Questionable reputations could delay Hall calls for Randy Moss, Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens had a tumultuous relationship with former quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Terrell Owens had a tumultuous relationship with former quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Recently, a debate has emerged regarding whether bad off-field conduct should keep a player out of the Hall of Fame. In time, however, two receivers who have engaged in questionable behavior on the field — or at a minimum on the sidelines or in the locker room — possibly could see their bids for enshrinement delayed by a couple of years, or longer.

Randy Moss and Terrell Owens rank among the league’s all-time leaders in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. In the end, there’s a chance that they’ll finish second and third behind only Jerry Rice in each of those three categories.

But they have caused plenty of problems. Not off the field, where T.O. has never run afoul of the law once, actually or allegedly. Moss has had several issues during his 12-year NFL career, but he has largely kept out of trouble since playing street bowling with a traffic control officer nearly eight years ago in Minneapolis.

Still, Owens criticized nearly every quarterback who ever has thrown him a pass, he intentionally created as much disruption as possible five years ago in Philadelphia in the hopes of getting cut or traded, and he mastered the passive-aggressive art of pitting players against each other while at all times maintaining a high degree of plausible deniability.

And he loves him some him.

Randy Moss has played for the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots.
Randy Moss has played for the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots.

Moss, on the other hand, has a bad habit of mentally shutting down — either in a given game or, as he did in 2006 with the Raiders, for an entire season.

One Hall of Fame voter believes that, of the two, Moss has committed the bigger crime against football. "He’d roll over and die like a dog for teams when they needed him most," the voter, who requested anonymity, explained. "He quit on his team in Minnesota. He quit for two years in Oakland. And he quit last year in New England."

Owens’ antics possibly can be attributed to the fact that he hasn’t been coddled like other high-end players. The voter contrasts Owens to Rice in this regard. "Rice was protected by the 49ers," the voter said. "He didn’t spout off in the locker room because he’d be ushered out after being shut down by Deion Sanders. No one ever protected T.O. like that."

As a result, some may actually put Owens above Moss, even if (as it appears) Moss will end up with better statistics.

"For one game, who gives his all?" the voter asked. "I’d pick Owens because I know he’ll give his all. I don’t know what Randy Moss is going to do."

That said, it’ll be harder to keep either guy out for a year or two beyond his initial eligibility if they finish in the top three for catches, yards, and touchdowns. The absence of a Super Bowl win by either player — each has made it there once — could fuel the cases against them, though.

A separate problem arises when considering the reality that the procedure for enshrinement requires the voter assigned to a player’s primary team to stand up and make the case for the player. Between them, Moss and Owens have played for seven franchises, and counting. They’ve made few friends in the media. As a result, it could be difficult for either to build enough momentum if no one will be making a compelling case for their candidacy.

In the end, they’ll both eventually make it. But with Michael Irvin being passed over twice, and Cris Carter and Andre Reed still waiting, and a cluster of guys like Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce and Marvin Harrison (despite his off-the-field issues) in the mix, too, it could be hard for Moss or Owens to make it on their first try.

Or their second. Or their third.

And, if that happens, the development likely will be described as everyone’s fault but their own.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

Terrell Owens had a tumultuous relationship with former quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Terrell Owens had a tumultuous relationship with former quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Recently, a debate has emerged regarding whether bad off-field conduct should keep a player out of the Hall of Fame. In time, however, two receivers who have engaged in questionable behavior on the field — or at a minimum on the sidelines or in the locker room — possibly could see their bids for enshrinement delayed by a couple of years, or longer.

Randy Moss and Terrell Owens rank among the league’s all-time leaders in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. In the end, there’s a chance that they’ll finish second and third behind only Jerry Rice in each of those three categories.

But they have caused plenty of problems. Not off the field, where T.O. has never run afoul of the law once, actually or allegedly. Moss has had several issues during his 12-year NFL career, but he has largely kept out of trouble since playing street bowling with a traffic control officer nearly eight years ago in Minneapolis.

Still, Owens criticized nearly every quarterback who ever has thrown him a pass, he intentionally created as much disruption as possible five years ago in Philadelphia in the hopes of getting cut or traded, and he mastered the passive-aggressive art of pitting players against each other while at all times maintaining a high degree of plausible deniability.

And he loves him some him.

Randy Moss has played for the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots.
Randy Moss has played for the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots.

Moss, on the other hand, has a bad habit of mentally shutting down — either in a given game or, as he did in 2006 with the Raiders, for an entire season.

One Hall of Fame voter believes that, of the two, Moss has committed the bigger crime against football. "He’d roll over and die like a dog for teams when they needed him most," the voter, who requested anonymity, explained. "He quit on his team in Minnesota. He quit for two years in Oakland. And he quit last year in New England."

Owens’ antics possibly can be attributed to the fact that he hasn’t been coddled like other high-end players. The voter contrasts Owens to Rice in this regard. "Rice was protected by the 49ers," the voter said. "He didn’t spout off in the locker room because he’d be ushered out after being shut down by Deion Sanders. No one ever protected T.O. like that."

As a result, some may actually put Owens above Moss, even if (as it appears) Moss will end up with better statistics.

"For one game, who gives his all?" the voter asked. "I’d pick Owens because I know he’ll give his all. I don’t know what Randy Moss is going to do."

That said, it’ll be harder to keep either guy out for a year or two beyond his initial eligibility if they finish in the top three for catches, yards, and touchdowns. The absence of a Super Bowl win by either player — each has made it there once — could fuel the cases against them, though.

A separate problem arises when considering the reality that the procedure for enshrinement requires the voter assigned to a player’s primary team to stand up and make the case for the player. Between them, Moss and Owens have played for seven franchises, and counting. They’ve made few friends in the media. As a result, it could be difficult for either to build enough momentum if no one will be making a compelling case for their candidacy.

In the end, they’ll both eventually make it. But with Michael Irvin being passed over twice, and Cris Carter and Andre Reed still waiting, and a cluster of guys like Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce and Marvin Harrison (despite his off-the-field issues) in the mix, too, it could be hard for Moss or Owens to make it on their first try.

Or their second. Or their third.

And, if that happens, the development likely will be described as everyone’s fault but their own.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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