Vikings

Mike Tice Settles the Moss vs. Jefferson Rookie Season Debate

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee (USA TODAY Sports)

When I think of Mike Tice, I rarely think of him being an authority figure. “Ticket scalping” and “boat party” immediately come to mind. He’s a remnant of the pre-Wilfs ownership of the Minnesota Vikings when we were all introduced to whizzonators and the team was owned by a guy named Red.

But he is an authority on football, especially offense. He was a quarterback at Maryland who went undrafted and finished his career as a tight end with the Vikings. When his playing days were over, he stayed at Winter Park and worked his way up from coaching tight ends (1996) and the offensive line (1997-2001) before becoming the head coach from 2002-05.

The creator of the Randy Ratio, which dictated that Minnesota throw the ball to Randy Moss at least 40 percent of the time, co-hosts a radio show (KDLM) and podcast with Joe Johnson and Joe Oberle called the VikingsTerritory breakdown* and weighed in on the Justin Jefferson vs. Moss debate.

“Randy Moss was a touchdown magnet,” he said. “Jefferson doesn’t have quite those types of numbers with the touchdowns. The elite Hall of Famers score a lot of touchdowns. Jefferson is off to a great start but we’d like to see more touchdowns.”

It’s a pretty straightforward formulation: Touchdowns are good. Moss scored more of them than Jefferson is on pace to this season. Moss is better than Jefferson.

Moss caught 69 passes for 1313 yards and 17 touchdowns in his rookie season. Jefferson currently has 61 catches for 1039 yards and seven touchdowns so far.

I get it, this seems like a dumb-guy football take. And it’s coming from a coach who went 6-10, 9-7, 8-8 and 9-7 in his four full seasons coaching the Vikings. Bud Grant, he was not.

But it’s not a dumb-guy football take. Tice is right here.

Moss changed the game. He altered the geometry of defenses and disrupted the mindset of a league that was built more around defenses and the run game. You know, the way Mike Zimmer and Gary Kubiak want football to be played now.

He was what Stephen Curry is to basketball. When teams had to game plan around Moss catching the deep pass, it opens up stuff underneath, just like defenses get stretched trying to guard Curry and open themselves up to athletic players who can slash to the basket.

“You’re not going to see the Green Bay Packers put a linebacker over on that side and play over the top of him with a corner like they did with Randy Moss… You’re not going to see that with Justin Jefferson just yet,” Tice said. “Randy Moss changed the game and made the Green Bay Packers… they started drafting taller cornerbacks and bigger players to find some way to slow down Randy Moss.”

That’s the key difference. Jefferson is the player the Vikings needed when they traded Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills: A dynamic receiver who Kirk Cousins can trust and takes some pressure off of Adam Thielen.

He’s on pace to finish the season with 78 receptions, 1426 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns — which would break Moss’s rookie receiving yards record with the Vikings. He’s a legitimate No. 1 receiver who should sell jerseys, as Moss did.

But he’s not Moss. He didn’t change the game. He’s not going to overhaul the Green Bay Packers’ draft strategy.

That’s Tice’s point. And that should settle the debate.

*This was updated to reflect that Mike Tice is a co-host of the “VikingsTerritory breakdown” podcast.

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