Is Randy Moss Too Old?

By Andrew Carroll
July 25, 2012 1:14 am
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But Moss, despite his downside being almost non-existent for the reasons above, is so much more promising than that. He has produced 1,000 yards in every year of his NFL career, except the years which were his last on a specific team.

With the Vikings, from 1998 to 2003, he produced six consecutive 1,200 yard seasons. He dropped off in '04 due to a hamstring that effectively kept him out of five games, but still produced 767 yards and 13 touchdowns.

All of this with varying figures at quarterback. Randall Cunningham was the primary quarterback in '98, though Brad Johnson did get some games in. In '99, Cunningham (now 36) roughly split time with Jeff George. Neither put up great numbers, but Moss still had 80 receptions for over 1,400 yards. In 2000, a young Daunte Culpepper took over; and the Vikings again made the playoffs. Culpepper remained the primary quarterback for the rest of Moss' tenure in Minnesota, but the Vikings did not get into the post-season for three consecutive years; and even though they barely squeezed their way in at 8 - 8 in '04, Moss' time there was done by the end of that season.

He moved on to the Oakland Raiders where he produced 1,000 yards in 15 games despite dealing with injuries and being on a 4 - 12 team. In '06, the Raiders finished even worse, and Moss, dealing with more injuries and allegedly lacking in effort, only played in 13 games, producing 500 yards and 3 touchdowns.

In '07 he moved to New England and had an NFL-record year. Though he missed pre-season and much of camp with another hamstring injury, he had a season for the ages and the Patriots came one game away from the perfect 19 - 0 season. From '08 to '09 he continued to produce over 1,000 yards, but the Patriots exited the playoffs early both years; and in 2010 he was mutually released after feeling disrespected by Belichick and the Patriots organization. Personally, if I had Randy freakin' Moss, I would have treated him better, but what do I know?

He hopped his way through several teams in 2010 after leaving New England - all to his (and their) dissatisfaction.

The pattern emerging is that when a team stops doing well, or when Moss feels disrespected and unwanted, he seems to become discoruaged. Even still, his production throughout his career is historic - Moss on an apathetic, uncaring day is still Randy Moss - and there is no reason to believe he will not be able to produce with San Francisco. It has never seemed to matter who was at quarterback for Moss; from Kerry Collins to Randall Cunningham, from Tom Brady to Jeff George - Moss produced regardless.

What has mattered is the spirit of the locker room, feeling respected and trusted by his teammates and the organization, and winning. Barring a complete 180 from last season, Randy will have all three of these things in San Francicso; and the truth is, no matter what you think of Alex Smith, he will not be the worst quarterback Randy has ever had.

Not only will Moss have the ingredients he demands from an organization, but he still has the speed, height, understanding, and raw talent to make him a great wide receiver. Remember, Moss took a year off in 2010 and had time to think things over. He chose San Francisco right away after tossing the ball around with Harbaugh for a couple hours, and that did not happen without a reason. Moss believes this could be a fresh start, and that he can produce here like he used to.

San Francisco should certainly be glad to have him, because the 49ers have not had a 1,000 yard receiver (or tight end, for that matter) since 2003, when Terrell Owens went for 1,100 at the age of 30.  Their leading receiver in '06 was future Hall of Famer, Isaac Bruce, who knotted over 800 yards at the age of 36.

Randy Moss, at the age of 35, still has a couple (literally: two) good years left in him if the history of quality, aging receivers is any indication. The Niners struck gold at the right time (pun intended). This could be the year they finally get a 1,000 yard receiver. Even if it is not Moss, he could provide enough distraction and require enough game-planning that it will open things up for newly acquired Mario Manningham, or for Michael Crabtree, who has been slowly building a solid rapport with Alex Smith.

From 2001 to 2011, 16 different players from the age of 35 to 37 have started at least eight games. Six of those achieved over 1,000 yards, and two did it twice (Owens almost did it for a second time in 2010, despite only starting 11 games):

Player Year Age Team Games Started Rec. Yards TDs Y/G
Jimmy Smith 2004 35 JAX 16 16 74 1172 6 73.3
Tim Brown 2001 35 OAK 16 16 91 1165 9 72.8
Rod Smith 2005 35 DEN 16 16 85 1105 6 69.1
Joey Galloway 2006 35 TAM 16 14 62 1057 7 66.1
Terrell Owens 2008 35 DAL 16 16 69 1052 10 65.8
Derrick Mason 2009 35 BAL 16 16 73 1028 7 64.3
Jimmy Smith 2005 36 JAX 16 16 70 1023 6 67.6
Joey Galloway 2007 36 TAM 15 15 57 1014 6 67.6
Terrell Owens 2010 37 CIN 14 11 72 983 9 70.2


Jimmy Smith had Byron Leftwich and David Gerrard in '04 and '05. Tim Brown had a 36-year-old Rich Gannon.  Rod Smith had Jake Plummer.  Galloway had Bruce Gradkowski, 36-year-old Jeff Garcia, and Luke McCown in his two years on the list. Owens had Tony Romo in '09 and Carson Palmer in '10.  Mason had Joe Flacco.

Where does Smith fit in among these names and the years they had?  Honestly, he is not the worst on the list.  Where does Moss fit in among the receivers?  Quite clearly not the worst on the list.  Going off this, does Moss' age really matter?

Here are the five receivers who started at least eight games between ages 35 and 37 over the past two years. Since they are more Moss' contemporaries, perhaps they can provide a different template for what we might expect:

Player Year Age Team Games Started Rec. Yards TDs Y/G
Terrell Owens 2010 37 CIN 14 11 72 983 9 70.2
Derrick Mason 2010 36 BAL 16 15 61 802 7 50.1
Donald Driver 2010 35 GB 15 15 51 565 4 37.7
Donald Driver 2011 36 GB 16 14 37 445 6 27.8
Hines Ward 2011 35 PIT 15 9 46 381 2 25.4


The average between the five is 12.5 games started, 15 games played, 53 receptions for 633 yards, and roughly six touchdowns.  Again, this would not only be more-than-acceptable, assuming Moss fills his primary role of taking the tops off of defenses, but it's actually better than many critics believe Moss can do.  Which is strange, because Moss is undeniably a bigger threat than any of these receivers ever were.  The only one truly comparable is Owens, who had an outstanding season in 2010, despite not playing every game.  If they could all produce at ages 35 to 37, why can't Moss?

On whole, the San Francisco passing attack seems destined to improve, and this writer expects Randy Moss to be a big part of that.  The football nation itself is very excited at the prospect of Moss in a Niners uniform, and many otherwise-skeptical pundits will be pleasantly surprised at what he is still capable of at the age of 35.  More than anything, Moss is hungry for that Super Bowl ring, which would be the crowning achievement on his already Hall of Fame career.  If all the doubters make him even hungrier, so be it.  But even at the age of 35, does anyone really want to line up on defense and see Randy freakin' Moss standing in front of them?

 

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By Andrew Carroll
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20 months ago
I dont think he'll have monster reception or yards numbers, but the TDs will be up there. It's crazy how much Randy can help your red zone offense
20 months ago

And of course the 49ers' offense could use its share of help in the red zone. Edwards was supposed to aid that problem last year, but he never came through as hoped.

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