On Wednesday, 108 players from the modern era were nominated to be in the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class. While there are obvious choices for enshrinement (Brett Farve) and players who clearly have no chance at the Hall (Darren Sharper anyone?), the most difficult decision among the nominees has to be a certain wide receiver who was one of the most gifted of his time, and one of the most controversial of his time; Terrell Owens. Is this player, who finished his career behind only Randy Moss in career receiving yards, and third in career touchdown receptions a first ballot Hall of Famer?

The numbers are undeniable. A six-time Pro Bowler, five time first team All-Pro, nine seasons of over 1000 receiving yards, eight seasons of over 10 touchdown receptions, leading the league three times over a 15 year career. He is the oldest player in league history to have a touchdown reception of over 76 yards, which he had when he with Buffalo, a 98 yard touchdown from Ryan Fitzpatrick at the age of 35 years, 350 days. He is also only the sixth player in history to have 1000 receptions in a career.

But during his career he was just as well-known for his on and off field antics, some of which were totally unbecoming of what is thought of for a Hall of Famer. His touchdown celebrations crossed the line of good taste over and over, from dancing on the Dallas Cowboys’ midfield star as a member of the 49ers, to taking a sharpie out of his shoe and autographing the ball, to celebrating with the cheerleaders, to mocking opposing players and coaches during his routines, many of which drew excessive celebration penalties and fines from the league. It’s also hard to deny the controversy that ensued and caused his exit from both the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles. He made comments implying that his former quarterback Jeff Garcia was a homosexual, which directly led the 49ers to want to rid themselves of him and trade him to the Eagles, who had no idea what they were in for.

While he was a large part of why the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl in 2004, after they lost to the Patriots it was all down hill, as he went on a local radio show and said if he had it to do all over again he never would have signed with Philadelphia. When the Eagles were losing to Dallas in Philadelphia, Owens was seen by reporters after the game wearing a Michael Irvin throwback jersey, and after weeks of buildup, got into a fight with Eagles’ team leader Hugh Douglas due to his antics. He then went on ESPN and berated the Eagles for not recognizing his 100th career touchdown, and called them a classless organization, before he made his now infamous comments degrading his quarterback Donovan McNabb. It basically ended his career with Philadelphia, as they suspended him for four games and was left inactive for the rest of the season.

While he went on to have success in Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati, the stigma of these actions always stayed with him. He never played in another Super Bowl, and suffered through the Cowboys’ disappointment in the playoffs. Though he never openly bashed his teammates again, and the Cowboys players and owner Jerry Jones did speak highly of him during his tenure, he did have a tense relationship with his coach Bill Parcells, who often referred to him in press conferences as simply ‘The Player.’

Terrell Owens will probably be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but the question is does he make it on the first ballot. There are numerous example of players who had the numbers to justify enshrinement but were denied access their first time on the ballot due to character reservations, whether it be Cris Carter (who made it his sixth year as a finalist) or current returning nominee Marvin Harrison, who was also considered one of the best receivers during the same time as Owens, but was rumored to have gang ties throughout his career, which helped lead to a premature end of his career after he was released from Indianapolis in 2008. Also, given the plethora of unsportsmanlike conduct from players who will be eligible for enshrinement over the next few years (including Randy Moss and Chad Johnson), the league may look to set an example with Owens and deny the honor on his first year as a finalist just so they can say they put their foot down and made a statement about that player’s personal conduct, before they honor him for his on-field achievements. I believe this is the route they will take, and it will come as no surprise to me if Owens name is not called as a Hall of Famer this year, but next year instead.

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