Randy Moss Retires: How Will History Remember Mercurial All-Pro Receiver?

Derek Estes@NotacowCorrespondent IAugust 1, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20:  Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium on September 20, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Agent Joel Segal has announced this afternoon that one of the most successful and talented receivers in history, Randy Moss, is retiring.

Thus ends the strange, amazing and often confusing career of a player who has been both electrifying and enigmatic, productive and polarizing.

Moss's career has been filled with these disparate moments dating back to high school. His collegiate career hit a snag right off the bat when Notre Dame denied his application following a race-related fight which resulted in 30 days in jail and expulsion from DuPont High. He left for Florida State, but couldn't stay there either following a positive drug test for marijuana. He spent his college years breaking records for Division I-AA Marshall.

His immense talent convinced the Minnesota Vikings to draft Moss in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft despite his questionable history. He spent the next seven years in the headlines for, among other things, a positive marijuana testing, pretending to moon Green Bay Packers fans following a touchdown and knocking over a traffic officer with his 2002 Lexus. These issues made it much easier for Minnesota to accept the Oakland Raiders' trade offer for Moss in 2005.

Moss was far from impressive in his two years playing for Oakland. Believed to be on the downhill slope physically, he found himself traded again, this time to New England for the bargain price of a fourth-round pick. Oakland's former offensive coordinator Tom Walsh later spoke out against Moss, saying he "lacked the work ethic and the desire" to maintain himself well enough to perform later in his career.

All stayed quiet off-field for Moss until 2010, when he expressed his displeasure at not receiving a contract extension. Four weeks into the season, Moss found himself returning to Minnesota. Moss's value had increased during his three years with New England; the Patriots received a third-round pick from the Vikings.

Moss's nostalgia visit to Minnesota was short-lived, though. Public comments against the team and subpar on-field play led the Vikings to waive Moss after only four weeks. The Titans picked him up on waivers, but he only caught six passes in his final eight games.

So the question is, can Moss's on-field success overcome this laundry list of dysfunction and discontent?

The other side of the coin, after all, has plenty of luster. Moss surpassed 1,200 yards each of his first six seasons with Minnesota, and shattered the record for most receiving touchdowns in a season (23). That performance in 2008 was a major factor in the Patriots' 16-0 record in the regular season.

He also caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII with less than three minutes remaining. This gave the Patriots a 14-10 lead, though the defense couldn't hold on to win, losing on a New York Giants' score with 35 seconds left in the game.

History shows that solid production can overcome off-field antics and personality issues when determining a player's legacy. Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Lawrence Taylor are key examples of this.

On-field production is the least of Moss's concerns, looking over the span of his career. In 13 years in the NFL, Moss accumulated nearly 15,000 yards and 156 touchdowns. He was selected for the Pro Bowl seven times, All-Pro five times and is a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade team. His name decorates the NFL record book.

Five years from now, Randy Moss will likely be wearing a yellow blazer in Canton. Fortunately for him, that bronze bust in the Hall of Fame won't carry nearly so much tarnish as Moss's actual career has.