Would you want T.O. on your roster?
As James Walker indicated Thursday on the AFC North blog, we recently surveyed NFL head coaches on a variety of topics. In exchange for candid answers and brief eye contact, we granted them anonymity.
Coaches were asked to name a Pro Bowl-caliber player they wouldn't want on their roster. In a vote that would not have surprised me two years ago, Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens received 14 out of 20 votes. (The other coaches declined to answer this question).
Chad Johnson, who is coming off a strenuous offseason of pouting, only received three votes. And the most notorious man not officially in the league, Adam Jones, received one vote. I think the low turnout for Jones has a lot to do with most of the coaches not considering him a Pro Bowl-caliber player after sitting out an entire season.
But the fact that 14 coaches said they wouldn't want arguably the second-best receiver in the game seems somewhat misguided. I've been one of T.O.'s harshest critics over the years, but other than an accidental overdose, he hasn't been much of a distraction for the Cowboys.
Former head coach Bill Parcells and wide receivers coach Todd Haley never warmed to T.O., but from my perspective, that was just as much their fault as his. When quarterback Drew Bledsoe sent T.O. a text that said, "Stay with me" following a poor game, you had a feeling that the relationship had already fizzled.
But once Bledsoe was benched, T.O. fell hopelessly in love with Tony Romo. The relationship has remained strong, as evidenced by the receiver's tearful defense of Romo following a playoff loss against the Giants last season.
The reality is that Owens has become a positive presence in the locker room. He's close to Romo, but he's also kept up his tradition of befriending low-profile players such as receiver Sam Hurd, whom he's mentored since the beginning of the 2006 training camp.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but T.O. has blended into a locker room that includes Romo, Tank Johnson and now Jones. Chad Johnson has always been supremely talented and quirky, but over the past couple of seasons, he's come across as petty and selfish at times. While he was stumping for a trade this offseason, T.O. was patiently waiting for a contract extension.
He never once seem worried about being in the final year of his contract because he trusted that owner Jerry Jones would take care of him. With that in mind, are there really 14 head coaches in the NFL who wouldn't want this guy on their roster?
My guess is that Owens is still the first name that comes to mind on this type question. But if the coaches thought for a little longer, I think there are more viable options.
The survey question was further debated Friday on "First Take."