Will former Bengals wide receiver make the Hall of Fame cut when voters meet on Saturday?
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP/WKRC) - Randy Moss on one side, former Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens on the other, and Isaac Bruce in the slot.
A defensive coordinator's dilemma.
On Saturday, the 48 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame face a similar complexity. Is Moss, in his first year of eligibility for the Canton, Ohio, shrine, worthy of induction? And what about T.O., in his third year on the ballot? Or Bruce, in his fourth year.
How about all of them?
The two dynamic and sometimes controversial wide receivers and the always-reliable and often spectacular Bruce are among 15 modern-era candidates. From that group, no more than five will be selected.
Also being considered are first-year eligibles linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and guard Steve Hutchinson. Other finalists are running back Edgerrin James; center Kevin Mawae; safeties John Lynch and Brian Dawkins; guard Alan Faneca; tackles Joe Jacoby and Tony Boselli; and cornerbacks Ty Law and Everson Walls.
The senior nominees are linebacker Robert Brazile and guard Jerry Kramer. In the contributor's committee it is Bobby Beathard.
Much of the attention will be paid to the guys who caught the ball extremely well. Moss and Owens made the Team of the Decade for the 2000s. Bruce's TD reception won the 2000 Super Bowl for the Rams against the Titans.
Owens has been a lightning rod because despite impressive career numbers, he's failed twice to get the necessary 80 percent for induction.
"I think it diminishes the reputation and the credibility the Hall of Fame is really revered for," Owens says of not being elected for what he believes are "character" reasons.
"I have kind of just moved on from it. Me not getting in first time — and everybody else said at the same time, I should have been in — and even the second time, I have been in (contention) — I am very fortunate and blessed to have played the game as long as I did considering I thought I would never play beyond the college level."
Owens played for five teams in 15 pro seasons, having the most success with San Francisco and Dallas, losing a Super Bowl with Philadelphia. Each of his stints in those cities — he also was with Buffalo and Cincinnati — didn't end well.
"Early in my career when I was an adolescent and teenager, I had self-esteem issues," he explains. "I had to get out of that. You have to believe in yourself in order to progress in order to do anything in your life. No matter what, I am not going to look at the Hall of Fame as a platform to kind of validate what I did in my career."
Nor does Moss, who spent 14 NFL seasons with five clubs, having his best years with Minnesota and New England. He was the 1998 Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Vikings, and in 2007 helped the Patriots go undefeated until they fell to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Like Owens, Moss also had some run-ins with teammates, opponents, coaches and executives. Whether that affects him as Owens believes it has impacted him for Hall of Fame consideration remains to be seen.
"Going through college and my first couple years in the league, I never looked at the Hall of Fame or at the (gold) jackets," Moss says. "I loved and enjoyed the game. As I retired, now on my fifth year and up as a finalist, now is the time I really looked at, 'Am I Hall of Fame worthy? Will I get the nod?'
"Through my playing career, the Hall of Fame was not in my equation. I just enjoyed coming to the stadium and being around my teammates and just competing."
Moss admits there might be some nerves Saturday.
"It's kind of like you going into court and being in front of a jury, the fate is in their hands," he says. "I don't have a vote.
"What I will do is be around close family and friends and just wait it out. ... I guess your overall final accomplishment for playing in the NFL is the gold jacket. Some nervousness will come in.
"I think I am worthy of getting in on the first ballot, but if not, you win some, you lose some. If the Hall of Fame is my final stop, I am definitely honored to be part of it."