Former Vikings great Randy Moss, in his first year of Pro Football Hall of Fame eligibility, was named one of 15 finalists on Tuesday.
His inclusion on the initial list of 15 is no surprise. Now comes the real question: Is Moss going to survive other rounds of trimming and become a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
The short answer is: Yes, because he deserves it. As one of the most transcendent players of the last 25 years and the most dangerous wide receiver of his generation — not to mention a guy who piled up the counting numbers that voters also love — Moss is a no-brainer.
The long answer is: It’s complicated — and for multiple reasons.
The first is that fair or not, Moss will be lumped in and compared with Terrell Owens, a contemporary of his at wide receiver who has been a finalist twice without being enshrined and is a finalist yet again this year.
Stylistically, the two were not similar wide receivers. Moss had breathtaking speed and agility, while Owens was big and physical. But both wound up with very similar career numbers (Moss has the edge in receiving TDs, 156-153, while Owens has the yardage edge, 15,934 to 15,292). Both were considered combative and controversial during their playing days, a fact that has hurt Owens’ candidacy so far.
I would absolutely vote Moss ahead of Owens, but the politics of a voting room might not work that way. The initial list of 15 will be trimmed to 10 and then to five before the last five are voted on, yes or no. Voters could decide to ditch one receiver in favor of the other at some point.
You could make a case that BOTH belong in the Hall this year, but there are several other worthy candidates. Ray Lewis is a near-lock to get in on the first ballot. Safety Brian Dawkins and guard Alan Faneca are also considered strong candidates. Edgerrin James should get a long look, as could Brian Urlacher and Ty Law. And there is also this: In Hall of Fame history, two wide receivers have never been voted into the same class. If anything, it’s probably going to be Moss or Owens.
The second reason, as hinted at above, is that Moss wasn’t exactly a media darling during his playing days. The selection committee is comprised mainly of media members. If they hold grudges and/or think Moss’ antics were detrimental to the teams he played on, it could be a factor in his candidacy.
All that said, I’d still put Moss in on the first ballot. I’m not a voter, but my final five would be Lewis, Faneca, Moss, James and Dawkins — and I’d give a thumbs up to all five.
Interestingly, another former Viking is also on the list of 15 finalists in his first year of eligibility: guard Steve Hutchinson. While I strongly doubt Hutchinson gets in this year, guards have been getting a lot of Hall of Fame love lately.
If Faneca, a guard who was named first-team All-Pro six times and a Pro Bowler nine times, makes it in, you could make a case that Hutchinson’s name will be called at some point, too. He was a five-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler — with three of those All-Pro seasons and four of the Pro Bowls coming with the Vikings.
It’s not even crazy to think that if Moss’ candidacy stalls, Hutchinson could make it in before him.