I was surprised when I got a couple of emails Monday questioning my assumption that Randy Moss is a certain Hall of Famer. I didn't even think about it. He's Randy flippin' Moss.
That's not to say he's the greatest ever, of course, because on that subject, there's Jerry Rice and there's everyone else. But did anyone before Moss ever really play receiver like Moss? My historical perspective is limited, being the spry young fellow that I am, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. But had anyone before Moss ever combined that elite deep speed with the ability to go up and get the ball over pretty much any defensive back? Had anyone else ever had that grace, stride, and body control? Had anyone else posed the threat that Moss did to score from pretty much anywhere inside 60 yards?
But that's just me, and my personal impressions of the guy as a wide receiver. Since it was questioned, I thought I'd take another look at it. Hall of Fame arguments usually begin (and sometimes end) with numbers, so let's start there.
The numbers are there. Easily. He's eighth all time in receptions. Fifth all time in yards. Second all time in touchdowns. Ninth all time in yards per game.
Cris Carter was a name of comparison that was brought up with some regularity. If Cris Carter isn't in, should Moss be in?
First of all, yes. Moss was better than Carter. The only major statistical category in which Carter beats Moss is receptions. Carter has 1,101 to Moss's 954. That's due only to longevity, though. Carter caught 68.8 balls per year, while Moss caught 73.4. Outside of that, it's all Moss, despite the difference in career length. Even the thing Cris Carter was most known for, catching touchdown passes, Moss was better than him. Carter had 130 in 16 years; Moss had 153 in 13 years.
The category in which Carter might have Moss is the super-subjective category of character, which is what the entire argument against Moss boils down to. And yes, it's true, Randy Moss spent some time doing things that disgusted Joe Buck and many, many others. If that had hampered his productivity significantly, maybe I could see it as an argument that he's not a Hall of Famer. I know that it didn't, because Moss' numbers are still insane.
He dipped below 1,000 yards receiving in just three years of his career (Carter, by the way, was under 1,000 yards eight times). The first time it happened was his last year in Minnesota, 2004, when a hamstring injury hampered him nearly all year. It happened again in 2006 in Oakland, when his quarterbacks were Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks, and the general football atmosphere in Oakland drained everyone of their will to live. And then, the bizarre last season of his career, when he was on three teams.
Even given character and discontentment issues (the effects of which I think are perceived as greater than they really were), Moss still has to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, without even a doubt. The quality of his play has earned him that distinction.