It quickly, too, became “did-you-just-hear-that?” TV. Of particular note was Moss telling Garnett that he didn’t feel like the Vikings were loyal to him — particularly after coach Dennis Green was fired — and that, “If I could go back and change things I probably would have left after the 15-1 season,” he said.
That, of course, was Moss’ 17-TD catch rookie year — a dream regular season for the Vikings that changed the course of the franchise.
Now: this is a case of unrealistic hindsight since there was every reason for both the Vikings and Moss to want to stay together. But hypotheticals don’t have to be based on reality. So let’s imagine if Moss really had forced his way out of Minnesota after that rookie year. The best- and worst-case scenarios that could have played out are fascinating:
Best-case: While the Vikings wouldn’t have wanted to trade Moss, can you imagine what he would have commanded in return?
Well, assuming the trade happened in 1999, the answer is: a ton. That was the same year the Vikings traded QB Brad Johnson for a first, second and third round pick to Washington. The Saints traded two firsts, two thirds and four other draft picks for the No. 5 pick (which they used on Ricky Williams).
Let’s say the Vikings still pulled of the Johnson trade and then also pulled off a Williams-esque deal for Moss. They would have had three first-round picks in 1999, two in 2000 and a boatload of other picks to add depth to a roster that was already loaded without Moss.
Imagine if they would have been able to use the 1999 first-round pick from the Moss trade to select his replacement — Torry Holt. He would have been an immediate difference-maker and also kept St. Louis from picking the wideout who became a key member of teams that went to Super Bowls in 1999 and 2001 (beating the Vikings in the 1999 playoffs).
Maybe the Vikings could have added defensive depth with picks from a Moss trade, too. Maybe all of that would have added up to a Super Bowl champion instead of the string of near-misses with Moss?
Worst-case: Let’s say because the Vikings were forced to trade Moss and other teams knew it, they weren’t able to get as much of a haul as a player of his caliber was worth. And let’s say they whiffed on all the draft picks received in a swap.
The 1999 Vikings might have flamed out without Moss and missed the playoffs. The generation of fans who became die-hard purple backers and filled the Metrodome because of Moss would have been eradicated.
The Vikings might have returned to struggling to fill the Dome. Maybe then-owner Red McCombs would have lost patience and fast-tracked moving the franchise to Los Angeles or some other city. Maybe we’d all be spending our fall Sundays raking leaves and staring off into the distance.
In either case: We would have been spared the embarrassment of 41-donut but denied the thrill of watching Moss for six more years. I’d say it’s probably just as well that Moss didn’t know then what he thinks he knows now.