Straight Cash Homie: The Case for Randy Moss as The GOAT
My earliest football memory came on November 26, 1998. A whole group of Fraus were assembled at the grandparents’ place. Fresh off stuffing our faces with turkey, stuffing, and all the sides, we settled in to nap it all off. That plan quickly changed, though, as the second Thanksgiving game began. It quickly became apparently that one man stood head and shoulders above every other player on the field that day. That man’s name was Randy Moss.
Randy had had several great games before that afternoon matchup in Dallas. He had begun his career with a two touchdown performance against Tampa Bay. He decimated the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. But this game took the ceiling off Randy’s career. On Thanksgiving, Randy Moss cemented himself as a star, an athlete who you stopped what you were doing to watch.
Randy Moss clearly had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Over 150 career touchdown receptions should leave little doubt there. But is Randy the greatest receiver of all time?
The case for Jerry Rice at The GOAT is well-known (and if you don’t know it, he’ll tell you about it). The man had over 1500 receptions and scored 207 touchdowns, all but 10 of them via catches. He’s a three-time Super Bowl champion. His work ethic and determination to be the best is unmatched. If you want to argue that Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver of all time, you could beat me senseless with stats and accomplishments.
The place where Randy has Jerry beat, however, is his impact on the game. Jerry Rice worked as hard as anyone has ever worked to run precise routes and thrive within Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense. Randy Moss, on the other hand, saw the bounds of oppossing defenses and existed above them. I could post some videos (and will) illustrating my point, but first, consider the Packers 1999 draft. After watching Moss torch them to the tune of 343 yards and 3 touchdowns in 1998, Green Bay used its first three draft picks on defensive backs. Three!
Teams suddenly were forced to deal with a deep threat the likes of which nobody had ever seen. They tried coping by dropping defensive backs into Cover 3 looks, but more often than not, that felt like fixing a broken pipe with a bandage. With Minnesota, Moss put up 574 career receptions for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns and was part of the greatest offense, to that point, of all time in 1998.
Moss’ detractors focus primarily on how things ended in Minnesota and the malaise of a stint he had in Oakland. I’m not here to make excuses for either, nor am I going to pretend like I have any idea what was going on with Randy the man during those times. What I can tell you, though, is when Randy set foot on the field in Giants Stadium for the Patriots against the Jets, it was on. The 2007 Patriots blew past the ’98 Vikings as the most prolific offense of all time, and guess what the common denominator between those teams was?
(There used to be a video of all 23 of his touchdowns from 2007. I guess this will have to do.)
Once paired with Tom Brady, it became abundantly clear that Randy Moss hadn’t lost a step. After all was said and done, Moss caught 98 balls for 1,493 yards and a record 23 touchdowns in 2007. His next two seasons in New England were extremely productive as well. Reflecting in 2012 on Moss’ tenure as a Patriot, Bill Belichick called him “probably the smartest receiver I’ve ever coached,” while adding “I know he absolutely knows what he’s doing, knows what the defense is doing.”
If there was one flaw in Randy’s game, it was that he made it look so easy. You’re 6'4" and can run a 4.2, of course you should be putting up video game numbers. But because he didn’t score every play, you sort of forget that stuffing box scores was exactly what Randy did. Did Randy’s numbers slip when teams could shade their defense Moss’ way? Absolutely. But when the cast around him included Randall Cunningham and Cris Carter, or Tom Brady and Wes Welker? Look what happened. Jerry Rice had the longevity, crushes the numbers. But who would I take above him? Gimme Randy.