With the advent of the bigger, stronger athlete on the defensive side of the ball starting in the mid 1980s, one of the plays that seemed to fade in the NFL was the bomb. As more teams mimicked the West Coast (hate that term) offense, quarterbacks were being taught to be more docile in their decisions on where to throw the ball. Gone was the daring of Darryle Lamonica, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Terry Bradshaw, and Kenny Stabler to throw the ball deep and give your receiver a fighting chance to catch a bomb. Teams were teaching quarterbacks to throw where the defense wasn’t and not take chances. Enter Randy Moss
Absolutely one of the most electrifying players ever when you think of explosive wide receivers, burst onto the scene after a 1997 collegiate season in which he should have won the Heisman Trophy. At 6’4 210lbs, Moss ran a sub 4.3 40yard dash and by some accounts ran a 4.2 with great leaping ability. As a junior at Marshall, he had 96 receptions for 1,820 yards and 26 touchdowns in a season so great, it could only be rivaled by Barry Sanders 1988 Heisman campaign.
Even though it was his second season with huge numbers, it was his checkered past that kept him from getting Heisman votes and Charles Woodson, became the first defensive player ever to win the coveted collegiate award. It was this reluctant acceptance of him that fueled him as a player and brought out some of his broodish behavior. Yet going into the 1998 draft, he certainly would be taken early, on the fact that he was tremendously talented.
Although teams had told him that they were interested, he slipped in the draft all the way to Minnesota where Head Coach Dennis Green had Cris Carter on board to mentor their prized #1 pick. Offensive Co-ordinator Brian Billick realized that at 6’4, Randy had the speed to run by most NFL cornerbacks and at the same time was normally 5-6 inches taller also. Why not throw it deep to him?? He epitomized the old John Madden axiom of “when he’s even, he’s leavin’.” Which meant that once a wide receiver reduced the cushion between he and a covering defensive back to the point they were side by side, the receiver would run by the defender giving him a scoring advantage.
Daring returned to the NFL and in Dennis Green’s words Moss “reinvented the bomb in the National Football League” as described in the NFL Films production “Missing Rings”. Moss electrified as he made good on his promise to “wreck the whole league.” He gathered in 69 receptions for 1,313 yards and an NFL rookie record 17TDs. Never had a rookie had that type of impact. He was the impetus for turning a good Viking offense into a great one. They went on to become the highest scoring team in league history to that point with 556 yards. Randall Cunningham won the Miller Lite NFL Player of the Year Award and Bert Bell Award winner for “Chuck it up there Dawg”, the matra spoken by Randy Moss which meant throw it up there and give him the chance to make a play.
Yet we dont’ have time to go over all his career moments for so many of us already know them. His exploits on the football field are of legendary status. After being exiled in Oakland for several years, teams crept back up in their coverage with all these short throws. Bill Belichick resurrected his career teaming him with Tom Brady and the bomb was alive and well again in the NFL. Randy Moss again became the scourge of the league hauling in 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an NFL record 23 receiving touchdowns, which broke the old mark of 22 set by Jerry Rice. Tom Brady (NFL MVP) went on to throw for 50TDs to set the all time mark while the Patriots broke the record of the ’98 Vikings for most points ever with 589 to 556. Where the ’98Vikings went 15-1, the ’07 Patriots went 16-0.
Now it’s at this point that Moss detractors leap on the bandwagon. “Oh his team didn’t win a ring” and there is something that can be said for that, as short sighted as it may be. In the 1998 NFC Championship, he helped the Vikings to a 20-7 lead. Well before Gary Anderson’s missed FG with 3:00 left gave the Falcons hope. Had he made it, the Vikings are up 10 points and headed to Super Bowl XXXIII. As a result a great team went unfulfilled.
The same can be said for 2007 when the undefeated Patriots were held down in Super Bowl XLII, yet it was Randy Moss who scored the game winner with a little over 2:00 to go in the game at 14-10. Well, they thought was the game winner until the frantic final drive of the Giants. Randy Moss didn’t drop the interception that would have sealed the game, that was Asante Samuel. He didn’t let David Tyree catch the ball, Rodney Harrison did. He didn’t get burned on a post corner fade route into the back corner for the real winning score, that was Ellis Hobbs. They lost 17-14. Yet some folks want to point to his not winning a ring as his not being worthy of the Hall.
Lets face facts, with 954 receptions 14,858 yards for 153 TDs, these are worthy numbers on their own. Its for those that can’t separate personal feeling from assessment that cant see past their blind spot. Many cite his attitude and his “I play when I want” mantra as to why they feel his candidacy is invalid. How can he not make the Hall of Fame?? Because of a few down years in Oakland?? He wouldn’t give former Head Coach Mike Tice his own vote of confidence?? Or was it the mock moon that Joe Buck, who was announcing the 2004 Minnesota v Green Bay Wildcard Game, voiced complete outrage to set another wave of bad publicity to descend on Moss.
First off Joe Buck, just announce the game, no one gives a rat’s ass what you think?? The next day other players up to and including Coach Tony Dungy came to Moss’ defense, explaining that he was mocking a ritual the Packer fans have in really mooning the other team as they approach the stadium. Sure there were a few times in his career he didn’t help himself with his antics yet the media painted him in a very terrible way. The truth is Randy Moss understood the reluctant acceptance of him and in interviews didn’t always channel it in a politically correct way… but on the field??
Aside from Barry Sanders, he was the one player defenses feared. You could see it in the demeanor of rival cornerbacks that knew he would get deep on them at least twice in that ball game. On all the offenses he ever played on, his deep threat capabilities backed off safeties which allowed teammates to flourish underneath. This is how and where a Wes Welker got his sea legs with a Tom Brady in 2007… This is how a Duante Culpepper thew for 4,717 yards and 39TDs with only 13 int. in 2004, Randy’s last year in Minnesota, then returned to throw 6TDs to 12 int in 2005. His career decline started the second Moss left town after shattering team records the year before.
Randy Moss’ legacy? The greatest deep threat the NFL has ever seen! He is in league with the Lance Alworths, the Cliff Branchs, the Don Hutsons. Yet he was even bigger and faster than those Hall of Fame talents. For a career he averaged 73 rec. 1,142 yards and 11TDs for his 13 year career. Those numbers would get another player to the pro bowl. Yet he only made the Pro Bowl 7 times and couldn’t escape the negative stint the media portrayed him as until his play forced them to say something great. That is what happened during the 2007 season.
What fuels the fire for a player to be great is to overcome slights, even if they’re perceived slights, to force colleagues or officials to recognize you. As it is with many minorities it’s hard to overcome a negative stigma once its placed upon you. The media never let him run away from his demons as easily as he could defenses. Even when all was said and done in New England…he towed the company line. Accepted his trade to Minnesota and was still lambasted for his praising Bill Belichick as a coach.
Well The Chancellor of Football likes to think of Randy Moss and remember the 10, 1,000 yard seasons. The nine seasons with double digit touchdowns with 3 of which 17 TDs or more including a record 23 in 2007. The numerous records achieved in both a Viking uniform and a Patriots uniform. To remember that he is the only link to the two highest scoring teams in NFL history. The 556 points scored by the ’98 Vikings only to be surpassed by the 589 scored by the ’07 Patriots. Thats too much talent to go overlooked….way too much
For induction to the Hall of Fame, I present to you Randy Moss