McCombs said he considered firing Tice

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings owner Red McCombs said Thursday that he nearly fired coach Mike Tice last season in an effort to get more out of star receiver Randy Moss.

In his first public comments since trading Moss to the Raiders, McCombs also acknowledged that he knows the Vikings didn't get enough from Oakland in return. The deal was made last week and officially completed on Wednesday.

McCombs said he was so desperate to "get a spark out of Randy" that he considered firing Tice just before Moss returned from a hamstring injury. At the time, the Vikings had lost three of four games after starting the season 5-1.

"I gave serious thought to replacing Mike when Randy was coming off injury," McCombs said, speaking by teleconference from Texas. "I was trying to think, 'How can I make this thing work where we get that spark?'"

Changing coaches would have been the quickest way to send a major message, McCombs said, but ultimately he decided to stick with Tice, the league's lowest-paid head coach. Moss and his $75 million contract were eventually shipped to Oakland.

In exchange for Moss, the Vikings received linebacker Napoleon Harris, the No. 7 pick in April's NFL draft and a seventh-round pick. The deal has drawn criticism from some fans who wanted more for their marquee player.

McCombs said he had Tice's replacement picked out and ready to approach, but he didn't reveal who the person was.

Moss's agent, Dante DiTrapano, said he thought firing Tice actually would have had a "negative effect" on Moss.

"They had a good relationship, and coach Tice is not what's wrong with that football team," DiTrapano said.

In Moss' seven years with the team, McCombs said, the team tried everything but failed to get the most out its talented but combustible player.

"I really did not want to part company with Randy, but it had to happen," McCombs said. "I know Randy can do a lot more than what we got out of him. ... In seven years, we had all kinds of opportunities and we couldn't cash in on them."

In a wide-ranging and sometimes bizarre teleconference, McCombs said he thought Moss was a "five-touchdown player in every game" and lamented the Vikings' inability to get that kind of production out of him.

Moss leaves Minnesota with every major receiving record for a player in his first seven seasons in the league.

"I don't think that they used the players in the way they should've," DiTrapano said. "They had that weapon the whole time, and they rarely used it. Randy cannot throw the ball to himself."

When asked about McCombs' comments, Tice mostly made light of the situation.

"I gave serious thought to quitting sometimes," Tice joked. "I thought, 'I don't need this (stuff).' So I guess we're even."

McCombs said it was inevitable that some fans would think the team didn't get enough for Moss. He didn't think they did, either.

"If we'd have gotten twice what we got, (it wouldn't have been equal)," McCombs said. "He's one of my favorite players and one of my favorite people in all of sports and he will remain that way."

Moss' numerous distractions on and off the field didn't play a role in making the trade, McCombs said. Those included being fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd during Minnesota's playoff win, walking off the field with two seconds left in a regular-season loss against Washington and verbally abusing corporate sponsors on a team bus in 2001.

"Those never had any issue with me," McCombs said. "We knew Randy wasn't a jerk.

"He will be one of the great players in the 100 years of the NFL," McCombs added. "I have no doubt about that. It worked out well here, but he wasn't getting us to where I thought we had a chance to go. ... It was time to make a move. It was time for Randy and it was time for us."

Tice disputed McCombs' claim that the Vikings were unable to tap Moss' full potential.

"We built our offense around him so I don't know how we could get more out of him," Tice said.

Moss or no Moss, Tice said, the Vikings' offense will move on.

"We will be excellent on offense," Tice said. "That's one thing I can stand here on March (3) and promise you."