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Randy Moss is an easy call as first-ballot Hall of Famer

08.02.11 at 11:55 am ET

The idea that Randy Moss might not get into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility because he A) “didn’t live up to his potential” and B) probably never received a single vote for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award strikes me as incomprehensibly dopey, almost as crazy as the comments made by Moss after Week 1 last year.

Look, even if Moss’s career isn’t actually over (let’s call it a coin flip that he returns) the meaningful stuff is in the past. So it’s fair to take a look at the numbers. And you and I have no idea what Moss’s potential was when he entered the NFL in 1998. Let’s assume that it was unlimited, that Moss should have been the best receiver in the history of the league (a pretty high standard when you consider that the best player in the history of the league is a wide receiver).

OK, he fell short of that. Agreed. He’s not Jerry Rice. But there is no other receiver in the history of the NFL that you can tell me is definitively better than Randy Moss. He’s fifth all-time in receiving yards. He’s eighth all-time in catches. He was a Pro Bowler six times, a first-team All-Pro four times.

All those credentials are swell and good enough for a seat at the table, but if we can all agree that catching touchdowns is what really matters Moss then moves into rarefied air.

He led the NFL in TD catches five times (with four different starting quarterbacks), including as a 21-year-old rookie in 1998 and a 32-year-old in 2009. Moss has 153 career TD catches, tied for second all-time with Terrell Owens (who has played in 17 more games) and 44 behind Rice (who played in 101 more games than Moss — which is not a knock on Rice, a guy who kept himself in such phenomenal shape that he was able to be a top 10 WR for years after his prime).

Moss had the greatest three-year TD stretch in history from 2007-09, catching 47 for the Patriots. That’s four more than the Bills, as many as the Dolphins and two fewer than the Jets during that period. And he caught a total of 50 TDs in his 52 games with New England. Think Andre Johnson’s any good? He has 50 TD catches in his career — 115 games. That’s four extra seasons.

I have no clue if Randy Moss reached his potential as a wide receiver. Could he have caught 183 TD passes instead of 153? Maybe. Could Mickey Mantle have hit 650 home runs if he had skipped Toots Shor’s and gone home to Marylin and the kids? I guess. Who knows? In 1985 it sure seemed possible that starting pitchers would someday be competing for the Dwight Gooden Award. Stuff happens.

But let’s be fair: As good as we all thought Moss was going to be, is there anyone who would have looked at a career line of 954 catches, 14,858 yards and 153 TDs as a disappointment?

And when it comes to the Hall of Fame voters playing the role of character cop, I’d just ask them to stick to the numbers. Randy Moss did not play every snap as if it was his last. Randy Moss had some off-the-field issues that were (and remain) troubling. Randy Moss was sometimes a good teammate, but very often a lousy one. Randy Moss was selfish. Randy Moss had an act that wore thin, and he burned bridge after bridge in his career. All those things are very true, and all those aren’t nearly enough to convince me that a Hall of Fame that has a spot for O.J. Simpson and Lawrence Taylor has to make Randy Moss wait a year or two before giving him the keys.

Was he perfect? Nope. Does he leave a mixed legacy? He sure does.

But Randy Moss is the very definition of a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Read More: hall of fame, Patriots, Randy Moss,



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