The NFL season will unofficially begin next weekend with the Hall of Fame Ceremonies in Canton Ohio. The 2018 Class is truly a who’s who of both offensive and defensive players that defined the early 2000’s NFL. Wide receiver Randy Moss is one of those players being inducted due to his ability to change the game as a big play wide receiver no matt what team he was one.
Moss was drafted 21st overall in the 1998 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Many teams chose to pass on him citing character issues for smoking marijuana, but Moss made each team regret their decision in his rookie year.
Moss broke several rookie receiving records in 1998 as he caught 69 passes for 1313 including a league-leading 17 touchdown receptions. What made him so special was his ability to go deep as he averaged almost 20 yards per reception in his rookie season.
The biggest games in his rookie campaign happened in front of national audiences. In a Monday Night game against the rival Green Bay Packers, Moss had five receptions for 190-yard receiving and two touchdown catches. On Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys, Moss put one of the greatest offensive performances by a wide receiver playing against the team he wanted to play for. He caught three passes for 163 yards as all three receptions went for touchdowns.
Following 1998, Moss would continue to be one of the NFL’s best deep threats at the wide receiver position as he posted over 1,200 receiving yards from 1999 to 2003. This came with having three different quarterbacks in three years from 98 to 00. Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, and Daunte Culpepper all threw 23 touchdown passes or more with their time staring for the Vikings. Moss recorded double-digit touchdown receptions in that five-year span.
Following a dismal and hectic 2004 season with Vikings, Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2005. In his two seasons with the Raiders, the team only won a total of six games. It was Moss that made the offense fun to watch especially in 2005. The Raiders that season although only winning four games, were the late afternoon team to watch because their offense made games entertaining.
In 2007, many opposing defensive coaches’ nightmares came true as Moss was traded to the New England Patriots and paired with quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots would go on to be the first undefeated team in the regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, and their offense shattered many of the NFL’s offensive records. Moss set the record for most touchdown receptions with 23 and would finish the season with nearly 1500 receiving yards. Brady broke the record for most touchdown passes with 50.
After 2007, Moss’ numbers would decline although he did lead the league in 2009 with touchdown catches with 13. He would finish his career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 nearly catching a game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl 47. He would retire following the 2012 season, but his legacy would not be forgotten.
Moss was known as the best deep threat receiver of his generation as he was almost impossible to cover on any deep pattern due to his immense speed. Cornerbacks and safeties would play almost 15 yards back from the ball in order not to get beat, but still would by Moss. He height, length, and leaping ability made him almost uncoverable in goal line situations. His ability to snag fade patterns out of the air in the end zone against defenders was pure art. Only once did he lose a jump ball and that was against one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in Charles Tillman.
When he came into the league he had so much success due to the weapons around him in running back Robert Smith and wide receivers Chris Carter and Jake Reed. Once those three were all gone following the 2000 season, it was Moss that allowed his fellow teammates to have success due to the coverage being focused on him. Players like Ontario Smith, Jermaine Wiggins, Moe Williams, and Kelly Campbell all found success because defenses were so keen at stopping Moss.
It didn’t matter who was throwing moss the ball as he caught passes from lesser-known quarterbacks like Todd Bauman to legendary quarterbacks like Brady and Brett Favre. Moss made any team he was apart of fun to watch and was always reliable to catch a deep pass for a touchdown when you were watching. Every so often as fans do we get to witness a player that truly stands out above the rest when it came to the big play, Moss was one of those guys.