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.

Career Games

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.

Pro Bowls

Moss made seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team all-pro four times.

Ellis earned one Pro Bowl berth after the 2007 season.

Stats/Approximate Value

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.

Distractions

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.

Final Tally

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.

Career Stats

Greg Ellis

Def Interceptions Fumbles Tackles
Year Tm Pos No. G GS Sk Int Yds TD FF FR Yds TD Tkl Ast AV
1998 DAL RDE 98 16 16 3.0 1 1 2 0 27 12 8
1999 DAL RDE 98 13 13 7.5 1 87 1 2 1 98 1 37 7 9
2000 DAL LDE 98 16 16 3.0 0 2 0 0 40 12 7
2001 DAL LDE 98 16 16 6.0 0 0 0 3 2 0 0 45 16 8
2002 DAL LDE 98 15 15 7.5 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 51 17 10
2003 DAL LDE 98 16 15 8.0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 35 14 9
2004 DAL LDE 98 16 16 9.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 44 15 7
2005 DAL RDE 98 16 13 8.0 0 0 0 2 2 37 0 25 10 8
2006 DAL LOLB 98 9 9 4.5 1 -1 0 3 0 0 0 24 7 4
2007* DAL LLB 98 13 10 12.5 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 24 7 7
2008 DAL LLB 98 16 16 8.0 1 11 0 0 1 0 0 25 11 8
2009 OAK RDE 99 14 14 7.0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 26 4 6
Career 176 169 84.0 4 97 1 22 11 137 1 403 132 91
11 yrs DAL 162 155 77.0 4 97 1 20 9 137 1 377 128 85
1 yr OAK 14 14 7.0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 26 4 6
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/1/2011.

Randy Moss

Receiving
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Fmb AV
1998*+ 21 MIN WR 84 16 11 69 1313 19.0 17 61 4.3 82.1 2 17
1999* 22 MIN WR/PR 84 16 16 80 1413 17.7 11 67 5.0 88.3 3 15
2000*+ 23 MIN WR 84 16 16 77 1437 18.7 15 78 4.8 89.8 2 17
2001 24 MIN WR 84 16 16 82 1233 15.0 10 73 5.1 77.1 0 11
2002* 25 MIN WR 84 16 16 106 1347 12.7 7 60 6.6 84.2 1 13
2003*+ 26 MIN WR 84 16 16 111 1632 14.7 17 72 6.9 102.0 1 17
2004 27 MIN WR 84 13 13 49 767 15.7 13 82 3.8 59.0 1 8
2005 28 OAK WR 18 16 15 60 1005 16.8 8 79 3.8 62.8 0 8
2006 29 OAK WR 18 13 13 42 553 13.2 3 51 3.2 42.5 0 3
2007*+ 30 NWE WR 81 16 16 98 1493 15.2 23 65 6.1 93.3 0 20
2008 31 NWE WR 81 16 16 69 1008 14.6 11 76 4.3 63.0 3 11
2009* 32 NWE WR 81 16 16 83 1264 15.2 13 71 5.2 79.0 2 13
2010 33 3TM 16 11 28 393 14.0 5 37 1.8 24.6 0 4
NWE 81 4 3 9 139 15.4 3 35 2.3 34.8 0 2
MIN 84 4 4 13 174 13.4 2 37 3.3 43.5 0 1
TEN 84 8 4 6 80 13.3 0 26 0.8 10.0 0 1
Career 202 191 954 14858 15.6 153 82 4.7 73.6 15 157
8 yrs MIN 113 108 587 9316 15.9 92 82 5.2 82.4 10 99
4 yrs NWE 52 51 259 3904 15.1 50 76 5.0 75.1 5 46
2 yrs OAK 29 28 102 1558 15.3 11 79 3.5 53.7 0 11
1 yr TEN 8 4 6 80 13.3 0 26 0.8 10.0 0 1
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/1/2011.
  • Tim

    And Moss led the league 5 times in TD catches.  And is 2nd all time tied with Terrel Owens.  Oh well.  I liked Greg and I understood the move, but in some ways I felt it was an overcompensation to the team’s image problems.

  • Ray

    Moss more than likely wouldn’t have made a big enough impact on the Cowboys after Aikman retired. I worry sometimes if we can utilize Dez’ athletic talent with Romo. Moss would have had Hutchinson, Carter, Wright, Stoerner and Leaf throwing to him. Moss would have been very unhappy and become a ‘cancer’ just like TO would a few years later..