ASHBURN, Va. -- He was here for three magical playoff runs and two horrendous finishes. He’s survived two coaching changes. He became an instant hero early in his first season here, catching two touchdown passes to win at Dallas.
He’s also experienced the lowest of the lows: the death of teammate, and friend, Sean Taylor.
But this could be it for Santana Moss in Washington. After nine seasons, Moss will become a free agent after the season and, considering he turns 35 in June, the end is near.
At one point this season the Redskins viewed Leonard Hankerson as a future slot receiver, making Moss expendable. Hankerson’s torn ACL complicates that, as does the fact that head coach Mike Shanahan might not be here in 2014. Would a new coach want to re-sign an aging wideout?
If this is the end for Moss, he’ll go down as one of the best wideouts in franchise history. Moss ranks third in catches with 569 and fourth in receiving yards with 7,738. His 48 touchdowns are tied for 10th best with former running back Stephen Davis. Moss did this during a pass-heavy league; he also did it with constant change at quarterback and in various schemes.
But the one thing you learn with Moss: He doesn’t like to reflect; he doesn’t like to address the future. He only likes to talk about what’s going on right now. So this might be his last game in a Redskins uniform after nine seasons?
“I don’t even talk about it,” he said. “It’s nothing I can control. All I got to do is control what I control, and that is to go out and play ball come Sunday. Why sit back and try to be the superior on something that’s going to be either given or not. I can’t do nothing about it.”
It’s an attitude that helped Moss endure rough seasons or even games where he’s not being targeted. He’s always been about what he can control. He’s always been consistent. In fact, and this is rare, I don’t recall him ever turning down an interview or being rude with reporters. Even when seasons are going bad, as this one has, Moss still sits at his locker, listening to his music. If a reporter happens over, he’ll take off his earphones and answer every question. I remember when the Redskins traded for Moss in 2005 (safe to say they liked giving up Lavaraneus Coles to get him; worked out well) and hearing that he could be up-and-down with the media. That hasn't been the case here; it's all been up.
Moss survived in part because he’s smart, fast, quick and a good route runner. As his speed decreased -- he had back-to-back seasons averaging better than 17.7 yards per catch in 2004 with New York and ’05 his first in Washington -- he became a clutch receiver on underneath routes.
Moss might not scare defenses anymore, but his production isn’t much different than two years ago when he caught 46 passes (a 47-pass drop-off from the previous year). He has 40 now.
If Moss doesn’t return to Washington, he’s shown he can still help. Even last week, he returned three punts for 35 yards. He started taking better care of his body two offseasons ago, when he was in danger of being cut. Earlier in his career the knock on him was he wore down late in the season.
As his career winds down, it’s natural to wonder what’s next for him. Not that Moss wants to do so. He shook his head at whether or not he’s weighed retirement, saying he’s only thinking about Sunday’s road game against the New York Giants.
And he did say this about his nine seasons here:
“It’s been a beautiful experience. It’s nothing I can ask for more. But I’m not trying to have that conversation now, about how much fun and all that. That’s something we’ll do down the road. I enjoy every day regardless of what day it is or what year it is. Even my four years before these nine years, I enjoyed those also. Every year it’s going to be something different.”
But, for the past nine years, one constant was Moss.