CLEVELAND, Ohio – Forget for a moment who was at fault for Terrell Owens’ departure from Dallas. The reasons for the decision aren’t really relevant at this point.
It turned out to be the right move. The Cowboys were fortunate to have a readymade, drama-free replacement for T.O. already on the roster.
Miles Austin blossomed into one of the best receivers in the NFL last season, leading the NFC with 1,320 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in his breakout campaign.
“I’m proud of Miles and what he’s been able to accomplish,” T.O. said. “He has a hell of a career in front of him.”
Austin’s accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible unless the Cowboys parted ways with T.O. Austin wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to blossom.
If T.O. is on the roster, Austin doesn’t get the chance to start against the Kansas City Chiefs when Roy Williams stayed home to nurse sore ribs. Patrick Crayton, who was clearly ahead of Austin on the depth chart until No. 19 set a franchise record with 250 receiving yards that afternoon, would have been the fill-in starter.
Not that Austin was an afterthought at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys were always intrigued by his size and speed. They believed Austin, who had a grand total of 18 catches for 354 yards and three touchdowns in his first three seasons, could develop into a dangerous deep threat.
But the Cowboys had no idea Austin was on the verge of stardom. Oh, owner Jerry Jones gushed in the spring of 2009 about Austin having the potential to replace T.O.’s production, but that was typical Jerry hyperbole. Austin would have entered the season as the starter – or at least been allowed to compete for the job in training camp – if the Cowboys were that high on him.
“I mean, we always knew he had skills,” said cornerback Terence Newman, who had practiced against Austin every day for the previous three years. “But as far as what he did last year, I didn’t know he could do it like that.”
The Cowboys might never have found out if they didn’t cut T.O.