Randy Moss: What Super Bowl Loss Means for Legendary WR's Legacy

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Wide receiver Randy Moss #84 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on while taking on the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If you were to compile a shortlist of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, Randy Moss would certainly be on that list.

Then again, if you were to compile a shortlist of the most enigmatic wide receivers in NFL history, he might just make that list too.

But with the San Francisco 49ers losing Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, 34-31, do we discredit Moss for never winning a championship? Does this only add more focus on the latter portion of his career, which has seen him change teams several times and generally fail to produce since leaving the New England Patriots?

I don't think so. The truth is, Moss' stats speak for themselves, and he has actually been lauded for being a positive influence in the 49ers' locker room (via the New York Times). Generally, only quarterbacks are judged by the amount of titles they have won.

Let's talk more about those stats. 

Only Jerry Rice (22,895) and Terrell Owens (15,934) have more receiving yards in NFL history than Moss (15,292).

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Only Rice (197) has more receiving touchdowns than Moss' 156.

He's ninth in NFL history with 982 receptions, he set the single-season record for touchdown receptions in 2007 with 23 and his 157 touchdowns are fourth all-time amongst all players.

But for anyone who ever watched Moss, he was about so much more than numbers. From a physical standpoint, if someone ever asked you to build the perfect wide receiver you need only to point at his picture.

In his prime, he was one of the five fastest players in the league, had a basketball player's vertical leap, was incredibly agile for a man who stood 6'4" and made some of the most brilliant, acrobatic catches I've ever seen.

He was the perfect weapon, just as capable of scoring a touchdown from a wide receiver screen as he was streaking down the field and getting behind the defense on a post route or leaping above a cornerback in the corner of the end zone on a red-zone fade.

Sure, he wasn't the sort of player who you wanted to consistently send over the middle. After all, if you own a Ferrari you don't drive it in a blizzard. And yes, his work ethic, attitude and effort were often disappointing. Some plays, he simply didn't do a thing. 

As wide receivers go, he fit the "diva" stereotype perfectly. But he was often forgiven for that fact because he was capable of doing things no receiver in NFL history could do. His talent was that great.

His swan song would come in 2007, when he would join the Patriots and Tom Brady. Moss was fantastic, catching 98 passes for 1,492 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Patriots would start the season 18-0 before losing in the Super Bowl.

Moss would spend two more fairly productive seasons in New England before being traded back to the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. And then later that season, to the Tennessee Titans. And then he retired and sat out a year before joining the 49ers this offseason.

In a way, it has been sad to see how Moss' career has dwindled toward its end. Some of the shine has come off of his legend. In another way, it aligns perfectly with the rest of his career. You were either admiring something spectacular he did or shaking your head at some questionable act he pulled.

But at least with the 49ers, he leaves us all with the quiet dignity of an athlete who knows he's well past his prime and is only hoping to lend wisdom to his younger teammates and keep them from replicating his past mistakes.

In the end, I'll remember that too. I'll remember Randy Moss as the player who took my breath away, often made me shake my head and sigh and went out giving his teammates the one thing he had left: a veteran presence and role model they could look up to.

Take all three of them together, and it sure is one heck of a memorable legacy. 

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