The NFL has always had good receivers.
Every decade in league history includes a player or two who broke the mold for the position and helped set the standard for the next decade.
By the 1980s, the use of receivers by pro teams had grown by leaps and bounds followed by the 1990s when pass catchers began breaking league records.
Randy Moss was among those tremendous ’90s receivers.
— theScore (@theScore) December 18, 2020
Selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFL Draft, Moss’s height, hands, speed, and fearlessness led to a record-breaking rookie year.
He quickly became a star and took the Vikings to the brink of the Super Bowl.
Moss would eventually play in a championship game in 2007 as a member of the New England Patriots.
Since his retirement, Moss has been considered one of the greatest receivers in league history.
His enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 is proof.
This is the story of Randy Moss.
Small Town West Virginia
Randall Gene Moss was born on February 13, 1977, in Rand, West Virginia.
The town of Rand is just a few miles from the West Virginia capitol of Charleston.
However, it might as well be a world away from the bright lights of the big city.
Moss’s birthplace is rural, a bit run down, and economically depressed.
If a person hopes to leave the community and succeed, they have to put in extraordinary effort.
That describes Moss and his desire to do something big with his life.
By the time he reached DuPont High School, Moss was already athletic and beginning to grow into his eventual 6’4”, 210-pound frame.
Since there wasn’t much to do in town, and he didn’t have much money anyway, Moss played numerous sports.
He became the West Virginia Player of the year in football and also received the award twice for his skills on the hardwood.
Remarkably, Moss teamed with future NBA player Jason Williams.
A young Randy Moss and Jason Williams as high school teammates at DuPont High School in West Virginia. Their high school highlights would have taken over social media if they played today. #NBA #NFL #Highschoolsports pic.twitter.com/axLIFVX73R
— Chris (@bruins877) September 16, 2020
Together, the duo was a human highlight reel with “White Chocolate” (Williams’s nickname) dishing assists to the high-flying Moss.
In just his senior year alone, Moss scored over 30 points per game along with 13 rebounds and five assists per game.
By the time his prep career on the hardwood ended, Moss had scored a school-record 1,713 points.
As if that weren’t enough, Moss competed on the school’s track team and played outfield for the baseball team.
Moss Makes a Name for Himself
Moss may have been a multi-sport star, but what really brought him national attention was his exploits on the gridiron.
As is typical for small-town teams, Moss played numerous positions.
He was a receiver and defensive back, played special teams, and was DuPont’s kicker and punter.
In 1992 and 1993, the Panthers won state titles with Moss running all over the field.
When recruiters observed Moss play, they saw a tall, skinny kid with great hands, leaping ability, and silky speed.
Happy Birthday to former DuPont High School WR Randy Moss
Even shoulder pads the size of a double-wide trailer couldn’t slow him down. pic.twitter.com/1mQecquytb
— KD 🦬 (@SonOfMarshall) February 13, 2022
Opposing defensive backs had trouble keeping up with him and Moss made the game look easy.
In Moss’s senior year, Parade magazine named him to its All-American high school team.
A decade later, that publication would also name Moss one of the top 50 prep players in history.
As he was closing out his high school career, Moss fully intended to play for coach Lou Holtz and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
He made sure that his academics were in order, going so far as to get tutoring to help him pass the SAT.
Moss also participated on the debate team to ensure that his high school resume presented him as well-rounded.
College Plans Suffer a Blow
Not able to ignore the kid from West Virginia, Holtz made his way to Rand and visited Moss and his mother at their home.
It was during that visit that the coach noted the respect he gave his mother.
“I remember sitting in his home, in the living room,” Holtz continued. “There were only two soft chairs. I sat in one, and Randy’s mother sat in the other. Randy just sat on the arm of his mother’s chair. I’ll never forget the respect he paid her. The way they talked to each other, you could just tell he had such great respect and admiration for her.”
Just when it looked like his dream would come true, Moss took part in a racially motivated fight.
In the spring of his senior year, he confronted a white student who had written derogatory words about black people on the desk of Moss’s girlfriend.
Moss ended up kicking and punching the student who was later hospitalized.
When he appeared in court, the judge reduced Moss’s initial charge of a felony to misdemeanor battery, and he had to spend 30 days in jail.
The fight got Moss expelled from school, and he had to finish the last few months of high school at an alternative school.
His poor decision also scared off the Notre Dame administration and Holtz called Moss to share the bad news.
— Yucheng (@ychngln) November 12, 2014
Despite Moss’s sentencing, Holtz still believed in him.
He called Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones first to make sure the owner knew how good Moss was.
“‘Jerry,’ I told him, ‘You’ve gotta take this kid. He’s the best player I’ve ever seen on film.’ I said, ‘This guy’s ready for the NFL,'” said Holtz.
It didn’t matter that Moss couldn’t be drafted by an NFL team for three years.
Holtz was sure that the kid from Rand would be a star.
More Bad News
Holtz’s next call was to coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State.
Bowden knew who Moss was but didn’t recruit him because of his interest in the Irish.
Now that he wouldn’t be matriculating to Notre Dame, Bowden talked to the president of FSU who was skeptical due to Moss’s legal troubles.
Eventually, the president agreed to accept Moss on one condition.
“He finally agreed to take Randy, but only on the condition that we red-shirt him first,” Bowden recalled in 2009. “Believe me, he didn’t need red-shirting. This kid could play right away… but Randy agreed to red-shirt and he came down here.”
Once he finally took the field, Moss’s talent was obvious and Bowden couldn’t believe his good fortune.
“After he was down here, it was evident, he could fly. And he was competitive. He practiced with us—couldn’t play in games, of course—went through spring training, and nobody could tackle him. Our first-team defense couldn’t cover him,” Bowden wistfully recalled. “And our kids liked him. We didn’t have anybody that didn’t get along with him. He behaved himself perfectly while he was here. One trait he had, he never lied. Always told the truth.”
After his redshirt year at FSU, Moss went home for the summer and hung out with his old friends.
(1995) Randy Moss as a redshirt freshman at Florida State. pic.twitter.com/R8LpLZmCkY
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) September 16, 2021
At some point, he smoked marijuana and tested positive for the substance as part of his probation.
When Bowden and the officials at Florida State found out, Moss was no longer permitted to play for the Seminoles.
“And, you know, most kids would say, ‘Oh, no, no.’ and try to protect themselves,” Bowden observed. “But he said, ‘Yes I did it.’ I said, ‘Well, Randy we can’t take you then. You had two strikes against you already.’ But he didn’t try to lie about it.”
Moss Heads to Marshall
By now, two of the best college football programs in the country had passed on Moss, and he was running out of opportunities.
“I went to bat for Randy because I earnestly believed in him,” Bowden explained to the media. “But he chose to again break the law. It is my hope that he has learned from all of this.”
Not long after getting kicked off the Seminoles, Moss noticed there was a new coach at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
Bob Pruett had been the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida and recruited Moss in high school.
In 1996, Pruett became the new head coach for the Thundering Herd, and Moss reached out to him.
— Tom Bragg (@TomBraggSports) June 14, 2021
After talking with Moss for a while, the coach felt that Marshall would be a good place for Moss to play and make amends.
“This was a natural fit for Randy,” said Pruett. “He could transfer down and not have to sit out. And he could still get into Division I football and get a chance to play WVU (in 1997). It was just a win-win. The cards fell good. It was a good deal for all of us.”
Now that Moss was officially a member of Marshall’s team, he proceeded to showcase the talent that Holtz gushed about.
During the 1996 season, Moss teamed with quarterback Chad Pennington to form a prolific, high-scoring offense.
— Retro Sports (@RetroSports411) August 20, 2016
While the Herd put up points in bunches, Moss (dressed in his black and white striped socks) caught 78 passes for 1,709 yards and 28 touchdowns.
He also added 18 kick returns for 612 yards and a 34-yard average.
Nearly all his stats set records.
Moss led the nation with his kick return yardage and he broke NCAA I-AA records for most games with a touchdown catch in a season (14), consecutive games with a touchdown catch (13), and tied Jerry Rice for scores in a single season.
Marshall was undefeated during the regular season and went virtually unchallenged in the I-AA playoffs, eventually beating the University of Montana in the title game 49-29.
During the contest, Moss towered over the smaller Montana defensive backs and scored four times.
Moss and Marshall Keep Winning
In 1997, Marshall became a new NCAA’s top division member.
For most programs, that means a few years of adjusting to the higher level of competition.
That wasn’t the case for Moss and the Herd.
During the second game of the year against Army, Pennington found Moss for a 90-yard bomb that was his longest touchdown catch in college.
A few weeks later at Ball State, he caught 13 passes for 205 yards and five touchdowns.
The more he played, the better Moss seemed to get.
It was obvious to opposing coaches that it didn’t matter what level of competition he played against, Moss would always be the better athlete.
Each week he displayed his 4.3 speed and outrageous leaping ability.
Who is the best FCS wide receiver you have ever seen in person? For me it's Randy Moss from Marshall. pic.twitter.com/mUpy9rNhXB
— FCS Nation Radio (@FCSNationRadio1) June 8, 2022
Corners who were undersized stood little chance against Moss because he would out-hustle and outmaneuver his man.
Pruett has also mentioned that Moss was studious, preparing for each game as if it was his last.
“He was a student of the game,” Pruett said. “What people didn’t realize and realize now that he is on TV is that he is a student of the game. Randy’s very, very intelligent. I think that was at one time with some people a very underrated trait. But I think that myth has been erased.”
Moss’s 1997 stats were mind-boggling. He caught 96 passes for 1,820 yards, and 26 touchdowns, added a rushing score, returned 14 kicks for 263 yards, and returned 25 punts for 271 yards.
Moss’s touchdowns set an NCAA record (that was broken the following year), and he scored a touchdown in every game.
Meanwhile, Marshall took a 10-2 record to the Motor City Bowl against Ole Miss where Moss had six catches for 173 yards and an 80-yard touchdown pass in a 34-31 loss.
In two years, Moss had 174 receptions for 3,529 yards, 54 touchdowns, one touchdown rushing, 875 kick return, and 271 punt return yards.
Randy Moss scored 54 touchdowns in 28 games at Marshall and never played a college football game where he didn’t score. This is INSANE 😳🤧 pic.twitter.com/5libTa6kko
— Footballism™ (@FootbaIIism) June 4, 2021
Additionally, he had 15 games with 100 or more yards receiving.
During the college awards season, Moss won the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best receiver and finished fourth in the Heisman balloting.
He was also a consensus All-American and the MAC MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.
Moss Drops in the 1998 NFL Draft
Moss had two years of college eligibility left, but he chose to enter the 1998 NFL Draft.
After all, he had accomplished so much in only two years that there was nothing left to prove.
Instead of attending the NFL Combine in February, Moss opted to showcase his skills for scouts at Marshall’s pro day.
That afternoon, NFL personnel got an up-close look at the skill set Moss was bringing to the pros.
During two timed 40-yard dashes, Moss was clocked at 4.24 and 4.28. He also had a 47-inch vertical leap.
A scout for the Cowboys claimed that the Marshall receiver was the most gifted prospect in football history.
Unfortunately, Moss’s past legal troubles still caused some teams to shy away from him.
Dallas’s Jerry Jones liked Moss and had Lou Holtz’s previous recommendation about the receiver’s talent.
In the end, even Jones buckled under the pressure of not selecting Moss.
🎂August 14th: Happy 46th Birthday to former Cowboys defensive end #98 Greg Ellis (1998-08). Born in 1975.
Ellis was drafted with the 8th pick of 1st round in the 1998 NFL Draft, a selection which caused a great stir among Cowboys fans expected the team to draft Randy Moss. pic.twitter.com/PeSxtkYFRh
— 90’s Dallas Cowboys (@90s_cowboys) August 16, 2021
By the time Dallas selected North Carolina defensive end, Greg Ellis, with the eighth overall pick, Moss was beginning to worry.
Many pundits had predicted he would go in the top five, and he was dropping fast.
When the middle of the first round came and went with Moss still on the board, Minnesota coach Dennis Green was giddy with excitement.
He had spent a lot of time looking at film of Moss and knew he was a once-in-a-generation talent.
“I think Denny [Green] had a really good eye for talent that he thought was just different. And Randy was more different than any athlete that I had seen in my entire time in the league,” said former Vikings running back Robert Smith.
Remarkably, when Minnesota’s 21st pick was on the clock, Moss was still available.
Find someone to look at you the way Dennis Green looked at Randy Moss on Draft Day 1998 pic.twitter.com/4TpGrd0aBG
— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) April 29, 2021
Green wasted no time and took him.
While he was happy to finally become a pro, Moss was steaming at all the teams that passed on him, declaring that those teams “will regret it once they see what kind of a player I am and what kind of guy I really am.”
No Ordinary Rookie
In 1997, the Vikings had finished the regular season 9-7 and advanced to the Divisional round before losing to the 49ers.
Carter took the rookie under his wing and showed him the finer points of the game.
(1998) Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Scary sight for a DB. pic.twitter.com/OgDWy7fbAr
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) March 2, 2018
However, the veteran soon realized that Moss was no ordinary rookie.
“My brother [Butch] played pro basketball,” said Carter in 1998, “so I was around when guys like Magic and Bird were coming in. Do you understand that this kid could be Michael Jordan? That we’re on the ground floor of something huge?”
In training camp, Moss turned heads and mouths dropped as he routinely embarrassed the Vikings secondary.
“When Randy came into camp, I remember seeing him in the first practice, and it’s only in shorts, but I just… I remember seeing him and just knew… there’s just something different,” recalled Smith. “The way that somebody moves in relation to all these other professional athletes and the way that he snatched the ball out of the air and just how smooth and how quickly he accelerated.”
By the time training camp ended, Moss was ready to shock the world and Green knew he and the organization had made the right decision.
“There’s nothing like coming to a winning team, where everybody’s upbeat and you’ve got a system in place,” Green said.
Right out of the gate, Moss started proving the draft day doubters wrong.
In Week 1 against Tampa Bay, he caught four passes for 95 yards and two scores.
A few weeks later, Minnesota played Green Bay on Monday Night Football.
Randy Moss in 1998. pic.twitter.com/ePtrHQR2YQ
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) February 13, 2021
Moss had five catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
The Vikings headed into their bye week 5-0 and Moss’s teammates marveled at his ability.
“He just doesn’t know, just doesn’t realize,” Cunningham said. “It hasn’t hit him. There’s no fright, just this kind of innocence. No worry, no fear of failure. He’s like all of us when we’re young before we do fail. A very few of us never do.”
As the Vikings kept winning and Moss kept scoring touchdowns, there was one date on the calendar that everyone had penciled in: Thanksgiving against the Cowboys in Texas.
Randy Moss put up one of the most iconic stat lines of all time on Thanksgiving 1998 🐐
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 25, 2021
When the date arrived, Minnesota had only one loss and boasted the best offense in the NFL.
Moss wanted to embarrass Jones on a national stage and Green encouraged his player to play lights out.
“He (Green) didn’t say much, it was just more, ‘Young man, this is your opportunity. You’re on a stage,” recalled Moss in 2018.
Shortly into the contest, Moss caught his first touchdown, and it was all gravy from there.
“I think once I scored my first touchdown, that’s where I could relax a little bit, where the expectations for me, the expectations I had for myself, when I was able to go out there and make my first play, it was easier for me to go out there and make the other two,” explained Moss.
When the dust settled, Moss had three receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns as the Vikings beat the Cowboys 46-36.
My favorite Thanksgiving NFL game ever.
Randy Moss as a rookie at the Cowboys: 3 catches, all for TDs, 163 yards.
His third TD is still one of the more amazing ones I’ve ever seen.
How that Vikings team didn’t win the Super Bowl …pic.twitter.com/LZZoY9zF4W
— Ben Fawkes (@BFawkes22) November 26, 2020
He was the first rookie to ever score three touchdowns in a Thanksgiving game.
“I took a lot of pride in that. Out of all the teams that I ever played against in my 14-year career, that was the No. 1 team that I never wanted to lose to. It was kind of like, ‘over my dead body,’ I want to win this game. I’m the last guy, throw me the ball,” said Moss.
The Vikings ended the year 15-1 and set a new NFL record with 556 points scored during the regular season.
Moss was part of the team’s top-ranked offense by catching 69 balls for 1,313 yards, and a rookie record (and NFL-best) 17 touchdowns.
He was voted to the Pro Bowl, named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and selected as a first-team All-Pro.
In the ’98 postseason, Minnesota torched the Arizona Cardinals 41-21 before meeting the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game.
The smart money was that the Vikings would meet the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII, especially since they were playing at home.
The Falcons turned out to be better than expected.
At halftime, the Vikings had a 20-14 lead and their lead increased to 27-20 with only minutes left.
With 2:11 left in regulation, Minnesota kicker Gary Anderson lined up for a 39-yard field goal.
Anderson had not missed a kick in two years and the Vikings would hold a ten-point lead if he was true once again.
In addition to going 35-35 on FG during the 1998 regular season, Gary Anderson had made 13 straight postseason FG between 30-39 yds.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2020
To the shock and horror of Minnesota fans, Anderson missed.
The Falcons then scored before the end of regulation to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Atlanta kicker Morten Andersen booted a 38-yard field goal to give the team a 30-27 upset victory.
1999 & 2000
After the shock of not making it to the Super Bowl subsided, the Vikings got back to work in 1999.
Moss had 80 receptions for 1,413 yards and 11 scores and returned 17 punts for 162 yards and another touchdown and was voted to his second Pro Bowl (where he was named MVP after collecting nine passes for a game-record 212 yards).
Deion Sanders and Randy Moss in 1999.
— Ali Siddiqui (@asiddiqui15) November 16, 2022
Minnesota went 10-6, beat Dallas in the Wild Card round, and lost to the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams in the Divisional round.
In 2000, Cunningham had left the Vikings and second-year quarterback Daunte Culpepper was named the team’s starter.
The rocket-armed Culpepper found Moss frequently as the team went 11-5.
Moss had 77 receptions for 1,437 yards, an NFL-best 15 touchdowns, and was named first-team All-Pro and picked for his third Pro Bowl.
The #Vikings last road victory at Dallas came on Thanksgiving Day in 2000 by way of a 27-15 win.
Randy Moss led Minnesota with seven receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while Robert Smith added 148 rushing yards and one score on the ground. pic.twitter.com/zL7PfLXHay
— Vikings Communications (@VikingsPR) November 9, 2019
He became the youngest player to reach 45 receiving scores and 3,000 yards in his career.
During a game against the Cowboys, Moss made an amazing touchdown catch that channeled “The Matrix” franchise.
With nearly all his body leaning out-of-bounds, the receiver kept his toes in the field of play to catch the ball and give Minnesota a 27-15 win.
In the postseason, Minnesota eliminated New Orleans before suffering an embarrassing 41-0 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC title game.
The Randy Ratio
In 2001, the Vikings took a huge step back and finished the year 5-11.
Dennis Green was fired with one game left in the season and Mike Tice replaced him on an interim basis.
Minnesota then hired Tice full-time in 2002 and the new coach implemented the “Randy Ratio” which would be deployed to get the receiver more touches.
The previous year, Moss had gone long stretches without getting the ball and Tice believed that he needed more opportunities if the Vikings were to win.
Tice estimated that Moss needed 40% of the total passes to go his way during a game.
Sure enough, when the staff looked at film from 2001, Minnesota went 4-1 in games where Moss saw the magical 40% mark.
In 2002, the ratio worked (somewhat) and he caught 106 passes for 1,347 yards, and seven touchdowns while the Vikings went 6-10.
Vikings on the Cover of Sports Illustrated Day at VikeFans – #13 of 17. Summer of 2002. This time, it was the incomparable Randy Moss on the Special NFL Preview edition of SI. It was the Randy Ratio season. Hard to believe, this was his only SI cover as a Viking! @RandyMoss pic.twitter.com/KasOdQ8e9J
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) June 30, 2021
One year later, Moss caught a career-high 111 passes for 1,632 yards (also a career-high) and a league-best 17 touchdowns.
He went to the Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro for the first time since 2000.
Minnesota returned to the playoffs in 2004 after a four-year absence, going 8-8 and advancing to the Wild Card round to face Green Bay.
During the contest, he caught a touchdown and then pretended to pull down his pants and moon the Packers’ home crowd.
Moss was fined $10,000 by the NFL.
The following week, Minnesota lost in the Divisional round to Philadelphia.
Moss Becomes a Raider
Moss’s actions during the Packers game weren’t the only sign that something was amiss.
He had started the 2004 season on fire with eight touchdowns in five games.
Moss then sustained a leg injury and was hampered for the remainder of the season.
He went two games with zero catches for the first time in his career and ended the year with 49 receptions for 767 yards and 13 scores.
During the final week of the ’04 season, Minnesota was losing to Washington and Moss left the field before the game was over.
His departure angered the Vikings’ organization and its fans.
Randy Moss with the Raiders. He absolutely mailed it in with the Silver and Black… pic.twitter.com/9PFj64fH4C
— M. D’Amato (@StGeorgeCross17) June 13, 2022
As talented as the receiver was, it was evident he could be surly when he felt slighted or underused.
“When he’s not happy,” said Bowden in 2009, “he’s not going to hide that fact.”
Seven years after arriving in Minnesota, the franchise traded him in the spring of 2005 to the Oakland Raiders.
Unhappy in Cali
Optimism in Oakland was sky-high when Moss arrived for the 2005 season.
The Raiders were coming off a 5-11 year and the belief was that Moss would mesh with quarterback Kerry Collins and put Oakland back in the playoffs.
As it turns out, the Raiders’ roster was woefully untalented and the team went 4-12 under Norv Turner then 2-14 in 2006 under Art Shell.
During those two years, Moss caught a total of 102 passes for 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns.
— Legends In The Wrong Uniforms (@WrongUnis) June 27, 2022
Along the way, he dropped several passes and appeared genuinely uninterested in playing football.
When asked about his behavior, Moss didn’t hold back.
“Maybe because I’m unhappy and I’m not too much excited about what’s going on, so, my concentration and focus level tend to go down sometimes when I’m in a bad mood,” said Moss.
At the conclusion of the 2006 season, Moss requested a trade and the Raiders sent him to the most unlikely of organizations.
Moss Heads to New England
Although Moss was viewed as a pouty malcontent, several people came forward to defend him.
“He cares about his team and teammates,” his college coach, Pruett, said. “He wants to win. When that doesn’t happen, it affects him emotionally. But Randy doesn’t do things to tear his team down.”
Brett Favre, for one, wanted Moss and tried to get Packers management to swing a deal. The team couldn’t get a contract done and had to pass.
Then out of nowhere, Bill Belichick and the Patriots made public that they were interested in Moss.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 8, 2021
The idea that the buttoned-up taskmaster of a disciplined team like New England would be interested in Moss seemed ridiculous.
That notion was put to rest when the Pats signed Moss to a $2.5 million deal, part of which was voluntarily used from quarterback Tom Brady’s 2007 salary.
“Just really last night me and coach Belichick really talked for the first time about what’s been going on,” Moss told The Associated Press. “He asked me how excited I [would be] if the opportunity would present itself for me to become a Patriot and, really, I was overwhelmed because I didn’t expect to hear from coach Belichick.”
Moss was excited about the prospect of playing alongside Brady and learning the game from a coach like Belichick.
“I want to win a championship; I want to play in a Super Bowl; I want to have success,” said Moss.
He was about to get his wish.
In 2006, New England went 12-4 and lost in the AFC Championship to the Colts.
Receiver Deion Branch left after the year and signed with Seattle, leaving Brady without a deep threat and someone to pair with Troy Brown in 2007.
Bringing in Moss was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Raiders' OC Tom Walsh after trading Randy Moss in 2007:
"He is a player whose skills are diminishing, and he's in denial of those eroding skills."
Randy Moss the next season in New England:
98 catches, 1423 yds, 23 TDs.
Walsh never found another coaching gig in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/o9nkXSbyNY
— John Kazar (@KazarNFL) February 15, 2021
The Pats went 16-0 and Brady found Moss for a career-high 98 catches, 1,493 yards, and an NFL-high 23 touchdowns.
His touchdown total was also a league record and the yardage total was the best in New England history.
In addition to being named a first-team All-Pro and voted to his sixth Pro Bowl, Moss was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
During the postseason, Moss was held scoreless against the Jaguars and Chargers.
The Patriots still won both games and met the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Assuming the team beat New York, the Pats would be the second team in NFL history to have an undefeated season and would have the NFL’s all-time best record of 19-0.
There was still a game to be played, however.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Giants took a 10-7 lead on a five-yard touchdown catch by David Tyree.
Then, with only 2:42 remaining, Brady found Moss for a six-yard touchdown to put New England in front 14-10.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 3, 2018
Just when it looked like the Pats would make history, New York quarterback Eli Manning found receiver Plaxico Burress for a 13-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left to win 17-14.
Despite the upset loss, the 2007 Patriots are still considered one of the best teams in league history and are the only NFL team to complete a regular season 16-0.
2008 & 2009
It didn’t matter much that New England lost the Super Bowl. After all, they were still loaded, and Moss re-signed with the team before 2008.
Unfortunately, during the first game of the year, Brady went down with a season-ending injury while attempting to throw to Moss.
Backup Matt Cassel took over and led the team to an 11-5 record, although it wasn’t enough to get the Pats into the playoffs.
Without Brady, Moss had 69 receptions for 1,008 yards and 11 scores.
When Brady returned in 2009, he re-established his connection to Moss.
In the first game of the year against Buffalo, Moss had a career-best 12 catches for 141 yards in a one-point victory.
Four games later, Moss was placed in the Patriots’ secondary in a prevent defense against the Denver Broncos.
On a Kyle Orton hail-mary attempt, Moss intercepted the ball for his only pick as a pro.
That season, Moss caught 83 passes for 1,264 yards and a league-best 13 touchdowns.
"One of the smartest players I've ever coached."
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) December 21, 2019
His teammates, as well as Belichick, continued to rave about how smart Moss was as well as being a great leader.
New England punter Chris Hanson called Moss, “a great teammate and a great leader. I mean, he’s a true professional.”
After finishing 10-6, the Pats lost in the Wild Card round to Baltimore 33-14.
Even with all the compliments Moss received, he complained that he didn’t feel wanted before the 2010 season began.
Through the first four weeks of the year, Moss had nine catches and three touchdowns before the Patriots traded him to Minnesota during their bye week.
The Vikings were thrilled to have their former first-round pick return home and help the team light up the scoreboard.
“He is a tremendous competitor and was an integral member of the Vikings organization,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “Once again, ownership was completely supportive of our efforts to add a valuable football player to our team. I know the entire organization is thrilled to welcome him back to the Twin Cities.”
At long last, Brett Favre, who had signed with Minnesota in 2009, would get the receiver he had wanted to play with for years.
Randy Moss waiving to Patriots fans in 2010.
Vikings released him the very next day. Brad Childress didn’t notify the Wilfs about it. pic.twitter.com/LYdLLNtROZ
— Ali Siddiqui (@asiddiqui15) November 22, 2022
Then, after four games, 13 receptions, and two touchdowns, Moss was waived by the Vikings after he unloaded on Childress and the team after a Halloween loss to New England.
“This decision was made based on what we thought was in the best interests of the Minnesota Vikings, both in the short and long term,” Childress said. “We wish Randy the best as he moves forward in his career.”
Not long after leaving the Twin Cities, Moss was picked up by the Tennessee Titans and played in eight games for the organization.
He caught six passes for 80 yards and then retired after the 2010 season ended.
San Francisco Signs Moss
His retirement didn’t last long. On his 35th birthday in February 2012, Moss announced his comeback.
“I wanna play football. Your boy is going to come back here and play some football, so I’m really excited. I had some things I had to adjust in my life.”
The San Francisco 49ers reached out and signed Moss in an effort to get the franchise back to a Super Bowl.
“We are pleased to add a player with Randy’s wealth of experience to our receiving corps,” said 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke. “Randy’s productivity over the course of his career speaks for itself. We look forward to integrating him into our system.”
During the season, Moss caught his 154th touchdown to supplant Terrell Owens for second on the NFL’s all-time touchdown reception list.
San Francisco 49ers legend, Randy Moss pic.twitter.com/tgclRwqxG0
— R. (@gullyblanchard) July 13, 2021
The 49ers found success that year from quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was thrust into the starting role after Alex Smith was injured.
While Moss caught 28 balls for 434 yards and three scores, the Niners went 11-4-1 and beat the Packers and Falcons in the playoffs to reach Super Bowl XLVII.
During the game, Moss caught two passes for 41 yards in San Fran’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31.
After the Super Bowl, Moss retired for good.
In his career, Moss had 982 receptions for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns.
He also had a punt return for a touchdown and threw two scores as a passer in addition to his interception in 2009.
Moss appeared in two Super Bowls, was an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, five-time NFL touchdown receptions leader, four-time first-team All-Pro, and six-time Pro Bowler.
Additionally, Moss was selected for the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team, the league’s 100th Anniversary All-Time team, placed in the Vikings Ring of Honor, named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings and added to the Patriots’ All-2000s Team and their All-Dynasty Team.
During and after his time in the NFL, Moss has been heavily active in charities, primarily helping underprivileged children.
He has also worked as an analyst for Fox Sports 1 and went to work for ESPN in the same role in 2016.
— Yahoo Sports NFL (@YahooSportsNFL) August 5, 2018
Two years later, Moss was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His Hall quote says, “I love the game so much… for those four hours on Sunday, you can be free and just let it all go.”