“I’ve had receivers like Cris Carter,” Moon said. “Cris was a guy who never got in my face like that, but he definitely got in [offensive coordinator] Brian Billick’s face about play calls or being open or whatever.
“That’s why when Cris was asked about what Dez did, Cris said, ‘This stuff happens, we’re going to live another day and blah, blah, blah.’ He just kind of blew it off because it happens all the time. I feel the same way, except Dez’s went on so long that it was different.”
Actually, Carter did try to get in Moon’s face at least once during a game. It came during the 1995 season finale at Cincinnati. Detroit’s Herman Moore had caught 10 passes the day before to finish the season with 123, one more than the NFL mark Carter had set the year before. Carter needed nine catches against the Bengals to finish ahead of Moore.
“We were eliminated from the playoffs,” Carter said. “And my No. 1 focus that day was breaking that record.”
Carter went to Moon to demand the ball. Moon, who was 39 and in his 12th season at the time, put Carter in his place, explaining to him firmly that he’d get the ball if the proper read allowed for it.
“I wasn’t happy,” Carter said. “But eventually I understood. It really taught me a valuable lesson for later in my career.”
Carter caught seven passes that day to finish one behind Moore.
So how did Moon back down the extremely strong-willed Carter?
“Just man to man, if you know what I mean,” Moon said. “I just let him know right away that this was not going to happen. You led the league in catches, dude. Get out of my face. I’m getting you the football.”
Moss joined Carter and the Vikings in 1998. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper joined them as a starter in 2000. In the prime of their time together, the Vikings’ sideline behavior was television gold and a weekly topic of conversation.
“Things happen on the sideline in every game,” Culpepper said Thursday. “But I never had a receiver or anyone that we couldn’t communicate with to the point where we could be successful. Did we have disputes every now and then? Yeah, but it never got to the point where I felt I couldn’t do my job.
“And I never had either one of those two come up to me on the sideline and just say, ‘Hey, throw me the ball.’ That would be ridiculous, first off. What they would do is say, ‘Hey, man, the last time we were in this formation, they gave us this coverage.’ They’d say something like that and I’d say, ‘OK, man, I’m already on the same page with you. Let’s go.’ Sometimes, it looks different on TV.”
Carter said Culpepper’s personality allowed for as much animated sideline interaction as there was at the time.
“Daunte wasn’t thin-skinned, and Daunte knew less about the offense and offensive football than Randy and I did,” Carter said. “Daunte and Randy were best friends. Daunte and I were close, but him and Randy, they were from the same culture. So sometimes I would let Randy communicate with Daunte. Randy’s football IQ was so high, I knew he would direct the ball the right way.
“We were like brothers, the three of us. Even when we had our disagreements, we were like, ‘OK, let’s go.’ Certain quarterbacks, depending on their temperament, they won’t allow for that.”
Buddy’s infamous swing
Moon says absolutely nothing that happens on an NFL sideline could surprise him. If you remember the night of Jan. 2, 1994, you understand why.