Randy Moss is going into the Hall of Fame with Terrell Owens. Canton is going to require soundproofing, and doorways widened at head level. Canton also just got much better at the receiver position.
Moss and Owens drove coaches, at least some of them, crazy. Both played for five teams and occasionally committed mutiny. Both were remarkably productive.
Should either be in the Hall of Fame?
Well, yes, of course. The voters did well to elect both despite the receivers’ insistence on damaging their own reputations. Induction is an honor, not a veil. We can simultaneously acknowledge their greatness and their flaws.
Owens ranks second in career receiving yards. Moss ranks fourth. You can’t really have a Hall of Fame without them. If you were going to run a three-receiver set in an all-time offense, you might want to start Jerry Rice alongside the Trouble Twins.
Owens’ only full season in Philadelphia marked the only time Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb reached the Super Bowl, and if McNabb had taken Pepto-Bismol, the Eagles might have beaten the Patriots that day.
Moss played on a 15-1 Vikings team and a 16-0 Patriots team, and caught a go-ahead touchdown that might have become his signature moment if not for David Tyree’s famous glued-to-the-helmet catch.
Who was better, Moss or Owens?
In a case of straight conceit, homey, Moss has said he’s the “greatest.”
Rice is the greatest receiver in modern NFL history. Don Hutson might have been the first great receiver, thriving when footballs looked like decaying pumpkins, but to make the argument that you are the best, receipts are required.
Moss trails Rice by more than 7,000 career receiving yards. No argument can bridge that gap, even the valid points that Moss was a better athlete and spent less time working with great quarterbacks and coaches.
His misadventures in high school and college led to Moss being available when the Vikings made the 21st pick in the 1998 draft. Denny Green selected him. Moss remembers.
“If Coach Green had never made that call, I wonder if I would have been able to showcase my God-given ability,” Moss said.
Was Moss even better than Owens, who previously was denied induction not because writers disliked him but because of his terrible reputation around the league, word of which made its way to the selection committee?
They played in the same era and generated similar statistics.
Owens produced 15,934 receiving yards, a 14.8 yards-per-catch average, 153 touchdowns, 1,078 catches and 72.8 yards per game.
Moss produced 15,292 yards, a 15.6 yards-per-catch average, 156 touchdowns, 982 catches and 70.1 yards per game.
Moss’ great advantage is that he wasn’t merely prolific; he was transformational. Vikings rivals based entire drafts on defending him, and opponents devised defenses specifically aimed at keeping Moss and lesser versions of him from producing big plays downfield.
Cover-2? Cloud coverage? It took a village of coaches and corners to defend him.
Owens, unlike Moss, didn’t make it in his first year of eligibility. If Moss hadn’t made it this year, he shouldn’t have complained. Both players gave voters the right to make them sweat.
Remember, Moss walked off the field with time on the clock in Washington at the end of the 2004 season. Mike Tice told Matt Birk to “take care of’ ” Moss … and then the Vikings discovered they had backed into the playoffs, and Tice called off Birk and turned on the charm.
That episode eventually led to Moss being traded to Oakland for a bag of potpourri and a matching set of used Tupperware.
In 2010, Moss’ Vikings reprise ended when he went to the Vikings’ podium after a loss to New England in Foxborough and proclaimed his love for the Patriots. Owens made a similar spectacle of himself, doing pushups in his driveway for camera crews.
Their worst moments are indelible, but they don’t have to be defining. Both wrote themselves into league history. Both belong in Canton, with a platoon of other great and flawed players.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org