There was a time at the height of Randy Moss’s mostly glorious career, that any pass lofted high enough in his direction would almost inevitably come down in those two hands softer than Corinthian leather.
On Monday, it seems, no new contract was lofted high enough for Moss to consider coming back for a 14th National Football League season.
Moss has decided to retire, his agent confirmed Monday.
His career was part meteoric star, part World Wresting Federation villain – the eclectic mix of a once-in-a-generation talent attenuated by repeated helpings of surliness in his public (and sometimes onfield) persona.
He was a linchpin of arguably the greatest offenses in pro football history: the 1998 Minnesota Vikings and the 2007 New England Patriots – No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, in NFL history for points scored in a season.
And yet he was also the man who, as a Viking in 2005, walked off the field before a game against the Washington Redskins was finished. The receiver who sometimes appeared to run his routes with such nonchalance that he lacked only a Big Gulp, a bag of chips, and a Barcalounger.
What is indisputable is that, when he was motivated, he was a receiver who, for all intents and purposes, could not be covered.
A two-time West Virginia high school player of the year in basketball, Moss combined the speed of a sprinter with the height and leap of a basketball player and the sure hands of a Hall of Fame receiver. The result was a player for whom no ball could be thrown too far.
In 2007, when Moss set the record for touchdown receptions in a season (23), Patriots quarterback Tom Brady might as well have walked into the huddle of a backyard barbecue football game, winked at Moss, and said “go deep.” The complex geometry of pro-football defenses were solved by Moss’s sheer athleticism – leaving hapless defenders scrabbling at his elbows.
By the beginning of last season, however, his career was clearly in marked decline. He was cast off by the Patriots after appearing unsettled in preseason.
He sought to resurrect his career back in Minnesota, but succeeded only in getting himself unceremoniously cut when he criticized the Vikings coaching staff in post-game comments. The season ended with eight undistinguished games with the Tennessee Titans.
He finished his career with 954 receptions, 14,858 yards, and 153 touchdowns – good for eighth, fifth, and second on the NFL all-time list.
He is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame.