WHILE HIS team was eliminated from the playoffs two weeks ago, Super Bowl week still has the potential to be very special for Andy Reid.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera could become the second former Reid assistant to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, joining the Ravens John Harbaugh.
And two players who Reid coached — Brett Favre and Terrell Owens — both have a good chance to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame a week from Saturday.
This is the first year of HOF eligibility for Favre and Owens. Favre is a first-ballot lock. Owens should be. He is second in career receiving yards (15,934), third in receiving touchdowns (153) and sixth in receptions (1,078).
“As far as talent and production goes, T.O. is absolutely a Hall of Famer,” Reid said earlier this week in a telephone interview from Hawaii, where he is coaching in the Pro Bowl.
Reid coached Owens for just two seasons with the Eagles. One was blissful, the other a horror show. Owens was a big reason they made it to the Super Bowl in the 2004 season. And he was a big reason they self-destructed a year later.
“There was that one off-the-field issue with him, but everything else, he was a pleasure to coach,” Reid said. “The son of a gun would do anything you asked him to do and he’d do it a hundred miles an hour, which not every player will do.”
The “off-the-field issue” Reid was referring to, of course, was Owens’ epic falling out with quarterback Donovan McNabb in 2005. That coupled with the Eagles’ refusal to renegotiate Owens’ contract made for a toxic mixture that resulted in the wide receiver missing nine games because of suspension and deactivation.
“The sad part of it is he and Donovan had a special chemistry,” Reid said. “I remember seeing it a couple of years before that at the Pro Bowl. They just had something there. Something special.
“You wish you could’ve had both of them together for a while longer. It would’ve been something else. Both of them would’ve been slam-dunk Hall of Famers.”
McNabb had a great career that included six Pro Bowl appearances, more than 37,000 passing yards and 234 touchdown passes.
But Canton probably is out of his reach. Not so for Owens, though, who is one of 15 modern-era finalists (a maximum of five can be selected) in his first year of eligibility.
In his one full season with McNabb, Owens caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 14 TD receptions is a franchise record. So are the seven 100-yard receiving games he had in ’04.
More remarkable, much more remarkable, than those numbers, though, was Owens’ miraculous injury comeback that season.
He tore a ligament in his right ankle and fractured his fibula in a Week 15 game against Dallas. It appeared that his season was over. But he somehow made it back for the Super Bowl.
Not just made it back, but caught nine passes for 122 yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
“The Thursday before the game, he went out and tried it,” Reid said. “It wasn’t working. He kept saying, ‘I’m gonna be OK, I’m gonna be OK.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Not from what I’m seeing here.’
“It really wasn’t until just before game time that we knew he was really going to be ready to play. I should say that’s when I knew. (Trainer) Rick (Burkholder) always felt he was going to be able to play.”
It all went to hell the next summer. McNabb and Owens not talking. Teammates taking sides. Owens instructing offensive coordinator Brad Childress to never talk to him.
T.O. getting tossed from training camp. The bare-chested situps in his driveway. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, answering every question with “next question.”
He played just seven games in ’05 before the Eagles finally ran out of patience and suspended him for insubordination. Still caught 47 passes for 763 yards and six TDs in those seven games from a quarterback he wasn’t speaking to, which is an amazing feat when you think about it.
“It would have been a great pitch-and-catch combination,” Childress, who is on Reid’s Kansas City staff, said from Hawaii. “I was shocked how crazy it got after that first year.
“(Owens telling him) you don’t talk to me and I don’t talk to you. It was a goofy deal. I’ll tell you what. (Chiefs and former Eagles wide receivers coach David) Culley earns his money. He’s dealt with a lot of divas in his career.”
Owens and McNabb eventually kissed and made up, more or less. And Owens and Reid speak frequently. In fact, the 42-year-old Owens called him earlier this month after Jeremy Maclin suffered a high ankle sprain in the Chiefs’ wild-card win over Houston and offered his services.
“He called me and said, ‘I’m ready to go,’<TH>‘’ Reid said. “I told (Chiefs general manager) John Dorsey, this is how much confidence I have in him. If there’s one guy, one guy that at age 41 or whatever age he is, could go right out there and play, it would be this guy. He’s an absolute freak. I would have no doubt he would go out and play a game for you and play at a Hall of Fame level.
“There are very few guys that I’ve been around that give you the confidence that they’re unstoppable. I mean, that nobody on the field can stop them. Sterling Sharpe was one of those guys. Jerry Rice was one of those guys. And T.O. was one of those guys.’’