Cordarrelle Patterson’s departure as a free agent to the Oakland Raiders this offseason presented the Vikings with the opportunity to take the No. 84 out of rotation and perhaps signify that Randy Moss’ number was going to be retired.
This would have been fitting.
I’ll never be accused of being in the Moss fan club, but there is no denying the impact the wide receiver had on the Vikings and the NFL in his first go-around in Minnesota from 1998 to 2004. Moss not only played a significant role in the Vikings’ 15-1 regular-season finish in his rookie season, but his ability to make the spectacular catch look routine helped create a new generation of Vikings fans.
How much impact did Moss have on the game? His combined 13 catches for 323 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ two victories over the Packers in 1998, led then-Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf to draft defensive backs with his first three picks the following year.
The Vikings, however, appear to have no intention of retiring Moss’ jersey. Not only was the No. 84 given out again this spring, it went to sixth-round tight end Bucky Hodges. Hodges told reporters at the team’s recent rookie camp that he used to pretend he was Moss when he would catch passes as a kid and that he had requested the number to honor Moss.
That’s certainly a way to pay tribute to a player, but the ultimate way for the Vikings to pay tribute to Moss would be to retire his number. It is expected that Moss will go into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor as early as this season and, if not in 2017, then likely in 2018.
The Vikings have not inducted anyone into the Ring of Honor since 2013 because they spent two years playing at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus and then were in the first year at their new stadium in 2016.
Twenty-one people are in the Vikings’ Ring of Honor, but only six have had their number retired. The list includes Fran Tarkenton (No. 10); Mick Tingelhoff (No. 53); Jim Marshall (No. 70); Korey Stringer (No. 77); Cris Carter (No. 80); and Alan Page (No. 88).
One would assume that running back Adrian Peterson will join this group after his career ends. Peterson, the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher, was released this offseason following 10 seasons with the team and signed with New Orleans. Peterson’s No. 28 has not been put back into circulation.
The same was true after the Vikings traded Moss following the 2004 season. No one wore No. 84 again until wide receiver Aundrae Allison was drafted in the fifth round in 2007. Allison caught 18 passes in two seasons before his departure.
Veteran wide receiver Michael Jenkins had the number during his two seasons in Minnesota (2011-12) before Patterson got it after he was drafted in the first round in 2013.
Moss, who is now with ESPN, was working for Fox when Patterson was issued his old number. “First of all, that’s disrespectful, to give a rookie my number,” Moss said at the time. “I don’t really believe in numbers, but I think that from a professional standpoint, I did make that number. And for them to give him that number, he hasn’t proven anything yet. But, hey, what can I say, I’m just Randy Moss sitting here in the studio.”
The relationship between the Vikings and Moss was complicated by his brief and unsuccessful return during Minnesota’s tumultuous 2010 season. The Vikings acquired Moss and a seventh-round pick from New England in October of that season for a third-round selection in 2011, but Moss was released less than a month later after he clashed with coach Brad Childress.
He finished that season with the Tennessee Titans before sitting out a year. Moss completed his career in 2012 with San Francisco, and had three receptions for 27 yards in a 24-13 loss in a September game at the Metrodome. It was Moss’ final game at the stadium where he had become a superstar.
Moss did make an appearance at U.S. Bank Stadium last season for the Vikings’ Monday night game on Oct. 3 against the New York Giants. He was working for ESPN but also was introduced to the crowd and got a nice round of applause as he sounded the Gjallarhorn before the opening kickoff.
Moss is 15th all-time in the NFL in receptions (982), third in receiving yards (15,292) and second in touchdowns (156). He had 587 receptions for 9,316 yards and 92 touchdowns in 113 games with the Vikings.
Those receiving figures are second to Carter, who played in Minnesota from 1990 to 2001. Carter is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; Moss will be eligible for that honor for the first time in 2018.
If he does go into the Hall on the first ballot, Moss will do it with a pass-catching tight end wearing his old number in Minnesota.