Tough times for T.O.

652848.jpg
AP

Tough times for T.O.

Vernon Davis hauled in the 14-yard pass deftly tucked between defenders over the middle, held on through contact and converted the game-winning touchdown to propel the 49ers to the next round of the playoffs.

It immediately triggered memory recall of Terrell Owens' catch in the 1998 wild-card game that gave San Francisco a win over the Packers, and that was before Davis returned to the sidelines with a face masked in tears, just as T.O. did 13 years earlier.

"The Catch 2," as it has been dubbed, was one of the highest moments of Owens' career, but his mercurial NFL tenure has endured plenty of low points as well. Indeed, two orthogonal forces have been at work throughout Owens' 15-year career: His intense work ethic, and his slightly misconstrued world perspective.

A result of his Type-A personality, the media spotlight has never been too far from No. 81, and most recently it shined on his announcement to return to professional football...albeit indoor football.

Owens, 38, will join the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. The new gig will earn him somewhere between 250K and 500K.

Payday couldn't come at a more important time for Owens, who -- despite career earnings of over 80 million -- told GQ magazine for their February issue that he is broke. "I hate myself for letting this happen," he says. "I believed that my advisors had my back when they said, 'You take care of the football, and we'll do the rest.' And in the end, they just basically stole from me."

Owens claims his difficult fiscal position is the result of trusting people too much. GQ reports that his financial advisers "put him in a series of risky, highly leveraged ventures. He invested heavily in real estate and lost millions in the crash. His so-called friend siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars from him. There were the sunk costs tied to the Alabama entertainment complex -- illegal in the state -- that plagued him and others sold on the get-rich-quick scheme (Clinton Portis and Floyd Mayweather among). The final financial thorn in Owens' side more closely resembles a four-pronged Figian brain fork -- each tine representing one of his baby's mothers; Owens pays a total of 178,400 every month in child support."

When people ask where he is, GQ says Owens texts back, "IM IN HELL."

That would all change with one little phone call from agent Drew Rosenhaus. True to his form, Owens has maintained his physique, and he still believes he has a few productive football seasons left.

Toward the end of last year, Owens held a private workout seeking an NFL suitor. None came. "With T.O.," an NFL executive told GQ, "no matter how brilliant he can be on the field, the dark side is always lurking. You don't know which T.O. you're going to get, and no one is comfortable risking that."

Well, the IFL Wranglers are comfortable taking that risk, and you can be sure Owens knows this will be one of his final chances to prove he can still get it done to earn a professional-football-caliber paycheck.

I was a fan before I was a journalist, and my moment with T.O. came at Game 5 of the 2002 World Series. We stood side by side in the Pac Bell tunnel looking out onto Field. He took the time to take a photo and autograph my foam finger, then as we brought it in for the real deal, he said, "Let's do this," nodding to the field.

We did it, for that game at least, as Jeff Kent hit two blasts, Jason Schmidt struck out eight Angels and the Giants took a 3-2 lead in the series. It was a simple interaction, but it was all he needed to do to earn himself a fan for life.

Owens, who is a large reason the Yards after Catch statistic came into existence, should be a no-doubt, first-ballot hall of famer. In NFL history, he is bested only by Jerry Rice in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. But there is no denying his career had its fair share of pitfalls.

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

Colts fire GM Ryan Grigson after five seasons

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson spent tens of millions in free agency, trying to turn the Indianapolis Colts into a Super Bowl contender.

When most of those big investments went belly up, the first-time general manager paid the price.

On Saturday, Colts owner Jim Irsay fired Grigson after five up-and-down years that ended with Indy missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.

"It was a tough decision, well thought out and in the end the right decision for the Colts," Irsay said.

Initially, Grigson looked like a genius.

He hit it big on his first four draft picks - quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and receiver T.Y. Hilton - and used a series of shrewd, cost-effective moves to deliver one of the greatest turnarounds in league history.

But when Grigson's costly misfires like first-round bust Bjoern Werner in 2013, trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson in 2014 or loading up on a group of aging, high-priced free agents to make a Super Bowl run in 2015 and an anxious fan base, Irsay had no choice.

The timing, almost three weeks after the season ended, was strange - and comes after many thought the delay meant Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano were both safe.

Each agreed to contracts last January that was supposed to keep them together through the 2019 season.

Thirteen months later, Grigson is gone and Pagano's fate may rest in the hands of a new GM.

Grigson, by trade, was a gambler who refused to play it safe.

"I think the guys that sit on their hands, they've got to live with themselves and look in the mirror and realize they didn't take any chances," he once said. "They've got to look at themselves and say, 'Did I even deserve this opportunity?' If you just sit on your hands and say, 'I'm going to play it safe all the time,' you might be middle of the pack. But if you don't take a swing, you're never going to hit it out of the park."

Irsay appreciated Grigson's unconventional style and penchant for taking chances.

What he didn't like was the underwhelming payout.

In five seasons, Grigson made 15 trades for players and only one, Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, played in Indy's season finale. Grigson also drafted 38 players - 18 of whom finished the season with the Colts. Eleven were out of the NFL.

Then there was free agency, where Grigson signed dozens of expensive players. Only 11 were still on Indy's roster when the season ended, 18 others were out of the NFL.

With an estimated $60 million to spend in free agency this year and a chance to get the Colts righted for the prime years of Luck's career, Irsay couldn't afford to roll the dice again with Grigson so he made the change.

The 44-year-old Purdue graduate's blunt personality didn't always mesh with coach Chuck Pagano. Irsay even acknowledged last summer that the two men needed to resolve their differences before he gave them the extensions.

Players didn't always get along with him, either.

"Thank God. 'Unwarranted Arrogance' just ran into a brick wall called karma," Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee posted on Twitter after word first leaked.

Grigson also drew the wrath of Patriots' fans by tipping off NFL officials that Tom Brady was using improperly inflated footballs during the 2015 AFC championship game. The Deflategate controversy eventually led to a four-game suspension for Brady as well as a fine and the loss draft picks for the Patriots.

And despite Irsay's repeated pleas to better protect Luck, Grigson, a former offensive lineman, never quite figured it out.

Luck missed 10 games because of injuries over the past two seasons and was sacked 41 times last season. The first real glimmer of hope appeared in December when the Colts held Minnesota and Oakland without a sack in back-to back games - the only times all season they didn't allow a sack.

When Grigson arrived, the Colts were coming off a 2-14 season and were about to release Peyton Manning and several other aging veterans in a salary cap purge.

So Grigson cleaned house.

He fired Jim Caldwell, hired Pagano and revamped the roster with low-budget free agents to work with the cornerstone of the future, Luck.

It worked. The man once dubbed by a previous boss as a "great" expansion team general manager, turned the Colts into a surprising 11-5 playoff-bound team.

Indy finished 11-5 each of the next two seasons, too, and advanced one step deeper in the playoffs each season.

The steady progression turned the Colts into a trendy Super Bowl pick in 2015, a trek that was derailed by a litany of injuries that forced the Colts to use five different quarterbacks just to finish 8-8.

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

Waiting for Shanahan could be a good thing for 49ers

The 49ers were willing to be patient in securing their next head coach.

Depending on the outcome of the Atlanta Falcons’ game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, they could be required to wait another two weeks.

The other five organizations with vacancies after the regular season have filled their head-coach positions with four assistants from teams that did not qualify for the playoffs and former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, whom the Denver Broncos hired after his team was bounced in the AFC wild-card round.

Early in the 49ers’ search to replace Chip Kelly, the top targets appeared to be Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinators for two of the top-three scoring teams in the NFL.

The coach-general manager team of McDaniels and New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was the runaway favorite to be the package deal, according to sources close to the 49ers’ coaching search.

But when Caserio chose to remain as Bill Belichick’s top personnel lieutenant – just has he has in the past when other opportunities presented themselves – the job became less attractive to McDaniels, according to those sources. McDaniels announced on Monday he would remain with the Patriots for at least another year.

With McDaniels out of the picture, Shanahan became the clear favorite over Seattle assistant Tom Cable. And once Cable publicly stepped aside due to suspicions he was only being used to secure a commitment from Shanahan, only one candidate remained for the job.

Since the middle of this week, Shanahan has been the presumptive coach of the 49ers. Falcons coach Dan Quinn was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator two years ago when he was officially hired just hours after the Super Bowl. He knows he drill. And this week he announced to the Falcons staff that Shanahan would be the next coach of the 49ers, according to the NFL Network.

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, the 49ers will be allowed to interview Shanahan next week – most likely, Tuesday in Atlanta. Shanahan will be involved in the process to hire the next general manager. Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton appears to be the favorite. The 49ers expect the general manager position to be filled early in the week.

If the Falcons lose, the 49ers would be able to hire Shanahan on their own time frame. It would not be expected to take long.

But if the Falcons win, the 49ers would have to wait until after Feb. 5, when the Super Bowl will be played in Houston, to hire Shanahan.

There is an advantage to being forced to wait. In the long term, the 49ers could benefit from their next head coach gaining the experience of a Super Bowl week and calling a game on the biggest stage in all of sports.