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There haven’t been many athletes better at pouting and throwing hissy fits than Randy Moss. There also haven’t been many athletes as exciting, freakishly athletic, and game-altering as the enigmatic wide receiver from Rand, West Virginia. The former makes me think that his surprise retirement this week is nothing more than a public overreaction to his snubbing so far in the post-lockout free agent grab. The latter makes me hope that he will come to his senses, and get himself in physical and mental shape to play football this year. Of course it is his mental shape that has always been the problem. His physical gifts have made it possible for him to dominate every game he has ever played in, from high school to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the teams he’s played for, and the fans who support them, much of the time he didn’t care to dominate. In fact, it often seemed as if he didn’t care at all. He was notorious for giving up on blocking assignments, cutting routes short, and most recently, for enrolling the Terrell Owens Academy of Locker Room Disruption.
He dug his own grave in New England with whines, complaints, and tiny violin press conferences that ultimately led to his trade to Minnesota. But I don’t blame Randy Moss entirely for the downward spiral that happened after he left New England. The Favre-Childress soap opera to which he arrived was on a path to disaster long before Moss dusted off his number 84 jersey. After that experiment crashed, he ended on another team going through an owner-coach-quarterback standoff—and ended up playing with an uninspired office being manned by someone named Rusty Smith. I can’t think of anyone who could have found success in such crummy situations, let alone an immature receiver who is on record saying “I’m gonna play when I want to play.” For all the character flaws that have prevented Moss from reaching his astronomical potential, and there are many, he was always well liked by his teammates, and respected around the league. Immediately following the news of his retirement, the NFL tweeting universe paid its collective respects to someone who no player will argue, is one of the most outrageous talents to ever play the game.
And the shame of it is, the talent is still there.
Randy Moss is not washed up.
Just last season, he burned Derelle Revis, one of the top cover corners in the game, and made an eye popping one handed touchdown grab (see list below) that many considered the best catch of the year. Athletes don’t lose their speed, agility, and ability over the course of a week or two. What they can lose is their head. And with someone like Randy Moss, it can happen quickly and he can disappear. Do you remember any signature
Moss performances during his stint in Oakland? Neither do I. The bottom line is, Moss is not a team leader or a role model. He doesn’t seem to be motivated by accolades, records, or even championships. He certainly has major issues with authority. But when he has been in the right situation, he has been nearly unstoppable. If you think that’s an overstatement, look at the two most productive offenses in the modern football era. The 2007 Patriots, and the 1998 Vikings had one thing in common: Randy Moss was the go to guy.
Teams must know that Moss can still play the game at a very high level. It seems though, that teams have finally decided that the risks of signing him outweigh the potential rewards. It says something that the Jets were willing to pony-up a large chunk of change to sign fresh out of prison Plaxico Burress. They didn’t even feel the need to meet with him before the signing, and this is a guy who spent two years behind bars for shooting himself in the leg at a New York City nightclub. To reiterate, Moss’s track record of destructive behavior off the field has rendered him less attractive than a felon who nearly ended up winning a Darwin Award, spent two years
in jail, and hasn’t put on pads in over two years. Clearly, the demand for a tall red zone target remains high. And yet Moss, who is the same age as Burress and possibly the greatest red zone target in the history of the game, retired Monday after he didn’t get any offers that he thought were reasonable. The one line press release from his agent, Joel Segal, read that Moss “has weighed his options and considered the offers and has decided to retire.”
I personally don’t believe Randy Moss is done playing football. That’s even though he filed his retirement papers today. I just can’t believe he’ll walk away like this.
While he most certainly is past his prime, I can’t think of five current receivers that possess the big play potential that he still has in this stage of his career. If he decides to return, it will take the right situation to unlock that
potential. Apparently the Steelers expressed interest in Burress, so I am sure they would at least have interest in what Moss could bring to their offensive arsenal. Maybe Omar Epps, err…Mike Tomlin, can temporarily earn the moody receiver’s admiration the way Bill Belichick did when Moss first arrived in New England. Maybe Larry Fitzgerald’s work ethic and competitive spirit could rub off on Moss in Arizona. With Steve Breaston moving on to the Chiefs, I am sure the Cardinals would be receptive to taking a risk with Moss. And maybe the strong arm of Jay Cutler and the frigid air of Soldier Field can resurrect the future Hall of Famer’s career. There are definitely parts of Randy Moss’s personality that we will probably never understand.
Which is why, even though I still expect him to return, it wouldn’t completely surprise me if he remains retired and we never hear from him again. If that ends up the case, the only comparable retirement would be that of Barry Sanders, who retired abruptly in 1998 with greatness left to spare. In the end, I doubt Moss’s retirement will stick. There is too much to be made playing in the NFL. At only 34 years of age, he still has 8 figures of future earnings that he would be forgoing by retiring at such a young age.
And as Moss so eloquently put it, when he needs to pay the bills, he needs straight cash homie.
In the meantime, here are five Randy Moss clips that I will show my kids someday.
1. Marshall-Army touchdown reception. (1997)
Randy was too good to be playing at Marshall. Lou Holtz called him the best high school player he’d ever seen. He spent years embarrassing NFL secondaries, so it’s no surprise that he pulled this “Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson” play against a completely overmatched Army defense.
2. 1, 2, 3 Vikings-Cowboys, Thanksgiving Day (1998).
Another video game performance from Moss, this time as a rookie that the league had no idea how to cover. 3 catches. 163 yards. Each reception for a touchdown. This was the first game where people really saw how fast Randy Moss actually was…on touchdown number three, linked below, former all-pro safety Darren Woodson has a clear angle on Moss running down the sideline. But Moss entered another gear and gave notice to the league that they better adjust their angles.
3. The Nike Good Ole Boys Commercial (1999)
I first heard about Randy Moss when he was a sophomore in high school. My dad lives in Charleston, WV, and was relaying tales of this freak athlete who was dominating the state in football, baseball, and basketball. By his senior year, he was already a state legend. He played on the same team as future NBA star Jason Williams and was a two time state basketball player of the year, but ironically, the duo never won a state
championship in basketball.
4. Jumps into arms of Vikings fan (2008)
I think this is my favorite Randy Moss moment. Syd Davy, a Winnipeg native and the ultimate Vikings fan, bought front row tickets for a game at Gillette Stadium to see his favorite player, even if he wasn’t in the purple and gold. Moss scores a touchdown, sees Davy, recognizes him from his days in Minnesota, and bee-lines toward him for a celebratory touchdown leap.
5. One handed touchdown grab against Revis and the Jets. (2010)
Just a reminder to everyone who thinks Moss is washed up. Revis claims he pulled a hammy and that’s why he got beat. Kind of sounds like that guy who dribbles the ball off his foot in a pickup basketball game and calls a foul. I’m pretty sure he was just outclassed by a better athlete.
Okay, we couldn’t end without the most immortal clip of all, straight cash homey.
And last but certainly not least, Clay and his buddies at 3 Hour Lunch will always miss Woody.