Randy Moss found himself in some elite company when he finished his 14-year NFL career in 2012 with the San Francisco 49ers. Four years after he played in his last game, Moss remains third all-time in receiving yards (15,292), second all-time in touchdowns (156) and 15th in receptions (982).
The 21st pick of the Vikings in the 1998 draft, Moss’ stats would appear to make him an easy choice for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible next February.
But that might not be the case.
The 48-person Hall of Fame selection committee, which will meet on Feb. 3 in Minneapolis, a day before the Super Bowl is played at U.S. Bank Stadium, has sent a loud and clear message that nothing should be assumed when it comes to wide receivers.
The latest reminder of this came Saturday, when six-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Owens was snubbed in his second year of eligibility. Owens wasn’t elected in a class that saw seven named to the Hall, including kicker Morten Andersen; running backs Terrell Davis and LaDainian Tomlinson; safety Kenny Easley; defensive end Jason Taylor; quarterback Kurt Warner; and Cowboys owner, president and general manager Jerry Jones.
Two receivers, Owens and Isaac Bruce, were among the 15 finalists. However, Owens didn’t even make it through the first cut from 15 to 10 so he wasn’t anywhere near the final list of five that gets voted on by the committee. This would appear to be bad news for Moss.
That’s because Owens is second all-time in receiving yards (15,934), third in touchdown receptions (153) and eighth in receptions (1,078). That gives Owens, who played 15 seasons in the NFL, an edge on Moss in receiving yards and receptions.
So if the voters are going to make Owens wait, one has to think they might make Moss do the same. There also is the issue of whether Owens and Moss would be elected in the same year when it appears to be so difficult for receivers to gain entry at all. If Owens finally gets the nod in 2018, will Moss have to wait until 2019 or beyond? The Hall of Fame bylaws call for a minimum of four people to be inducted each year, with a maximum of eight.
The only sure pick among first-year eligible players next February will be former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. Other first-year candidates will include former Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher; former Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber; former Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday; former Green Bay receiver Donald Driver; former Vikings and Baltimore center Matt Birk; and former Seattle and Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson.
Other wide receivers who have had to be patient include ex-Viking Cris Carter, who had to wait six years before he was elected in 2013. Andre Reed got in on his eighth try as a finalist in 2014, Tim Brown was in his sixth try as a finalist in 2015 and Marvin Harrison had to wait until his third try in 2016. The only four wide receivers to go into the Hall in their first year of eligibility were Raymond Berry (1973), Paul Warfield (1983), Steve Largent (1995) and Jerry Rice (2010).
One theory about why wide receivers are now forced to wait is because counting statistics have lost their luster in an era where huge passing yards have become the norm.
But if the committee elects to bypass Moss because they aren’t wowed by his stats, they also will be choosing to overlook his impact on the NFL.
Moss set a rookie-record with 17 touchdown receptions in 1998 and had 1,313 receiving yards. After seeing one season of Moss, the division-rival Green Bay Packers used their first three picks in the 1999 draft on defensive backs they hoped could slow him.
One reason the NFL is so pass-happy today, and so focused on getting as much offense into the game as possible, is because guys like Moss put on weekly displays that showed just how exciting the game could be.
And that’s not mentioning the impact that Moss’ arrival in Minnesota had on the Vikings franchise.
I’ve always contended that the Vikings fan base went from being an older crowd to a much more energetic, young, and, yes, often inebriated crowd when Moss came to town and the Vikings’ offense took off in a 15-1 season in 1998. The last time a Vikings’ home game was blacked out in this market was the 1997 regular-season finale against Indianapolis. Moss helped to wipe out any potential apathy that was creeping in.
I was never a huge fan of how Moss treated people and his brief return to the Vikings in 2010 was miserable for everyone involved. Wide receivers can often be recalcitrant and Moss certainly qualified.
But that shouldn’t matter when it comes to Moss being elected to the Hall of Fame. Moss deserves to have his No. 84 retired by the Vikings and he should get a call next February informing him that he has will have a bust in Canton.
The fact there appears to be a real chance that won’t happen is a shame.