In honor of this weekend's NFL training camp openings, I thought I'd take a look at position players I most usually don't focus on, Wide Receivers. I'm generally more interested in strategies and team play. But WRs are the knights of a team in a game of kings, queens and guillotines, and I tend to give them short shrift. They can change a game in seconds. In truth, they are the best athletes on the field, agile, fleet and powerful. And they tend to unbelievable arrogance. So allow me to offer my not-so-humble (or intellectual) opinion of some of the best. Are they good receivers or just Prima Donnas?
Terrell Owens: Fancy Pants.
Owens is possibly one of the most perfect specimens of the human species ever to exist. He is also impossible to work with. He has damaged or destroyed the career of almost every single quarterback his taint has touched. Jeff Garcia, who could have been a truly terrific model of the field general quarterback will and has gone into obscurity because of Owens. Donovan McNabb ended up under-appreciated by far because of Terrell Owens' weak play with a legitimate HOF quarterback. Tony Romo barely weathered the storm of Owens, and the Dallas locker room was in complete disarray with his presence.
All of it boils down to one thing. Owens is so very good at the position that his role has been and will remain the greatest decoy in the history of the NFL. I have said often that Owens could have been the only person to challenge Jerry Rice for the receiving title of the NFL. He never will. And that's what slays him. His hands are very very good. He could have been one of the best. But he expected that he could accomplish anything, even while being triple-teamed. If you are that good, it makes sense that other teams will waste resource thwarting you while your team wins by throwing elsewhere. Isn't that obvious?
The best move Terrell Owens could have made, which he did, was to go to a team like Cincinnati with a legitimate Pro-Bowl quarterback and another super-star receiver like ...
Chad Ochocinco: Fancy Pants.
Chad's good. He's real good. But now he has a problem. He has to share facetime with Terrell Owens. Owens is the greatest decoy in the history of the game, which should mean that Chad will get the bulk of the receptions. It won't matter. He won't be able to look as good, or be as impressive to the press, as Terrell will. They will gravitate to Owens. The Bengals will benefit, both monetarily and with wins. But Chad will be overshadowed by Owens. Dueling drama queen decoys, if you will. I'll be surprised if this team survives the year without some trade or break up. 85 isn't as good as Owens, but he wants to be. The survival of the Bengals is all on him. I will change my opinion if he becomes the team player and accepts the responsibility of being the target in a game with a decoy. If he becomes the decoy, there is no chance for Cincy.
Brandon Marshall: Both
I really don't know what to say about this guy. He isn't a team player. But his skills are undeniable. In the rare moments that the Broncos spread the field, he could catch anything thrown to him. Anything. He could catch the short ball as well. Anything. He isn't the fastest; far from it. And I don't know how well he'll do with a Miami team that favors power running. He's somewhat of a blocker, sometimes. But he definitely has that Prima Donna attitude. He's one of the best reasons to pay attention to the AFC East this year. It is my NSHB that he could be a challenger for the best of all time.
Andre Johnson: Fancy Hands
If Houston actually achieves their goal of a playoff berth, it will be because Johnson has had the very workman like season he showed last. Attitudinally and otherwise, I think he may be the best receiver in the NFL right now. A lot may depend on whether defenses see the same in the coming season.
Vincent Jackson: Fancy Pants
The only reason this guy has acclaim is because his support comes from a great quarterback and the leagues best tight end. He's mediocre, not that he thinks he is.
Mile Austin: All work and fancy hands
Be scared of this guy.
Randy Moss. Fancy Hands.
The best of a tiny subset of best. He is the best receiver currently playing the game. The best thing that could have happened to him, of course, is that he is coached by Belichick and thrown to by Brady. He is the elite of the elite. Everyone knows that the Patriots will throw to Moss, and they throw to Moss, and he scores. That's the great difference between himself and Terrell Owens. Owens whines about coverage. Moss just beats it. I really hate Randy Moss. But now, after shedding his Me First bullshit, he is the best in the game. And yeah, I still hate him for that.