Moss’ 153 TD catches are tied for the most among current players with Terrell Owens.
PHOTOS: Randy Moss through the years
“He brought an incredible electricity to not only the NFL, but to the teams he played on,” ESPN analyst Cris Carter, Moss’ former teammate and mentor with the Vikings, told USA TODAY’s Robert Klemko. “My years with him on the team were the best four years of my career on an off the field. Just pushing each other every day. He made me a better football player.”
Moss, 34, was often linked to the New York Jets as a destination for 2011, but they signed WR Plaxico Burress yesterday.
Moss played for three teams in 2010 — he was traded from New England to Minnesota last October, waived by the Vikings in November before finishing out with Tennessee — and had his least productive season (28 catches, 393 yards, 5 TDs).
If he’s done, Moss concludes a great career but would walk away without a Super Bowl ring. He was on a 15-1 (regular season) Minnesota team as a rookie that lost the NFC Championship Game in overtime to the Falcons. He caught a go-ahead TD in Super Bowl XLII for the 18-1 Patriots, but Burress trumped him then, too, hauling in the game-winner for the Giants minutes later.
“He wants to win a Super Bowl. It’s really hard to walk away from football, especially when you know you can play — and Randy can play. It’s not his fault that he never won a Super Bow,” said Carter.
“I’m pretty certain he can find a team if he wants to play. I think it has more to do with the terms of the agreement. We love football collectively, but when you get to the point like Randy — and you’ve made a lot of money — you’re only going to play under certain conditions. You say, ‘If I do want to play, what will I play for?’ And the impetus to him retiring was New England wanted him to come back for a one-year deal, and his feeling was I want more years; I’ve already proven myself.
“Then the Patriots and Jets went in different directions. If his goal is to win a Super Bowl, that diminishes the teams that he can go to.”
Moss’ career totals — 954 grabs (8th all-time) for 14,858 yards (5th) and those 153 scores (tied for second all-time behind Jerry Rice‘s 197) — will almost certainly land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He led the NFL in TD catches five times and snared 23 in 2007, a single-season record.
“I don’t want to say he was the best ever deep threat, because a threat is something you make without doing something. He did it,” Hall-of-Fame WR James Lofton, who knows something about stretching the field, said.
Joel Segal, Moss’ agent, told NFL Network and ESPN of his client’s decision.
Moss was a first-round pick out of Marshall in 1998, taken 21st overall, though concerns about his off-field behavior prevented him from going much earlier. He responded by winning offensive rookie of the year honors, catching 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 TDs — deemed the best rookie season ever by NFL Network.
Moss had a forgettable two-year stint with the Raiders after spending his first seven years in Minnesota. But he revived his career after being dealt to the Patriots during the 2007 NFL draft.
He did have some infamous incidents — squirting a water bottle at a referee; a (literal) run-in with a Minnesota meter maid; mooning Packers fans at Lambeau Field after catching a TD in the playoffs; and walking off the field before time expired in a three-point loss to the Redskins (his last regular-season game in his first stint with the Vikings) — but Moss was also a dynamic offensive force with his sticky fingers, leaping ability and propensity for leaving defensive backs in his long-striding wake.
“His body control, his ability to slow himself, elevate, and position himself is unbelievable, better than anybody I’ve ever seen play the game,” said Lofton.
“He had a phenomenal presence on the football field. He was a player that defenses had to adjust to and really didn’t do a very good job of it.”
One of Moss’ former teammates thinks he’s got enough of that ability left that he’ll actually pull a Brett Favre (Moss’ quarterback briefly in 2010) and unretire in short order.
“He’s as talented a guy as I’ve ever seen play the game. He’s a guy with some pride, and more than anything else in the past few years he’s thinking about his legacy,” said ESPN analyst Robert Smith, who played with Moss on the Vikings from 1998-2000.
“Without a Super Bowl, I think he can’t help but look at his resume and say that it was a disappointment. I would be completely surprised if he was actually retired.”