Now that Randy Moss has earned a spot on the Hall of Fame — as one of only two receivers to do so their first time on the ballot — it behooves us to look back on his career and remember the receiver he really was, not just the receiver that his critics — and some proponents — want him to be.
Some of the most intriguing clips of Moss’ play are the ones that show off his receiver techniques. Phenomenal releases off the line of scrimmage, excellent deception throughout his route, late hands to deceive defensive backs, staggered speed and changing acceleration through the pattern, even excellent control of his face — all contributed to his excellence on the field.
Not tipping off a defensive back until the very last second with your hand movements — referred to as “shooting late hands” by Pats receiver Brandon LaFell — isn’t a skill you can acquire overnight. It takes discipline, patience, and an inherent trust in the quarterback that he will put the ball in the perfect spot. Ultimately, it’s a finely crafted art, one that Moss taught his fellow receivers in his three-plus years with the Patriots.
Doug Farrar explained in 2012 why that football intelligence has been crucial to Moss’ success. The New England offense, like many in the NFL, relies on sight adjustments, or “option routes.” Those option routes became fairly extensive in the Patriots playbook, where receivers had to read the alignment of corners, leverage they had on those corners, blitzes, safety depth and positioning and so on and run different routes on the same play call based on all of those variables.
Greg Jennings detailed how those options might change routes in a piece for the Player’s Tribune about receiver play, but he also went into another incredible part of Moss’ success — his eye and facial discipline.
Randy Moss took this to another level on deep balls. Obviously, Randy was fast. But he also did something that most receivers can’t do because it’s such a difficult skill. Randy would turn and spot the ball in the air midway through his route, then he would take his eyes off the ball to run to where it was going to be, then he would turn his eyes back to the ball at the very last second and raise his arms to catch it.
As a defender, if a guy is looking back at the ball and you see his facial expression change, that’s your signal to put your hand up. But Randy never gave them that opportunity. His facial expression never changed. He would turn his head and put his hands up at the very last moment, and it was all so smooth.
Moss has even been known to make sure his eyes don’t go any wider when the ball approaches so that defensive backs don’t understand the timing.
Bruce Davis created a video series about Moss attempting to bust some of the common myths that have dogged the wideout, a controversial figure in the sporting world.
While not every video is up — likely the result of a content strike from the NFL — many of them are.
There is an unnumbered part of the series that starts with some great analysis from former Viking Nate Burleson who goes into some of the technical skills Moss had as well as the technical failures that Moss forced in opposing defensive backs. It’s labeled “No Strength/Can’t Beat Physical Corners,” a reference to the criticism that comes more from the perception of his physical frame and memory of his flashy plays than it does a serious analysis of his play.
Part 3, the first numbered part that you can find on his YouTube page, addresses Moss’ route-running ability.
The most-criticized aspect of Moss’ game attacked his effort and toughness. Though that has been something Moss has copped to in the past, it’s also something that Davis argues went underrated in Part 4 of his series.
Part 5 looks into Moss’ ability to go over the middle — something commentators criticized him for despite his many catches into traffic in part because of his lanky frame and penchant for winning deep.
The next part, Part 6, takes on his after-catch ability.
What might have kept him out of the Hall of Fame were rumors of his locker room demeanor and the well-held belief that Moss was a poor teammate. Davis addresses this, too, in Part 7:
And while it’s not a myth, it’s pretty clear that Davis relished the idea of showing off Moss’ incredible athleticism. So he made Part 8A, busting the “myth” that Randy Moss was not a Superfreak:
And if you just want to watch Randy Moss catch touchdowns over 40 yards long for 10 minutes, well the official NFL YouTube page has you covered.