Greg Ellis vs. Randy Moss: The Final Tally
The Cowboys were facing an identity crisis in 1998. The previous season had been a disaster, as off-the-field distractions piled up and the team finished 6-10. Barry Switzer was gone as head coach, and the team moved forward trying to improve its image.
Dallas had hired an offensive coach in Chan Gailey and had the #8 pick, the team’s highest in seven years. Marshall’s Randy Moss was still on the board when the Cowboys were ready to pick. They took North Carolina defensive end Greg Ellis instead.
Moss famously gave Dallas fits for years. Those years are officially over now, though, with Moss announcing his retirement today. Ellis’ final season was 2009 with the Raiders.
Here are some comparisons between the two.
Moss played in 202 games, starting 191 in 13 seasons. He played for four teams, including the Vikings (twice), Raiders, Patriots, and Titans.
Ellis played in 176 games, starting 169 in 12 seasons. He spent 11 years in Dallas before wrapping up his career in Oakland.
Moss made seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team all-pro four times.
Ellis earned one Pro Bowl berth after the 2007 season.
Hard to compare a receiver and a defensive end/linebacker. We’ll go with Pro-Football-Reference’s approximate value.
Moss had a career AV of 157. His best season was 2007, when he caught 98 passes for 1493 yards and 23 TD. His AV that year was 20.
Ellis had a career AV of 91. His best season in terms of AV was 2002 when he earned an AV of 10 thanks to a career-high 51 tackles. During his Pro Bowl season of 2007, he had 12.5 sacks but only 24 tackles, dropping his AV to 7.
Moss talked and behaved in a way that the Cowboys probably expected when the team passed him up in 1998. Moss was very productive in Minnesota, but he had a substandard 2004 season due to injury, and the Vikings traded him to Oakland. His career looked as if it was falling apart with the Raiders, but he was rejuvenated after another trade sent him to New England. Last season, though, was a disaster, and he wound up playing for three different teams, including the Patriots and Vikings and also the Tennessee Titans.
Ellis was a generally soft spoken player with a good work ethic. But he also became a complainer. When the team moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4, he complained. When the team drafted Anthony Spencer, Ellis complained. And then he complained more about the money he made and the respect he received. Some in Oakland didn’t want Ellis to come there because of the complaining.
Moss undoubtedly had a better overall career than Ellis, but whether Moss would have made a long-term difference in Dallas is questionable.
Moss may have teamed up with Michael Irvin in 1998 to form an unstoppable duo. But Moss never showed that he could be a team leader, and Dallas would have lost its veteran core during the first few years that Moss was there.
Ellis’s career differed from Moss considerably from Moss’s. Moss showed what he brought to the table from day one. With Ellis, fans often saw glimpses of greatness, but he left fans wanting to see more. Nobody ever talks about Ellis in the same breath as Too Tall Jones, Harvey Martin, or Charles Haley. Instead, Ellis became the 2000s version of Jim Jeffcoat.