Mixed emotions. That sums up the feelings I have. I have followed this team through thick and think for 30 years now. I can't remember a decision of this magnitude during any previous offseason. Overall, I know this was the best move for the future of the team and I am happy to have the last major distraction removed from the locker room. But there is also a tiny, gnawing feeling at the pit of my stomach that knows we will miss the talents of T.O. once the 2009 season gets started.
I live and die with the wins and losses of the Dallas Cowboys so it has pained me to no end to deal with the antics of Terrell Owens over the last 3 years. I was outspoken in my belief that the Cowboys should not bring him to Dallas when the rumors started that he would be coming to Dallas in 2005. I have never been able to forgive him for disrespecting the Dallas Cowboys by running to the star on the 50-yard line not once, but twice when T.O. was with the 49ers in 2000. That was nine years ago and I still can't get past it. That kind of garbage has no place in sports in my eyes and it showed that T.O. only cares about himself and getting his name in lights. I'm not going to say I didn't cheer when he made plays for the Cowboys, but the cheers were the plays he made for the team and not for him as a person or player.
I feel like I have had the last of the weight from 2008 season removed from my back. Last season was the most stressful campaign that I have ever endured as a fan. There was so much to deal with both on and off the field that it almost was overwhelming at times. I had many sleepless nights during the season which often happens after tough losses, but T.O. and Pacman had me tossing and turning during the week all season with the distractions they were causing off the field. If I had that much trouble focusing on the games just imagine what that did to the players and coaches on the team. Whether the distractions are caused by T.O. or the media is a moot point to me because the distractions are real and they hurt the team and somehow #81 was always in the middle of the controversy. It would seem that Jerry Jones heard the same thing from so many different people that he finally had to give in and do what was best for the chemistry of his team.
I'm not sitting here fooling myself into thinking that the Cowboys won't miss T.O. next season. His talent will be missed. I know he was a game changer and the defenses were forced to adjust based on where T.O. lined up for every play. But I also know that his skills have diminished over the last few years. A truly elite receiver cannot be shut down by simple bump and run coverage with safety help over the top. A dominant receiver makes plays regardless of the defense that is run. T.O. can no longer do that even if he is still a very good player.
The offense will have to adjust next year but I believe they have enough players to make up for the loss of T.O. The salary cap has even more dead money with the release of T.O. and I'm sure Jerry Jones is not happy about the money he wasted on the new contract he gave to Owens. But there is still a lot of talent on the offense to fill the void left by Terrell Owens. The job of filling his shoes will have to be taken by several players. As things stand right now Felix Jones, Miles Austin, and Patrick Crayton all stand to take on a new level of responsibility in the offense. I hope they are all up for the task and can stay healthy. Tony Romo will have to step up and prove that he is the quarterback that some of us think he can be. He won't have to force the ball to anyone so they won't have an emotional breakdown, so that should help him settle down and focus on running the offense. Jason Garrett can just call the best plays based on defensive matchups without worrying about T.O. coming to him during the week to complain about his role.
In my mind all of the excuses about distractions have been removed from the team. The T.O. circus is finally packing up and leaving town. I know the frenzy that follows him around isn't all his fault, but at this point I am just glad that the distraction is gone. Jason Witten and Tony Romo have got to step up and lead the offense vocally. Roy Williams has to prove he was worth the draft picks and money Jerry Jones gave up to get him. I hear that Tony Romo and Roy Williams are already meeting three times a week to work on their timing so that is certainly a good sign for next season. The undeniable talent and skills of T.O. will be missed but I believe the team will be better off without him.