Ochocinco, T.O. provide cautionary tales

Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens have plenty of similarities.

Both were prolific receivers and perennial Pro Bowlers. Both are good friends with eccentric personalities. Both also were aging free agents looking for work this offseason.

But while Ochocinco lasted just four days on the open market, Owens has been on the scrap heap for more than a year and may not get another chance in the NFL.

What gives?

The story of Ochocinco and T.O. provides a cautionary tale that goodwill matters. You can be eccentric and high maintenance without being surly. You can even do selfish things without burning bridges. Ochocinco always understood that. Owens did not -- and now it's costing him.

Owens still has something left to offer. In his last season with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, he caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns. If he could give a team half of those numbers in 2012, Owens is still ahead of many receivers in the league.

Conversely, Ochocinco recorded just 15 receptions for 276 yards and one touchdown last year with the New England Patriots. Yet, he got a job immediately with the Miami Dolphins. The difference is Ochocinco has never imploded a locker room. Owens has done it several times, and at 38 that risk is no longer worth the reward.

A couple of weeks ago I asked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady about Ochocinco's release at minicamp, and Brady gave a glowing response.

"I loved being with Chad," Brady said. "He's a good friend and a great competitor, and I enjoyed my chance with him and my opportunity to play with him."

That's pretty much the response you get from everyone who's been around Ochocinco. He's different, but overall he's fun-loving and harmless.

Former quarterbacks will say the opposite about Owens. In fact, ESPN.com did an anonymous survey of NFL head coaches a few years ago and Owens was the No. 1 player coaches didn't want on their team. That perception clearly hasn't changed, because Owens is still looking for a job and no one is willing to touch him.

Owens says he's humbled and improved as a person, and that might be the case. But after wreaking a lot of havoc with coaches and teammates over 15 years, it's questionable if T.O. will get another chance to prove he's changed.