' production has skidded to an all-time low, there's no shot he'll be here next year. His agent ripped the Bills on the radio, no doubt in a sleazy effort to tell all other teams that Owens' putrid numbers aren't his fault. Rather, Buffalo's. Rosenhaus is already lining his excuses up for the 31 other NFL teams, praying another team will take the bait.

So why should Buffalo waste its time starting Owens? It's not healthy for the long-term. Give Hardy and Johnson time. They're younger, fresher and starving for reps.

"I feel great," Hardy told The Buffalo News. "This is the best I've ever felt, period. My knee is healthy. I've stepped up my game mentally, and I'm more involved. I know everything that's going on now. I'm ready to help this team. This week."

In two seasons, Hardy has not delivered. In part to injuries. In part to ineffectiveness. Now that he's healthy and hungry, the Bills must give him a chance. Same for Johnson — a physical, across-the-middle receiver that teased in cameo appearances last season. With Owens, this duo is unjustly handcuffed to the sideline. It'd be one thing if Owens was lighting it up. He isn't. He is a woefully average receiver incapable of getting separation on cornerbacks. Any wideout on Buffalo's roster could have his numbers given equal amount of snaps.

Owens has been a colossal disappointment. Time for everyone — even the giddy goobers at the airport — to face the obvious.

Ironically, we're seeing the same exact thing in the NBA. The Bills should take a page out of the Detroit Pistons playbook and stand up to a fading star. After trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson for salary-cap purposes, the Pistons had no problem making A.I. come off the bench. He was not better than Rodney Stuckey. The Pistons knew Stuckey's growth was more important than coddling an over-the-hill "star."

Like Allen Iverson, Terrell Owens' role must be diminished.
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Iverson complained of course. In his mind, he was still an all-star. The Pistons didn't budge. The ensuing offseason, the Memphis Grizzlies were the only team to give Iverson a contract. And already, the lowly Griz benched Iverson. Memphis refuses to let A.I. slice into Mike Conley's minutes. Now Iverson is AWOL.

Same case here. T.O. is A.I. North — ornery, past his prime, overpaid and stunting the progress of younger players.

If Owens refuses to accept a lesser role, so be it. Let him swim in his own pool of tears. The Bills owe him nothing. They're already overpaying for him. Why let the bleeding pour onto the field? It's in the team's best interest to render Owens as a slot receiver. Bring him in on third downs and obvious passing situations. Rotate Hardy and Johnson in more. Give both a hefty sampling of the pro game. You need to know if they're NFL ready for next season.

Funny thing is, this isn't even rebuilding. There's a good chance Hardy or Johnson would be more productive than Terrell Owens—a reality no one could have imagined back when Owens was making a terrible T.V. show, slapping his face on cereal boxes and stealing the No. 81 from a teammate.




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