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Terrell Owens remains a polarizing Hall of Fame candidate

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Terrell Owens (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for EXPRESS)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Before we close the door on the latest NFL season, let’s take one last look at the biggest controversy from Super Bowl LI weekend in Houston.

And no, we’re not talking about who made off with Tom Brady’s sweaty jersey.

We’re talking about Terrell Owens’ going 0-for-2 in his bid to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

No sooner had he been informed Saturday evening he hadn’t been selected for the Class of 2017 than Owens used Twitter to lash out.

His first tweet: Unfortunately I DID NOT MAKE IT again this year. Thanks to ALL my fans and supporters. #FlawedProcess.

After giving it more thought, he went nuclear: “HOF is a total joke. Honestly, doesn’t mean anything to me to get in beyond this point.”

Much of the reaction social media mirrored Owens’ incredulity.

First, some background about how the process works.

The 48-member Selection Committee – we’re a member – met for nearly nine hours Saturday and discussed the merits of 15 modern-day finalists, two contributors (Jerry Jones and Paul Tagliabue) and one senior candidate (safety Kenny Easley). A selector, usually one with some type of ties to the candidate, speaks on behalf of the individual, and that’s followed by a full-committee debate.

After the 15 modern-day finalists are presented, the list is trimmed to 10 and then to five. The final five must receive 80 percent approval to be enshrined, as do the senior candidate and contributors.

In rare instances, the presentation is brief and subsequent discussion unnecessary. LaDainian Tomlinson required no lobbying from the San Diego Union Tribune’s Kevin Acee.

In a few instances, a presentation is followed by spirited deliberations.

We give you Terrell Owens, who was in his second year of eligibility.

Year 2 went no better than Year 1. He failed to survive the initial cut despite the best efforts of Philadelphia Daily News presenter Paul Domowitch.

For transparency sake, here’s where we tell you we voted for Owens as one of our 10 finalists.

Why the lack of support across the room?

No one can challenge Owens’ accomplishments. He ranks 2nd in NFL history with 15,934 receiving yards, 3rd with 153 touchdowns and 8th with 1,078 receptions.

They scream out First ballot!

But we take into account the full body of work. The Pro Football Hall of Fame bylaws insist only a player’s on-field activities are to be considered. Off-the-field issues are irrelevant.

In Owens’ case, it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to his disruptive past. We’re not talking about whether he had a combative relationship with the media. We’re talking about the fact three teams couldn’t wait to get rid of him, each time when he was one of the premier players at his position. He criticized his quarterbacks, divided locker rooms. In 2005, Eagles coach Andy Reid suspended Owens for the final nine games for conduct detrimental to the team. He was on pace for 107 receptions, 1,744 yards and 14 TDs, and told to stay away.

That’s part of a player’s on-field resume, and must be taken into account.

That’s the main reason I felt Owens didn’t deserve first-ballot treatment last year. Maybe I’m in a minority, but someone needs to check virtually every box to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

I could care less that Owens was the consummate diva: standing defiantly on the Dallas Cowboys’ iconic star at midfield, pouring popcorn through his face mask, pulling a Sharpie out of his sock, etc.

I do care about the rest. It matters, and should.

I have no clue if enough voters will relent in the coming years, look past Owens’ divisive history and send him to Canton, Ohio. I do know we’ll have another polarizing figure in the room next February: Randy Moss. Next year’s first-time eligible class also Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Jeff Saturday. There’s a good chance Edgerrin James returns to the discussion. He didn’t make the cut to 15 this year after making it the previous year.

I wish Paul Domowitch well in presenting Terrell Owens a third time.

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