The problem is that there are two Terrell Owenses.
The Good T.O. was the guy who had a rough childhood. He was, believe it or not, once too shy to come out of the house to play with the other children. He didn't know who his father was, as his mother had lied about his identity. It turned out dad lived right across the street. Owens overcame poverty and worked hard to become a world-class athlete.
After arriving in the NFL, Owens has put up numbers that may get him in the Hall of Fame some day. His work ethic is such that he's considered a good influence on his teammates in that department. The man came back to play a Super Bowl essentially on one leg, and was a standout.
The Bad T.O. has been a problem child wherever he's gone. You've heard of the concept of the Wide Receiver as Diva? Owens practically invented the concept. If every play featured a pass to Owens, he'd probably complain that he wasn't allowed to throw an option pass once in a while. Owens has feuded in public with every single starting quarterback he's had.
And, he's now 35. He has been one of the league leaders in dropped passes over the past few years. Owens will get $6.5 million in 2009, and may have trouble earning it. And his public image of crying out for attention goes against the values of many football fans. (I particularly liked The Buffalo News blogger who ripped the team for signing "a social path.")
Here's the catch, pardon the pun: You can't sign only one Terrell Owens. You get them both. The reaction to the Bills' signing of Owens has been split almost exactly down those lines. Some think he'll make the team much better, some think he'll start it on the path of self-destruction sooner rather than later.
To me, the signing wasn't a bad gamble, although it would be interesting to know if the Bills were bidding against themselves for Owens' services. It's only for a year, so the exit strategy is obvious if things go wrong.
And if Edwards gets off to a shaky start, well, maybe Brett Favre is warming up in the bullpen.