We’ll accept Randy Moss at his word (for now) that he won’t be returning to the NFL. And so it’s an appropriate time to reflect on his 13-year career. Though Moss had more than his fair share of low moments, we’ll accentuate the positive (for now).
And there was plenty of positive.
So here’s one clap for Moss. Ten different times.
Here are our (or at least my) 10 favorite Randy Moss memories, in chronological order.
1. September 6, 1998. Versus Tampa Bay.
Moss arrived from Marshall, which at the time had just moved from Division I-AA to low-level Division I-A. And despite the large gap between the MAC and the NFL, Moss vowed to come to the pro game and “rip it up.”
He made good on that promise from the first game of his career.
Visiting the Metrodome, the Bucs opted not to use double coverage against the unproven player. Four catches, 95 yards, two touchdowns, and a 31-7 score later, the Bucs wished they had.
2. October 5, 1998. At Green Bay.
The Packers, two-time defending NFC champions, hosted the upstart Vikings in a Monday night game at Lambeau Field. It was widely expected that Brett Favre and company would put Moss and his cohorts in their place.
What unfolded instead was something former Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick would call a “game for the ages,” via the rookie’s official coming-out party on football’s national stage.
Moss racked up 190 yards on only five catches, adding two touchdowns in a 37-24 romp that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score suggested.
3. November 26, 1998. At Dallas.
Like many teams, the Cowboys made the mistake of passing on Moss in the first round of the 1998 draft. Unlike every other team, the Cowboys told Moss they’d be picking him.
And so that huge shoulder chip Moss carried throughout his rookie season grew even bigger when he showed up in Texas Stadium and delivered three touchdowns on only three catches, averaging nearly 55 yards per reception.
Two of those came out of what would become routine — Moss running deep and coming up with the ball, even with one or two guys trying to keep it from happening. The third featured Moss catching a short pass and then exploding down the sideline with the kind of burst rarely seen from someone whose hair isn’t on fire.
4. December 12, 1999. At Kansas City.
The Vikings of 1998 won 15 of 16 regular-season games, petering out in the NFC Championship at home. The next season was, in comparison, disappointing, with the Vikings digging an early 1-2 hole and falling to 2-4 before waking up, thanks to the decision to bench Randall Cunningham and rely on Jeff George.
Traveling to Kansas City for a Sunday night game and clinging to playoff hopes with a 7-5 record, the Vikings fell behind the Chiefs, 21-0. The Vikings tied the game in the third quarter at 21 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from George to Moss. After a fumble by George was returned 44 yards for a touchdown and a fumble by Moss at the Chiefs’ seven with barely four minutes to play ended a scoring threat, the Vikings held the Chiefs.
Moss lined up deep, received the punt, and ran largely untouched 64 yards for the game-tying score.
But for a late field goal by the Chiefs to win the game, it would have been remembered as one of the biggest regular-season wins in Vikings history.
5. October 1, 2000. At Detroit.
On ESPN’s NFL Matchup, Merril Hoge became the first analyst to mention what many had noticed. When the ball isn’t coming to Moss, he tends to loaf.
Moss responded that same week by catching seven passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 win at Detroit.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard somebody criticize me,” Moss said after the game.
It wouldn’t be the last. Ironically, however, it was Hoge who spoke out on behalf of Moss after Moss was criticized in 2009 for, you guessed it, loafing when the ball didn’t come his way.
6. January 9, 2005. At Green Bay.
Swept by the Packers via identical 34-31 scores during the season but back in the playoffs for the first time since a 41-0 Meltdown in the Meadowlands in January 2001, no one expected the Vikings to go to Lambeau and win.
But win they did, with Moss poofing out his afro and catching two touchdown passes, including the unforgettable faux mooning that left Joe Buck appalled and triggered a $10,000 fine.
And, of course, that fine gave rise to Randy’s “straight cash homey” catch phrase, along with an even more entertaining description of what his next touchdown celebration may entail.
7. November 18, 2007. At Buffalo.
The win over the Packers would be Moss’ last victory during his first stint with the Vikings. Traded to Oakland in early 2005, Moss disappeared for two seasons. With everyone assuming Moss was washed up, the Patriots stole him for a fourth-round draft pick during the 2007 draft.
And then Moss would only go on to have one of the greatest single seasons for any receiver of all time.
The highlight of the 23-touchdown effort came against the Bills. For the first and only time in his career, Moss scored four touchdowns in one game, via 10 catches for 128 yards during a 56-10 romp.
8. The 2008 season.
After quarterback Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL during the first game of the season, Moss could have mentally checked out.
But he didn’t.
Even though the Patriots ultimately failed to make the playoffs (despite winning 11 games), his decision to remain focused and committed with Matt Cassel at quarterback demonstrated a level of maturity that, unfortunately, was the exception and not the rule. He’d finish with 11 touchdowns, less than half of his record-setting total in 2007, but Moss was a good soldier during what turned out to be a bad year.
9. September 19, 2010. At New York Jets.
Dubbed a “slouch” in the offseason by All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, Moss got a chance to show Revis what a slouch can do.
Drawing single coverage from Darrelle with one minute to play in the first half of a 7-7 tie, Moss blew by Revis and made an incredible one-handed catch in the end zone.
Revis would reinjure a hamstring on the play and miss the second half of the eventual Jets win, plus the next two games.
10. October 11, 2010. At New York Jets.
Only three weeks later, Moss was back in New York for the first game of his second tour with the Vikings.
The play gave Vikings fans flashbacks to 1998, even though coach Brad Childress would dump Moss only three weeks later. . . .
Before Super Bowl XLII, Moss said he didn’t really know how he wanted to be remembered. And that’s fitting, because many football fans don’t really know how they’ll remember him. Even though I’ll remember plenty of the bad things, including a stubborn, play-when-I-wanna-play unwillingness to get the absolute most out of a God-given skill set that superseded even Jerry Rice’s, it will be hard to forget these 10 moments, along with plenty of other great things he did on the field.