Time To Admit It's Over For Randy Moss
Cold, Hard Football Facts for May 24, 2011
ED'S NOTE: THIS STORY ORIGINALLY RAN MAY 25, 2011.
By Jonathan Comey
Former President, Randy Moss Fan Club
We usually don't get too personal here at Cold, Hard Football Facts, because emotions and feelings and the like are for the weak.
But here's a CHFF for you: I, the great and powerful Colonel Comey, have not one, not two, but three Randy Moss jerseys hanging in my closet. Yep. Minnesota (84), Oakland (18) and New England (81). A signed Moss plaque hangs on my wall. A Moss action figure stands on my bookshelf, purple and yellow, depicting a one-handed grab. Literally no athlete has provided more thrills to me personally as a fan over the years.
That said, put a fork in him.
Thanks for the memories.
Reports surfaced this week that the Jets are intrigued with the possibilities of Moss for the 2011 season (assuming, and all that), and they might well be. He might even sign a contract with New York, and will certainly have a job somewhere when the dust settles.
But will he be a productive receiver again? History more or less screams "NO!"
A quick scroll through the careers of the retired wide receivers in the top 20 all time in total yards shows that there comes a point in each player's arc that they go from being productive starters seasons to absolute sub-mediocrity – and that when the player hits that point, it is over.
Usually it happens in the mid-30s, and Moss turned 34 in February. And he certainly qualifies for sub-mediocre status after a brutal 2010.
Here's how the NFL's great pass-catchers fared after their first truly bad season after achieving star status (injury-shortened seasons don't count as bad ones):
- Jerry Rice: 42 catches for 429 yards in 2004 (42 years old). Next year: retired.
- Isaac Bruce: 21 catches for 264 yards in 2009 (37). Next year: retired.
- Tim Brown: 52 catches for 567 yards in 2003 (37). Next year: 24 catches off the bench, then retirement.
- Marvin Harrison: 60 catches for 636 yards in 2008 (36). Next year: retired.
- Cris Carter: 8 catches for 66 yards in 2002 (37). This came in Miami, after a down year of 871 yards in Minnesota the year before, and he retired midseason.
- Henry Ellard: 32 catches for 485 yards in 1997 (36). Next year: 7 catches for 115 yards, retires in midseason.
- Torry Holt: 51 catches for 722 yards in 2009 (33). This came with Jacksonville after another so-so year in St. Louis. Next year: retired.
- Andre Reed: 52 catches for 536 yards in 1999 (35). Next year: 10 catches with Washington, retires at season's end.
- Steve Largent: 38 catches for 645 yards in 1988 (34). Next year: 28 catches, retires at season's end.
- Irving Fryar: 48 catches for 556 yards in 1998 (36). Plays two more seasons as a Redskin with 67 total catches. Raise your hand if you A) remember Fryar with thre Redskins, or B) knew he was 13th all-time in receiving yards.
- Art Monk: 46 catches for 644 yards in 1992 (35). Monk went on to play three more years with three franchises and never topped 600 yards again.
- Jimmy Smith: He's the only player in the top 20 who never had that sad coda to his career; he retired off of a 1,023-yard season in 2005 at 36.
- Charlie Joiner: He never really became a consistent 1,000-yard threat until his 30s, but his first really poor year resulted in just 34 catches (age 39); he retired at the end of that year.
- Michael Irvin: He was still going strong at 33 when he suffered a career-ending injury to his spinal cord.
- Don Maynard: 31 catches for 525 yards in 1970 (35). He played three more seasons and scored four touchdowns.
The only case that should give Moss fans any hope is James Lofton, who came back from a 28-catch season in 1988 with the Raiders at the age of 32 to regain Pro Bowl status in Buffalo at 35.
So there's that. But that's a single outlier in a sea of sameness.
Of course, it doesn't appear that you even need history to determine that Moss' time as a productive NFL receiver is over.
He was just about the most unproductive wideout in the league in 2010, 80th among receivers in yards (393) – better than only Oakland's Darrius Heyward-Bey and St. Louis' Laurent Robinson among WRs with 10 or more starts. And, of course, he's a well-publicized problem, his genius abilities as a receiver always coming with puzzling behavior as a side order.
Even though three franchises kicked the tires on Moss in 2010 – and then called the tow truck – he will almost certainly have suitors when NFL business resumes.
His production from 2007-09 (average of 1,255 yards and 16 touchdowns) was elite, and his jump-ball savvy could be even more valuable with less practice time and shorter playbooks.
But a return to form?
Painful as it is for a Moss apologist to admit, it's bloody unlikely.
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