Terrell Owens' time with Cowboys was thrilling, complicated all at same time

Young: Moss, Owens need to be in HOF (1:44)

Steve Young and Chris Mortensen make the case for Randy Moss and Terrell Owens' HOF candidacy. (1:44)

FRISCO, Texas -- When it comes to Terrell Owens, it's always complicated.

Owens deservedly earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last weekend. That he had to wait two years should not be viewed as a slight. There is nothing that denotes a first-year Hall of Famer from a 40th-year Hall of Famer. A gold jacket is a gold jacket is a gold jacket.

On his way to Canton, Ohio, Owens spent three years with the Dallas Cowboys.

He was mesmerizing and confounding. He was dominating and agonizing.

From 2006-08, he caught 235 passes for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns. It is one of the best three-year runs a wide receiver has had in team history. Michael Irvin, who also did not earn induction to the Hall of Fame in his first or second or third time, had a five-year run of at least 78 catches for 1,200 yards. From 2012-14, Dez Bryant caught 273 passes for 3,935 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Owens' time with the Cowboys played a big part in his selection, but is he remembered as a Cowboy?

He spent eight years with the San Francisco 49ers, parts of two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, three with the Cowboys and one each with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.

Is Hall of Famer Deion Sanders remembered as a Cowboy? An Atlanta Falcon? Or just one of the best cornerbacks to ever play?

In the free agency era, one-team players become rare. The itinerant nature of the game where players need to cash in when they can cash in and teams will look to cash out as soon as they can cash out causes even great players to jump from team to team.

Owens came to the Cowboys under murky circumstances after his relationship with the Eagles deteriorated. He was mesmerizing and dominating and put on a tremendous show in Super Bowl XXXIX after coming back early from a broken leg against the New England Patriots. But he made too many waves off the field, especially regarding his contract, and the Eagles simply chose to move on.

Jerry Jones was glad to welcome Owens even if Bill Parcells wasn't exactly thrilled with the move. The best that can be said is that the two co-existed. And by co-exist we mean Parcells largely ignored him. Parcells would get frustrated by Owens and Owens would get frustrated by Parcells.

On the field, it all worked. The chemistry between Owens and Tony Romo was almost instant. They connected on 199 passes for 3,122 yards and 34 touchdowns. It was a precursor to the chemistry Romo had with Bryant.

When Owens came to the Cowboys in 2006, he received a three-year, $25 million contract. Before the 2008 season, Jones rewarded Owens again, ripping up the deal for a four-year, $34 million contract that included a $12 million signing bonus.

But the same pattern that contributed to Owens' demise in San Francisco and Philadelphia cropped up in 2008 when a supremely talented Cowboys team finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. By the end of the season the disharmony was obvious. The relationship between Owens and Romo became testy when Owens thought the quarterback favored Jason Witten. That led to a practice-field dustup between Owens and Witten. Owens harped on the play calling of then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

When the season ended, the Cowboys opted to move on from Owens, despite the salary-cap ramifications. Jerry Jones went so far as to document the breakup on a restaurant tablecloth with a Sharpie, demonstrating the parting of the ways.

As always there were players who defended Owens and those who were glad to see him go. As far as everyone could tell, Owens' time in Cincinnati and Buffalo were not as combustible. Either he was better or the teams he went to did not garner the attention to make things newsworthy the way they had been in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas.

Sixteen players, coaches and executives have been selected to the Hall of Fame based mostly on their accomplishments with the Cowboys. Another seven -- Herb Adderly, Lance Alworth, Mike Ditka, Forrest Gregg, Tommy McDonald, Jackie Smith and Parcells -- spent time with the Cowboys with varying degrees of success that helped them earn enshrinement.

Owens falls into that category but his three-year run was equally thrilling as it was maddening.

It will forever be complicated.