ASHBURN, Virginia — Santana Moss had caught just seven passes this year for the Washington Redskins. At age 35, he knows he might not be much in demand once the season is over.
That makes it a fair time to reflect on a good career that might have been even better, if only he could have played with a steady quarterback. And also to defend the first-year coach who made him a bench-warmer.
"I feel like I've been cursed," Moss said with a laugh. "Everywhere I've been, I've had a million quarterbacks, man."
Moss has averaged one quarterback per year, catching passes from 14 QBs since entering the league in 2001. An uninspiring list ranging from Jason Campbell (214) to Brooks Bollinger (2) has contributed to his 729 career receptions for 10,258 yards with the New York Jets and Redskins.
Not bad, but he says he could have had "numbers like the other guys" he feels are on his level if he could've developed some long-term QB chemistry.
"Never had a solid guy that I can really grow with," Moss said.
This year, the Redskins have used three starters: Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. It hasn't mattered which has played as far as Moss' production is concerned: He was pushed low on the depth chart this year when Washington signed DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts to join Pierre Garcon on the receiving corps.
Despite first-year coach Jay Gruden's assurances that the chances would come, Moss didn't catch a pass until Nov. 30. All seven of his catches have come in the last three games.
"It (stinks) when you still can play at this age and you don't get a chance to do that all the time," Moss said. "I've been fortunate these later weeks to be able to go out there and have fun in this sport again."
But Moss isn't venting his frustration specifically toward Gruden or the Redskins in general. He said he wants to be back with the team next season, and he had a message for those who think Gruden is too forthcoming when discussing players' flaws in public.
"First year, man, you've got give him a chance," Moss said. "I've seen worse done in people's first year. But Jay's just a different type of coach. He's one of those guys that he might be misunderstood at times the way he says the things he says in the media, but to me it's just being blunt, it's being real."
Moss said Gruden doesn't say anything to reporters that he hasn't already said to a player.
"He'll actually say that stuff to you in your face," Moss said. "So if you want a coach to lie to you, then go find somewhere else to play because he's not going to lie. I'd rather you be straight up with me. ... If you're a player and you feel his criticism hurts you and affects you as a player, then you're not built for this game."
Gruden repaid the compliment.
"We only have so many balls to go around," Gruden said, "and unfortunately some of the receivers haven't got as many touches as they would like to have seen or that we projected early in the season. ... But Santana, I have been impressed with him all season. He has been a total pro, been a great leader in that receiver room and we are happy he is here."
Moss said he keeps coming back because he wants to win a Super Bowl, but that doesn't appear imminent for a team that went 3-13 last year and is 3-11 this season headed into Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The nonstop losing got the best of Moss when he was ejected from Sunday's loss to the New York Giants for arguing a ruling that overturned a touchdown, which, if nothing else, shows he still has some passion for the game.
"As long as I can run up and down the field, or can be some assistance to the team in any kind of way, then I'll play this game," Moss said. "If I can't, I'll know before they know, and I won't even go out there and try."
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP