By Anthony Brousseau
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There may be no more divisive player in Minnesota Vikings history than Randy Moss.
The 6-foot-4 self-described “superfreak” is inarguably one of the greatest players to ever don the purple and gold. He also pushed his way off the team, had a number of off the field incidents and was known for occasionally taking plays off.
Monday is Moss’ 40th birthday, and next year will be his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility. With that in mind, what are his chances of making the Hall in year one?
Many Vikings fans would probably say he’s a shoo-in, but there’s a couple of things going against Moss’ enshrinement. Here’s the case for and against his Hall of Fame status.
FOR: The stats
If players made the hall on stats alone, there would be no question Moss would make it next year. Here are Moss’ career stats:
- 15,292 receiving yards
- 982 receptions
- 156 touchdowns
The yards are good for third all-time, behind only Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, while Moss hauled in the second most receiving touchdowns of all time.
He never passed 1,000 receptions like T.O., Rice and many others, but that only makes his yardage and touchdown totals more impressive.
Going by stats alone, you could make the argument that Moss is the second or third best receiver of all time. If that’s not good enough for the Hall of Fame, what is?
AGAINST: Off the field behavior
On the field, Moss was an absolute force for the Vikings. Unfortunately, Moss was something of a force off the field as well.
During his time in Minnesota, Moss was arrested for allegedly hitting a traffic officer with his vehicle. Marijuana was found in his car during the incident, and though all criminal charges were dropped, Moss spent the night in jail and was fined.
He also tested positive for marijuana in 2001 and was subjected to random drug screenings for two years.
Moss was also infamous for taking plays off — usually because he wasn’t going to get the ball. In his last year in Minnesota, he even left the field early in a loss to Washington. There were only two seconds left when Moss exited the field, but it sent a message to his teammates, coaches and fans.
Hall of Fame voters do consider this kind of stuff when selecting players, and Moss’ antics could hurt him next year.
FOR: Moss changed the NFL
It’s not hyperbole to say Moss is probably the most physically gifted receiver of all time. At 6-feet-4-inches tall and 215 pounds, he ran a 4.25 40 yard dash at the combine.
His combination of size, speed and body control made him a threat to score literally every time he stepped foot on the field.
Just ask the Dallas Cowboys. In Moss’ rookie year, the Vikings played America’s Team on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys held Moss to only three catches, which seems like a victory. Unfortunately for Jerry Jones and the ‘Boys, Moss took those three catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns.
Or ask the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings’ biggest rivals. In 1999, the year after the Vikings took Moss with the 23rd overall pick, the Packers spent their first three draft picks on defensive backs, hoping to be able to contain Moss.
And it wasn’t just that the Packers loaded up on DBs — it was the type of DBs they took. Moss started a trend, at least in the Vikings’ division, of taller, faster defensive backs. Teams needed DBs like this to be able to even keep up with Moss, let alone stop him.
There’s no question Moss’ freakish athleticism started a sea change in the NFL. Since Moss played, we’ve seen players like him (Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones), but Moss was a singular talent in his day.
AGAINST: The receiver pipeline
Here is are some of the wide receivers still waiting for their bust in Canton:
- Isaac Bruce
- Torry Holt
- Marvin Harrison
- Sterling Sharpe
- Rod Smith
- Terrell Owens
Now, are any of those players better than Moss? Maybe T.O., although this Vikings fan would never say that.
The problem is Hall of Fame voters have a wait your turn attitude when it comes to players, particularly wide receivers.
While Moss is definitely one of the two best receivers in that group, voters could select one of the others simply because they’ve been waiting to get in longer.
FOR: The 1998 and 2007 seasons
In 2007, Moss was catching passes from Tom Brady. This worked out very well for the New England Patriots.
Moss caught 23 touchdowns, still the record for a single season. He hauled in 98 passes for 1,493 yards that year.
It’s inarguably one of the best receiving seasons of all time. Coupled with his historic rookie season, when he grabbed 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns, voters will be hard-pressed to keep Moss out of the Hall.
AGAINST: The T.O. case
This year’s Hall of Fame nominees have an interesting parallel to Moss among them.
Terrell Owens, like Moss, sits near the top in almost every major receiving category — though he trails Moss in touchdowns, he has more yards than #84 and is top 10 in receptions, unlike Moss.
So, Owens must have made the Hall in his first year of eligibility, being one of the three best receivers of all time, right? Not so fast.
Like Moss, Owens was known for being a difficult teammate. Owens played for six teams in his career, forced his way off a couple of them and often spoke negatively of teammates and coaches.
Voters don’t ignore this kind of stuff — characters counts just as much as stats to them. If Owens didn’t make it into the Hall in his first year, Moss might be a long shot as well, although he was not as controversial as Owens.
Moss played for four teams in his career and was traded by three of them. He forced his way out of Minnesota, Oakland and New England.
Teammates spoke out against Moss’ actions, particularly after that Washington game when he left the field early.
On the field, Moss is a first balloter, no question. Off the field, Moss’ penchant for controversy may hurt him.
Let’s be clear — Moss will be a Hall of Famer, it’s just a question of when. T.O.’s situation shows us no matter how good you are on the field, how you treat teammates, coaches, fans and the media also factors into voters’ choices.
Moss should make it in his first year of eligibility, but it will surprise no one but Moss if he doesn’t.