The last time Terrell Owens caught a pass from Donovan MacNabb was in a 2005 game against the Denver Broncos, when Owens juked all-pro Champ Bailey on his way to a 91-yard touchdown catch.
Despite the fact that 11 years have passed since Owens last put on an Eagles jersey, his falling out with the team and McNabb after just two seasons remains a hot topic among some Eagles fans, especially considering the lackluster play at wide receiver for the past few seasons.
So when Owens appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic on Wednesday, it’s only natural he was asked what exactly happened among him, the organization and McNabb that caused such a prolific partnership to crumble so quickly.
“I think it was just the way the city embraced me as opposed to when he got drafted and they booed him, and things like that may have weighed on him,” Owens told hosts Mike Missanelli and Anthony Gargano. “To be in that stadium and have 70,000 fans chant my name, “T.O., T.O.,” maybe that got under his skin a little bit.”
Owens said McNabb was supported by the team, and when the two had a falling out, Owens quickly became the organization’s scapegoat.
“I felt like [McNabb] didn’t have my back in certain situations,” Owens said, noting that other players know he tried to be a good teammate but weren’t able to speak out about it at the time. One of his former teammates, running back Brian Westbrook, was on the show with Missanelli, and said only that Owens was “a great teammate.”
“I think everyone sees and knows that it really wasn’t my fault,” Owens said. “Donovan was their guy. I was pretty much the scapegoat.”
Owens painted himself as a victim, but he certainly contributed to the situation, famously telling former Cowboys wide receiver and ESPN analyst Michael Irvin that the Eagles would be better off with Brett Favre as their quarterback, something McNabb told ESPN was akin to a “black-on-black crime.”
"In that situation, it was kinda like, 'That's unreal.' That's just like me saying, 'If we had Steve Largent, if we had Joe Jurevicius, we'd be undefeated,” McNabb said earlier this year, using two white wide receivers to underscore his point. "And to say if we had Brett Favre, that could mean that if you had another quarterback of a different descent or ethnic background, we could be winning. That's something I thought about and said, 'Wow.'
McNabb’s own theory about Owens is that the former wide receiver was motivated by money and power, fueled by his own need to be the face of the organization. And although some in the locker room supported Owens, McNabb says his persona created a bitter divide among teammates.
The divide led to an infamous brawl between Owens and teammate Hugh Douglas during the middle of the 2005 season. After trading punches in the training room, Owens reportedly challenged any player who wanted to talk behind his back. Former special-teamer Jason Short told NBC’s Out of Bounds that most players thought his challenge was directed at McNabb. Owens was initially suspended for three games, but it was later extended for the remainder of the season. The team ultimately decided not to re-sign the all-pro amid a media spectacle over his contract.
Regardless of whose fault it was, the end result was a potential Hall of Famer leaving the team just a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Needless to say, the Eagles haven’t been back since, something the 42-year-old Owens wants to help them remedy.
“If they want to sign me for the last few games, I’m ready,” Owens said. “They call, I ball."