For the past few weeks the Eagles have been linked with many rumours regarding trading a superstar wide receiver in the prime of his career. With all this in mind it is amazing how 10 years ago, much in the same manner, the Eagles were making waves with a blockbuster trade for a superstar wide receiver in the prime of his career. Believe it or not ladies and gentleman March 16th 2014 marked 10 years from the Eagles landing Terrell Owens in a blockbuster trade.
We all know the history, but I will give a brief recap for the younger and newer Eagles fans amongst us.
Prior to this trade, excluding Andy Reid's first season as head coach, the Eagles went 46-18, made the play-offs 4 times including 3 successive trips to the NFC championship game, losing to the Greatest Show on Turf in 2001, suffering a devastating upset by the Warren Sapp led Buccaneers in 2002 and then nearly shut out at home by the Panthers.
Although the NFC at the time did not feature many juggernauts (whereas the AFC had the Patriots, Colts, Steelers) the Eagles were a talented outfit and perennial Superbowl contenders. Their success was built primarily on the back of a dominant Jim Johnson defense which frequently was one of the top 5 units in the league, and an up and coming Donovan McNabb at QB.
Although the Eagles had arguably one of the most exciting players in the game in McNabb, a strong offensive line bookended by two very good tackles in Runyan and Tra Thomas, and a reliable running game in Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook, one large hole was present on offense. A solid WR corps. To put it simply, the WR corps was a bit of a mess.
This however was not through lack of trying. The Eagles spent early round picks on wide receivers. An early second rounder on Todd Pinkston (with Laveraneus Coles on the board) and an ill fated first rounder on the infamous Freddie Mitchell (with Reggie Wayne & Steve Smith still on the board). Unfortunately this dastardly duo put up 3026 yards and 16 TD's between them over a combined 7 seasons with the Eagles. The Eagles also drafted the BGN favourite Na Brown, signed undrafted rookie Greg Lewis and the one and only James Thrash.
Todd Pinkston at his finest! (via delagolf2k)
It did feel at times that a wide receiving corps made up of Ronald McDonald, Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince, Stephen Hawking and Jim Carey would put up better numbers.
With the near shutout at home to the Carolina Panthers (a third successive home NFC Championship Game defeat) fresh in the memory, the Eagles landed Terrell Owens in a trade with the 49ers. This trade sent a conditional 5th rounder and Brandon Whiting (starting DE made expendable by the newly signed Jevon Kearse) to the 49ers for the 3x all Pro Wide Receiver. The most remarkable part of this trade is not the trade itself, but the fact that TO had actually already been traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a second round pick 12 days prior. However Philadelphia was pleased to welcome its newest star in the quest for the Lombardi Trophy.
Terrell Owens brings to the Eagles what they have urgently needed for many years, a game-breaking wide receiver. The Eagles' weakness at wide receiver was never more evident than in their playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game. In his eight years with San Francisco, Owens missed only seven regular season games. He has averaged over 10 touchdowns per season and over 1000 receiving yards. His average gain per reception is 14.5 yards. - About.Philly.com
The Eagles, of course, have been trying to take their season to another level for three consecutive years. They have been one victory away from a Super Bowl for three straight years. Eagles fans would argue they were one good receiver away from the big game this year.
James Thrash and Todd Pinkston have been publicly ridiculed since combining for one catch in the NFC championship loss to the Carolina Panthers. They combined for 85 catches and three touchdowns last year during the regular season. Owens had 80 catches and nine touchdowns in what was considered a down year for him. - Philly.com
A match made in heaven! via www.thekickisgood.com
Terrell Owens was signed to a whopping 7 year, $49 Million dollar contract which tied him to the Eagles through the 2010 season. For Eagles fans, after years of JAG's and busts at receiver, it looked like a perennial All-Pro would be gracing the turf at the linc for the rest of his career.
Through the fairytale 2004 season this trade on face value appeared to be a slam-dunk for the Eagles front office. In the Eagles home opener against the Giants, Terrell Owens caught 3 TD passes from Donovan McNabb. McNabb & Owens put up big numbers as the Eagles shot out to a 7-0 start and secured home field advantage following a week 15 win over the Cowboys bringing them to a 13-1 and a 6-0 sweep of the NFC East. However in the 3rd quarter of this game Terrell Owens broke his ankle during a horse collar tackle from Roy Williams. Prompting Andy Reid to rest his starters until the playoffs.
Despite only playing 13 and a half games, Terrell Owens had already had one of the greatest seasons by an Eagles wide receiver. He was the first 1000 yard receiver since Irving Fryar in 1997, set an Franchise record with 14 TD receptions, he put up the 5th highest yardage total for an Eagles receiver ever (despite playing less games than the others). McNabb threw for a franchise record 3875 yards, 31:8 TD:INT ration and a 104.7 QB rating. All career highs.
Ironically without their superstar receiver, the Eagles finally emerged victorious from an NFC championship game and reached Superbowl XXXIX. Against doctors orders, Terrell Owens played on the biggest stage in football with 2 screws and metal plate in his foot. He distinguished himself hauling in 9 receptions for 122 yards. Despite this, the Eagles fell the the Belicheck/Brady led New England Patriots dynasty.
However it was natural as an Eagles fan to feel optimistic. With virtually the same roster and 5 consecutive years of deep playoff runs, another dominant season looked to be on the cards. The Eagles were undoubtedly the class of the NFC. A return to the Superbowl looked likely.
Terrell Owens Highlights from the 2004 Season (via zn23000)
Unfortunately 2005 turned into a disaster season. Between embarrassing blowout losses to the Cowboys & Broncos, the well publicised TO-McNabb spat, leading to a Terrell Owens suspension and the loss of McNabb, Tra Thomas, Westbrook & Lito Sheppard to injury, the fairytale of 2004 had turned into a nightmare 2005.
The Eagles started the season with McNabb, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook at QB, WR & HB respectively. By the seasons end Mike McMahon, Reggie Brown and Ryan Moats were starting in their place. Ugly.
So looking back on the trade 10 years later, it did make 2004 a special year, but unfortunately things fell apart in 2005 and the franchise we all love hasn't experienced such a sustained level of success since. There have been highs in another NFC championship game following the 2008 season and Michael Vicks MVP worthy season in 2010. There have been lows in the dream team experience, and upsetting play-off losses. But nothing compares to the roller coaster experience that was brought by the Terrell Owens trade. Love him or hate him, it was one hell of a ride.
Our current 'diva' receiver via i2.cdn.turner.com
So as we sit here today watching another potential episode of this storied franchise come to pass, rumours are rife that DeSean Jackson will be traded by the Eagles. Some rumours say he is a diva, a locker room distraction, others say he isn't a fit as a Chip Kelly player. The fact that the Eagles have invested in Riley Cooper & Jeremy Maclin seems to 'suggest' that Jackson is surplus to requirements.
Remember Eagles fans, 10 years ago after seasons of having a totally shambolic receiver corps and desperately hoping for a superstar wide receiver, your prayers were answered. Terrell Owens arrived and the rest is history. You could only dream of the wide receiver corps that are currently bleeding green.
Instead of being so desperate to trade away a superstar wide receiver, just be thankful that he is not Terrell Owens.