Starting on February 14th, 2014, Sam Quinn and The Sports Post have decided to run down the 52 Greatest What Ifs in NFL History, one per week, for the next year. For a list of published What Ifs, as well as the introductory piece, click here.
After the 2003 season, San Francisco 49ers star receiver Terrell Owens was set to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. His agent, David Joseph, didn't file the paper work in time, and Owens was not granted free agency.
Sensing a potential grievance, the 49ers traded Owens to the Baltimore Ravens for a second round pick. Owens was furious, stating that he was a free agent and wanted to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. The three teams involved eventually came to an agreement in which the Ravens were given a draft pick for their trouble and Owens was allowed to play for the Eagles.
But what if the league sided with the Ravens and 49ers and forced Owens to play for Baltimore?
The 2004 season turns out to be disastrous for the Ravens. Owens becomes a major distraction for the team and his constant criticism shakes the confidence of quarterback Kyle Boller. The Ravens finish the 2004 season 8-8, have a similar year in 2005, and release Owens in the hopes of improving team chemistry. Owens signs with Philadelphia as he always intended and creates a dangerous duo with Donovan McNabb.
What happened in Philadelphia during those two years? Without Owens, the Eagles aren't nearly as dominant as they were in real life, and win only 11 games rather than 14. This pushes them out of the No. 1 seed and forces them to play the NFC Championship game against the Falcons in Atlanta. Michael Vick and the Falcons prove to be too much for Philly, and the Eagles lose their fourth consecutive NFC Championship. Vick's Falcons go on to upset the heavily favored Patriots in the Super Bowl.
In 2005, things finally come to a head when Freddie Mitchell drops more passes than he catches, and McNabb goes to Eagles management and demands help or a trade. The Eagles oblige by signing Owens in the offseason.
The 2006 Eagles match what the 2004 team did in real life and advance all the way to the Super Bowl to face Peyton Manning's Colts. Manning is too much for the Eagles and they fall 27-20 despite an incredible 11 catch performance from Owens.
After his excellent game in the Super Bowl, Owens demands a new contract, which the Eagles refuse to give. After a contentious 2007 season, Owens is released and signs with Dallas. The rest of his career goes exactly as it did in real life. The Eagles never get that elusive ring, Baltimore doesn't solve their wide receiver problem, and everyone in this scenario loses.