The Hall of Fame voters have crafted as to receiver Terrell Owens justification for undermining his on-field performances with false narratives and anecdotal claims that haven’t been attributed to any specific teammates or coaches. So what happens in 2018, when receiver Randy Moss becomes eligible for consideration for the first time?
Both should get in. But will Moss be added to the same bench on which Owens indefinitely is sitting?
With Moss, the narratives aren’t false. He declared in 2001, “I play when I want to play.” For those who had been watching him closely, that declaration confirmed what the eyes had detected through his first three-plus NFL seasons. He’d lollygag to the line of scrimmage when the ball wasn’t coming to him, and if the ball didn’t come to him early and often, he’d often check out.
Indeed, the Moss tombstone mantra came less than a year after he checked out in one of the ugliest losses in Vikings history — a “41-to-donut” (as he called it) drubbing against the Giants in the NFC title game. Moss had two catches for 18 yards in a game that was over not long after it started.
Moss drew national criticism for leaving the field early in a 2004 game at Washington, which surely became a factor in the decision of the Vikings to unload Moss after that season. With the Raiders, Moss talked a good game on the way in (“I’m committed to excellence, and I just wanna win, baby”), but then he quickly quit on the team when the team wasn’t very good.
It got so bad that, after two years in Oakland the Raiders essentially gave him away to the Patriots, where Moss immediately proved the “I play when I want to play” adage by deciding he wanted to play each and every week — and Moss had one of the finest seasons for any player at any position in NFL history.
But he’d last fewer than three more years with the Patriots, who abruptly traded him after he publicly questioned his future with the team. The Vikings coughed up a third-round pick to bring Moss home during a 2010 season that still could have gone either way, one year after nearly getting to the Super Bowl. Once again, he said all the right things on the way in. Not long after that, he was on the way out.
Via Jeff Pearlman’s Brett Favre bio Gunslinger, Favre begged the Vikings to trade for Moss. But Favre changed his tune quickly after Moss notoriously complained loudly in the locker room about a catered meal that he wouldn’t “feed to his dog.”
The problems went deeper than canine cuisine. Moss quickly decided that he didn’t like coach Brad Childress (join the club), and Moss opted to do something about it. From Gunslinger: “One day, when Vikings owner Zygi Wilf walked through the locker room, Moss looked at him and hissed, ‘You need to get rid of the f–king coach.’ Wilf was horrified. . . . ‘Randy destroyed our team,’ said one Viking. ‘He just destroyed us.'”
The Vikings eventually dumped Moss one day after a loss to the Patriots that was capped by Moss openly praising his former teammates and coaches in New England. His return to Minnesota lasted four games.
The cabal of voters who have put T.O. on time out have been pushing the notion that “teams couldn’t wait to get rid” of Owens. That shoe, however, fits the foot of Randy Moss much better.
The Vikings traded Moss in his prime after seven years with the team; Owens left the 49ers as a free agent after eight. The Raiders bought Moss high and sold him low, unloading a player who had seemed to be fading after two year — primarily because he’d been loafing.
That Patriots sparked a Moss renaissance, until he became concerned in the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract that he wouldn’t be getting another one. So it was farewell to Moss in New England, and then after just a few weeks it was farewell again to Moss in Minnesota.
He finished that season as largely a bystander in Tennessee, catching six passes for 80 yards in eight games. Moss sort of retired in 2011 (no one seriously pursued him), and then he came back in 2012 for one last year, with the 49ers.
It was hardly vintage Moss — he caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns — but it helped soften some of the hard, awkward edges of the Moss misadventures from 2010.
With all those things being said, Moss deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame. But if Owens is going to be kept out for the things he did between the edge of the playing field and the parking lot, Moss should be, too.
As one voter told me several years ago, Owens is far more worthy than Moss because Owens never quit on any of his teams. Even during T.O.’s disastrous 2005 season in Philly, he generated 763 receiving yards and six touchdowns in only seven games. In 2006 with the Raiders, Moss played in 13 games but accounted for only 553 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
While these non-statistical factors shouldn’t be irrelevant to the consideration of a player’s candidacy for Canton, it should take a lot more than what either guy did away from the field to overcome the best two career receiving performances for anyone not named Jerry Rice. Both should get in the Hall of Fame. By slamming the brakes on Owens, however, the voters have now put themselves in an even tougher spot with Moss.