Commentary

Owens' exit won't cure Dallas' ills

Originally Published: March 5, 2009
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

After all these years, now we know what the "D" in "Big D" stands for.

Dysfunctional.

By jettisoning wide receiver Terrell Owens, owner Jerry Jones has summarily removed a significant problem. However, he has yet to address the source.

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Rise and fall of the 2008 Cowboys.

Releasing the problematic Owens, although admirable, is kind of like popping a nettlesome pimple. It helps your overall appearance, but you're still left in the morning with a face full of acne. And make no mistake, the Cowboys have plenty of acne.

Certainly, Owens didn't show up for the 2008 season finale, a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia that the Cowboys needed to win to qualify for the playoffs. But none of Dallas' other players bothered to get off the team bus for that crucial game. It was one of the lowest moments for America's Team. Yet most of the guilty parties still have jobs today.

There's little doubt that Owens is a muck stirrer. His lame excuses and blame-everyone-but-me mindset had to go. Owens is the classic clubhouse lawyer and is capable of flummoxing the most seemingly staid situation. The 13-year veteran is now 3-for-3 as an agent provocateur, having torched bridges in three of the most famous NFL precincts -- San Francisco, Philadelphia and now Dallas.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Owens
Rich Kane/US PresswireTerrell Owens is gone, but that doesn't mean the Cowboys' problems are solved.

It may be difficult even for Owens' brilliant mover and shaker, agent Drew Rosenhaus, to find a new home for his most tainted client. Of course, Rosenhaus is a magic man in these regards, and nothing is impossible. Who would've thought that Owens would wind up with the league's highest-profile franchise after the debacle in Philadelphia?

Such an aberrational pattern by Owens suggests he is the most obvious problem -- not his quarterback, not his teammates, not his coach, not the owner. But lopping off Owens hardly makes the Cowboys healthy again. For those left behind, many of them Owens critics, the root problem persists.

Jones can't cut the entire team or start a franchise again from scratch, so he is stuck with the remnant from Owens' departure. And the team that remains had better win in 2009, because it no longer has Owens to blame for its many failures. Assigning every deficiency to Owens means his exit removes a convenient excuse for everyone else.

The critical problems with the Cowboys run deeper than just an Owens post pattern. Unless Jones can engender a sweeping attitude adjustment in the Cowboys, they could remain underachievers.

One of the NFL's shrewdest owners, Jones need only look in the mirror to find the person most culpable for bringing Owens aboard. Jones has adopted the Texas mentality, that everything has to be bigger. He's building the biggest stadium, has landed a Super Bowl, has some of the biggest contracts in the NFL and has the league's most-hyped team. The release of Owens is clearly an indictment of the Dallas owner.

Yet the subsequent release of strong safety Roy Williams on Thursday might demonstrate that Jones is serious about cleaning up the locker room.

It will be compelling to see how the Cowboys react to the series of pink slips. The Cowboys, who face the unenviable task of getting over last season's disappointment and convincing their legion of fans across the nation that 2008 was just a blip, certainly are a team worth watching.

Can the Cowboys, who haven't won a playoff game since 1996, remove the "dys" from the "functional"? Was Owens, whose cause was championed by Jones until the past few days, the most significant culprit?

It should make for great drama.

To paraphrase Owens, pass the popcorn, please.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

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