Yesterday the Eagles essentially fired Terrell Owens. Owens is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL with tremendous talent and the maturity of a child in the throes of the terrible twos. He caused massive trouble in San Francisco, and the 49ers eventually dealt him to the Ravens -- a trade that he forced the Niners to rescind in favor of the Eagles (with compensation to Baltimore) because he wanted to play for a potential Super Bowl champion.
Last season he lived up to the hype and also STFU. But after a fine performance in the Super Bowl, when he accelerated a comeback from the leg injury that could have kept him out of action for the whole postseason, Owens couldn't help himself and complained that (All-Pro) QB Donovan McNabb "tired" in the fourth quarter. Strike one.
In the off-season, Owens hired NFL punk agent Drew Rosenhaus, who is a cross between Scott Boras and Eminem. Rosenhaus advised T.O. to hold out for more money than the sky-high contract he'd signed in 2004. Strike two. During the holdout, T.O. popped off against McNabb once again. Strike 3a, with 3b, 3c, 3d to come during the regular season.
Ultimately, after half-hearted pseudo-apologies, continual griping, complaining that the Eagles didn't kiss his feet sufficiently after he caught his 100th TD pass and telling his teammates that they were "with me or against me," the Eagles decided to suspend T.O. When he failed to show any remorse, they fired him: a 4-game suspension without pay and an order not to suit up for the final four games of the season (with pay, under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement). In all, a firing with a $1 million severance.
Kudos to the Eagles for not kowtowing to T.O. and for preserving the team, comprised of the 52 players who want to win together, over the one individual who uses the football field as his personal stage. But remember, the Eagles' action is possible because the NFL has the weakest union of the three major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL), the strongest ownership group, no guaranteed money on contracts after the first two years (that's why a 7-year, $55M contract is a smokescreen: analyze the signing bonus and the first two years' salaries to see the real value), and built-in mechanisms for effective discipline such as suspensions without pay (and each game check is 1/16 of the salary, as opposed to 1/162nd in baseball and 1/82 in basketball). Compare that to baseball where contracts are fully guaranteed, suspensions are with pay, fines are capped at $50K and the players can get away with just about anything (two words: Kenny Rogers = 20-day suspension with pay, $50K fine and the fine was offset by his $50K All-star bonus).
As for the Eagles now: expect them to win no less than five of their remaining games now that they've excised their clubhouse cancer (and have an easier second-half schedule).