Simple question: Randy Moss or Terrell Owens?
That’s a choice Hall-of-Fame voters face in 2018 when Moss becomes eligible for Canton, and it’s one bound to create considerable fallout … no matter what happens.
Voters can choose one of the two former receivers. Or they can choose both. Or they can choose neither.
So we put the question to Hall-of-Fame general manager Bill Polian and asked what he would do. His answer was as immediate as it was definitive.
“I take neither,” he said. “First of all, here’s my position: (I want players who) contribute both individually and to the team. T.O.’s situation, T.O.’s temperament, his ability to contribute to the team was well known up front. He was going to be a problem. We did not want to deal with problem children. Others may. We didn’t.
“That’s number one. Number two, every year in Indianapolis we said the following: ‘The price of admission is 100 percent effort all the time in everything we do.’ Well, how can we take Randy Moss when we make that statement? It’s that simple.”
For those who have forgotten, it was Moss who, in 2001, announced that “I play when I want to play” after critics complained he sometimes looked disinterested on the field and took plays off. Of course, it was also Moss who was so accomplished that he was a first-team all-decade choice for the 2000s.
Owens was named to the second team.
And there’s where the debate begins. Like Owens, Moss put up big numbers — setting single-season records for touchdown catches (23) and TD catches by a rookie (17), as well as ranking second all time in touchdown receptions, third in receiving yards and 15th in catches.
Like Owens, Moss failed to win a Super Bowl, though he went to two. Owens went to one. But, like Owens, he shuttled among five teams, including the Vikings twice, and was traded three times and waived once.
Furthermore, where effort was never questioned with Owens, it was with Moss — with Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice once saying that watching someone as talented as Moss not always give 100 percent was “hard for me to swallow.” Nevertheless, like Owens, Moss is expected to reach Canton — maybe not as a first-ballot choice but soon.
“I think they will, unfortunately in my view,” said Polian, “because whether you like it or not. these ‘electoral campaigns’ have a way of swinging people. In my view, and I said this publicly last year, I think the Hall of Fames are for people who make their teams better, not who detract from them.
“Now, T.O. was a bigger detractor over his career than Moss, but you certainly wouldn’t call (Moss’ attitude) any harbinger or example of what you want in a football player other than when he decided to play. ‘I play when I play.’ I don’t buy it.”
Owens was one of two receivers in the Class of 2017. Isaac Bruce was the other. But both failed to make the cut from 15 to 10, with Bruce a finalist for the first time in three years of eligibility. There was no outcry over Bruce’s failure to be elected, yet Polian said he would choose the former Rams’ star ahead of Owens.
“Yes, of course, ” he said. “What did Owens do that made his teams better? He put up a lot of numbers. Bill (Parcells) said that he was a disruptive force. Jerry (Jones), who’s probably one of the most easy-going people when it comes to disruptive guys, got rid of him. I’ve gotten texts from people in Philadelphia responding to the campaign saying, ‘This guy was a cancer and destroyed our football team.’ How does that square with the Hall of Fame?
“Part of the motto of the Hall of Fame is (to) support the values of the game. How did he support the values of the game? It’s a team game. It’s not an individual game.”
Owens and his supporters have been critical of the Hall’s voters for not admitting him in his first two years of eligibility, with Owens three weeks ago calling the process “a total joke,” adding that “honestly, it doesn’t mean anything to me to get in beyond this point.” Nevertheless, we tried to reach him the past two weeks, hoping to give him an opportunity to make his case for Canton on our weekly Talk of Fame Network radio program.
We have not heard from him or his agent.