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Moss Appeal

Viking Rookie Uses Revenge as Motivation, but Cowboys Couldn't Affford to Select Him

November 28, 1998|T.J. SIMERS

DALLAS — Nineteen teams--Cincinnati twice--passed on Randy Moss in the NFL draft and now they are supposed to be embarrassed.

One Minnesota newspaper charts the catches and touchdowns notched by Moss weekly against the teams that bypassed him, so everyone can keep track of his rampage of revenge.

"I'm glad the Cowboys passed on me," Moss told a national television audience Thursday after destroying the Cowboys, the team that had showed the most interest before the draft in April. "I'm glad all those teams passed on me."

So am I.

Without a doubt that collective snub made an impression on Moss, focusing his athletic ability and motivation toward proving everyone so wrong. Good for Randy Moss, good for the NFL, but how hypocritical now to chastise those organizations that took a stand for accountability.

The Associated Press story recounting Moss' domination of the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day began, "Now the Dallas Cowboys know why they should have drafted Randy Moss when they had the chance."

The Cowboys, like every other team, knew all along why they should take Randy Moss.

"You're talking about a guy our scouts said was the greatest player they had ever seen," said Calvin Hill, hired by the Cowboys as a consultant to improve the team's image and their players' behavior.

But Moss had baggage. He had blown scholarship opportunities at Florida State and Notre Dame, attacked a student in high school, assaulted a girlfriend, and although there have been claims of mitigation, his behavior with NFL officials around the draft did not inspire confidence.

And after misfiring on Lawrence Phillips, the NFL came together in distrust on Moss.

"Something's happening . . . look at the NBA [lockout]," Hill said. "I think this may be [Commissioner] David Stern's way of saying we're going to seize back control of the game. We're going to let fans know we're in control. Things have gotten so far out of whack with grabbing coaches by the throat, we have to do something to the extent to say there are consequences for every action.

"We have to send that message or otherwise everything goes. We can't have a society where everything goes."

The Cowboys led the league in "everything goes" the last few years. Wide receiver Michael Irvin flaunted his disregard for respectability before being hauled off in front of a judge for more serious violations.

"There's an English proverb that says fame is a microscope," Hill said. "Dallas Cowboy fame is an electron microscope, sometimes it might even be a proctoscope."

Scrutiny of the Cowboys indicated there was no mention of law and order in the team's playbook. The players openly discussed a house they had rented near their practice facility, which they used during lunch breaks to cheat on their wives. The team's coach was arrested for carrying a handgun in an airport. Anyone wishing to bump into a Cowboy player was advised to visit the local strip clubs. Players were being suspended for drug use.

"We heard the criticism and we became determined to change the perception as well as do something about it," owner Jerry Jones said. "We had a slogan: 'We get it.' We understood people looked upon our players as role models."

Jones hired Hill, the father of Grant Hill, who grew up to be the model professional athlete as star of the Detroit Pistons, hired a team psychologist, put psychiatrists on retainers, hired a full-time player-program coordinator, appointed his son, Jerry Jr. as an overseer, initiated a family support system and hired a new coach, Chan Gailey, who came with a reputation for discipline.

But then came the greatest temptation of them all: Randy Moss.

"To say we have a structure in place, counseling, education and then take Randy Moss, that would have all been hollow," Jones said. "The decision was impacted to a large degree because I had to show that we meant business, that we were going to consider character in making these decisions. If I had picked Randy Moss, you could have kissed goodbye the opinion that we were going to consider off-the-field business when it came to acquiring players.

"It wasn't a question of facing the heat. I don't think anybody around town will say I'm afraid to make a tough decision. But perception is important. People were watching us: 'Let's see what happens when they really have to rassle with their soul and see if they will compromise for the sake of winning.' 'Do these guys understand it looks bad . . . the message it's sending?' "

The Cowboys took a warm body in Greg Ellis with the eighth pick in the first round, and Moss kept sliding down the draft board. It's a darn shame he didn't plummet farther, but there was no getting by the Vikings, as unruly as the Cowboys in recent years but not as widely known for it because they were not as successful.

With the Vikings, Moss now is the king of the "I told you sos," fueled by Coach Dennis Green and teammates, who motivate and embitter him for better results with constant reminders of how many teams passed on him.

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