Bengals receiver Terrell Owens is likely playing his final three games in Cincinnati after criticizing coaches and ownership during his television show with Chad Ochocinco Tuesday night on the Versus network.
On the "T.Ocho Show,'' Ochocinco asked Owens why he thinks the Bengals are 2-11. Owens, 37, signed by Cincinnati to a one-year contract on July 29, let loose.
"I think there's underachieving from the top down," Owens replied. "You start with the owner, you start with the coaches. And obviously we as players, we are a product of what the coaches are coaching us throughout the course of the week. Of course, we have to go out there and play the game.
"But in order for us to do what we're allowed to do at the best of our abilities, the coaches have to put the players in the best position."
On Wednesday, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis did not blast Owens, who leads the team with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns. The Bengals have lost 10 in a row, starting with a 23-20 setback in Cleveland on Oct. 3.
"Unfortunately for Terrell, he gets criticized a lot nationally,'' Lewis told the Cincinnati media. "The season hasn’t gone as we expected. Last year we won the division, and we’re not there this year. We really had one addition that was added very, very late, and that was him. It comes with some pressure, being where we are compared to last year. We all, like he said, need to do things better, and we all have a hand in winning football games. Again, we don’t look any further than that, but unfortunately he gets looked at that way. We haven’t done well enough. None of us.”
As for handling the controversy, Lewis said, "I think all the time, you make sure guys understand (that it creates a situation). When guys choose to act out, pop off, whatever you want to term it, what I say is, ‘Look no farther than yourself first, and go from there.’ In this case, no one was willing to bring you aboard for a long time, and then we ended up doing it late, so don’t hurt yourself in that situation as you go forward. There’s a lesson there.
"Unfortunately once we say something, we don’t get the chance to take it back. We try but we don’t get to, and it’s too late sometimes.”
Owens did not dodge questions from Bengals reporters Wednesday. Asked to clarify his comments on the show, Owens said,
"Again, I guess I shouldn’t have said it. It was something we were talking about on the show. It was brought up. I gave my comments and my opinions on it, and that was that. Other than that, if that’s the only thing they can talk about, fine.”
Owens said he did not mean to single out anyone, although it looked like a direct shot at president Mike Brown first.
"I was basically making a general statement,'' Owens said. "With any organization where you are trying to build a championship team, that is where it starts at – from the top. Again, it wasn’t me singling anybody out. I’m just saying that here we are now. It’s an embarrassment. Obviously it’s disappointing because when I was brought here, I knew my role. I understood why I was being brought here.
“For myself, we have a show every week. I have to put on a face to do that. It has become embarrassing. Every week it has been at topic, why we are losing. It’s one of those things where I can’t be ashamed to address it. It is what it is. To be 2-11 at this time, how can you hide from it? I am not going to back down because somebody asked me anything about why we are 2-11.”
Pressed on the ownership question, Owens also included the players in those responsible.
Owens said he has "no idea'' if he'll be back in Cincinnati next year, but said he wants to be.
“Of course. I think we definitely have the necessary pieces in this locker room to do it,'' Owens said. "Why that isn’t getting done, Chad (Ochocinco) said it best, he’s been around here for 10 years and he can’t put his finger on it. From the 15 years I have played in the league and the organizations I have been in, I understand things are different here in this locker room vs. elsewhere. Again, Chad may not say it and say he can’t put a finger on it. Me having been elsewhere, that’s why I said it starts from the top down. Every week we go out here, and you look at eight to 10 ballgames we have played, we have been in those games, and one phase or another has failed us. Where does the blame lie? We are all in this together.”
Owens said the Bengals' 2-11 season has been more frustrating that a 6-10 season last year in Buffalo.
“Absolutely. This is not a knock on Buffalo, but you look at the talent on this team vs. the team I was on last year. Anybody can look on paper and see this team is much more talented than that team I was on last year,'' Owens said. "But we (the Bills) didn’t lose eight, nine, 10 in a row. That didn’t happen. We finished the season 7-9, and we had a number of (tough) things that happened throughout the course of the year. That’s why I said what I said. It’s just frustrating.
“I am disappointed, because this is not why I came here. If that was the case, I could have gone elsewhere. I came here because I saw and thought there was an opportunity here to do some special things. I think people shouldn’t look or dig too deep into what I say, because by no means am I unappreciative. I know I am fortunate to be here with this organization with the opportunity they’ve given me to help them with the idea of getting to the playoffs. With the playoffs, anything can happen. So that is really where my frustration lies.”
Ochocinco said this week he feels the organization is numb to losing, but Owens said that doesn't include him.
"That is not in my nature,'' Owens said. "I’m not used to losing. That’s just not how I prepare myself. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever be numb to losing. If I was numb to losing, I wouldn’t come into my press conferences postgame. I would just walk out.”
Owens didn't want to get into differences between the Bengals organization and his previous teams, which also include San Francisc0, Philadelphia and Dallas.
“I probably could, but it would probably be taken the wrong way, so at this point I’d rather not say anything,'' he said. "Obviously, even with my own TV show, I can try to be open and honest with things. Obviously, it has created a storm to where I have to sit here and answer questions and try to kind of smooth over some things. At this point I’ll decline to say anything.”
Owens feels he has proved he can still play, even though the Bengals signed free agent Antonio Bryant over him on March 10. Bryant's contract was terminated on Aug. 29.
“I came out in March and ultimately I was denied. They chose Antonio Bryant over me,'' Owens said. "There was disappointment. At the same time, I told guys, ‘I am here because of God.’ God has put me in the situation no matter what. That situation back in March didn’t happen, but look what happened some months later. I’m here. I was able to take advantage of the opportunity that was given to me. I think I have done a great job of that.
“For the most part, again, the personal goals really don’t even mount up when you don’t have team goals. There’s really not too much I can say good about what I have done. If we were 11-2, that would be a different story, but we are 2-11. So, like I said, I understand I can play the game, even though I was written off that I had lost a step and all this stuff. But to do what I have done. and on the other hand we are not even in the playoffs and have no chance, it’s disappointing.”