Friday, October 10, 2003
Updated: October 12, 1:45 AM ET
Owens, Garcia on the mend
By Steve Young
Special to ESPN.com
The relationship between a quarterback and his No. 1 wide receiver is symbiotic. Each needs to be in sync with the other to obtain a mutual goal.
It's like having a dance partner with whom you rely on to know your every move. It can be a beautiful, fulfilling, yet terrifying experience -- especially when you're up against 11 opposing players who are getting paid to kill you.
I'm not going soft, but I can tell you firsthand that the quarterback-wide receiver relationship should be harmonious and refined. Clearly, that hasn't been the case in San Francisco with Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens.
But every relationship has its pitfalls. When things go wrong, like most relationships, the person closest to you usually bears the biggest brunt.
Luckily for the Niners, there is no better therapy than combining for a touchdown. And no matter what the grievances are off the field, once you're on it, there is too much pressure to perform to be concerned about outside issues. No matter how bad the internal conflict, there's an overwhelming and overriding external force working against you. So whatever the issue is, it simply goes away.
But there are subtle, subconscious, lingering effects that you can't completely control ... and those things do affect the ballgame.
Both Garcia and Owens are under constant pressure and are highly scrutinized -- that comes with the territory. But in this case, there are also lot of other factors contributing to the breakdown in communication and understanding between them.
First, this is a contract year for Owens. He's reading the tea leaves and recognizing he won't likely be back in San Francisco next season. Meanwhile, he needs to play well to get that big contract, wherever he may land.
Added to his frustration, Owens was promised in the offseason more opportunities to display his talents. Under new head coach Dennis Erickson, the plan was to attack more laterally, as the Vikings do with Randy Moss. But over the last few months, that plan hasn't exactly materialized.
The 49ers took a risk bringing in Erickson, who's not a prodigy of the "West Coast" offense like his predecessors for the past 25 years. Although he is a great coach, he's not someone who rests underneath the tree of an offensive system rich in history.
Garcia's strengths are suited for that "West Coast" style. He needs a running game so he can play-action pass, move around and get outside of the pocket, where he's deadly. Meanwhile, Owens' mentality is to get him the ball any which way you can. He needs the fulfillment of beating coverages because he knows he's better than anyone who matches up against him.
Finally, tack on multiple offensive line injuries and Garcia's back problems -- put 'em all in a pot and it's a pretty messy deal. Anyone can clearly see where the situation has become bleak for Owens.
Of course, it doesn't help that Owens has become his own worst enemy. His self-appointed role as victim has only served to work against him. Constant bickering wears people out. Eventually, they start to lose interest in the cause -- no matter how valid the grievances are. So, as if things weren't difficult enough, T.O. threw himself into the pool of problems that need to be solved.
The good news is that their relationship appears to be on the mend. Garcia is a blue-collar quarterback who will continue to work until he and Owens get these problems rectified. The future is now for the 49ers, who are 2-3, and they can't afford to let things fester in Owens' mind.
Ultimately, both players know that to succeed on Sundays they need each other.