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Terrell Owens’ case for the Hall of Fame is unimpeachable

Only Jerry Rice has more receiving yards than T.O. among Hall of Fame receivers

The 48 professional Football Hall of Fame voters act as the custodians of the sport’s history. Their opinions shape the narrative of the game and choose the characters whose physical and mental sacrifices will be immortalized in NFL. We should expect more from them. They are the closest thing football has to Supreme Court justices. Exploring their most recent high-profile snub has helped me find a solution.

I sat down with the intent to make a persuasive case for Terrell Owens’ Hall of Fame candidacy, but there is almost no one to persuade. Most reasonable football fans and journalists believe that T.O. is one of the three to five best receivers in pro football history and deserves to be among his peers in Canton, Ohio.

Compared with the 25 players in the Hall of Fame who are listed as receivers, Owens’ case is unimpeachable. Only one Hall of Famer has more receiving yards or touchdowns than Owens. That would be Jerry Rice, who is one of four receivers to have gotten in on the first opportunity. T.O., who has been denied twice and could be rejected again on Saturday, has more receptions than all but four owners of the prestigious gold jacket. And only two Hall of Fame receivers were named first team All-Pro more than T.O.

Yet Owens was dismissed before even making the final 10 in 2016 and ’17. In an interview in 2016, Hall of Fame voter Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, who voted against Owens, intimated that Owens couldn’t even garner votes from half of the room. He needs 80 percent of the vote to be inducted. After the vote last year, ESPN’s Jim Trotter tweeted:

So, I would not have high hopes for T.O.’s 2018 candidacy. But I commend Trotter and Myers for their transparency.

Myers wasn’t the only voter brave enough to announce his anti-Owens vote. Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and Buffalo News reporter Vic Carucci gave voice to the Owens opposition. They justified their votes by dubbing Owens a bad teammate. T.O. made his opinion known via Twitter:

Several sports journalists, Hall of Famers and former teammates vouched for Owens and exposed the flimsy nature of the “bad teammate” argument when weighed against T.O.’s overwhelming on-field production.

The Hall of Fame should require that all voters make their votes public and write Supreme Court-esque opinions on each of the finalists, defending their decision to include or exclude each candidate. Rather than all 48 voters writing separate and redundant decisions, they can choose to sign on to a colleague’s prevailing or dissenting opinion. There should be at least two opinions written for every player unless the vote was unanimous. This would give voters incentive to throughly and objectively assess the candidates. And it would allow for the thought processes and track records of the voters to be fairly evaluated. Unlike Supreme Court justices, a Hall of Fame voter’s term doesn’t have to be indefinite. If written opinions were a part of the selection process, T.O. would already have a bronze bust.

To most people, who gets in the Hall of Fame is irrelevant and doesn’t warrant Supreme Court treatment. But for the potential inductees, it not only affects their potential future earnings, but it is validation of a lifetime’s work.

Myers bravely shared his opinion last year in an email to Pro Football Talk Live’s Mike Florio and gave Florio permission to publish it. Here it is if you want to see it. It is quite interesting, but the following paragraph made me chuckle:

“I think I know what a Hall of Famer looks like. T.O. will be in the Hall of Fame. Just because he didn’t get into the HOF the first or second year doesn’t mean the process needs to be overhauled. Michael Irvin didn’t get in the HOF until his third year and I could easily make a case he was a better player than T.O. For sure, if I had a choice of having one of them on my team, I would take Irvin. Not even close in my mind.”

If you are not smiling yet, look at their career statistical comparison:

Michael Irvin

Receptions 750
Rec. Yards 11,904
Touchdowns 65
1st Team All-Pro 1
Pro Bowls 5

Terrell Owens

Receptions 1,078
Rec. Yards 15,934
Touchdowns 153
1st Team All-Pro 5
Pro Bowls 6

Still not laughing? OK, let me leave you with this comparison. Owens was hard on his quarterbacks and his antics were designed to bring more money and attention to himself. Irvin used a pair of scissors to stab teammate Everett McIver in the neck, centimeters from his carotid artery, because McIver, a fifth-year player, refused to get up mid-haircut and allow Irvin to get his hair cut. Now I ask you, who do you want on your team?

Domonique Foxworth is a writer at The Undefeated. He is a recovering pro athlete and superficial intellectual.