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It seems to be the only lingering question from the Patriots win over the Panthers on Sunday: Did Randy Moss quit on his team?
His history was called into question. Many wondered if this is the beginning of the end of his time in New England. Will he be run out of town like he was in Minnesota and Oakland? While past players with questionable behaviors defended him, Deion Sanders, other all time greats, Cris Carter, questioned his heart. So was this just an off week for Moss and the old Randy will soon return, or is this a sign of things to come?
Sure, he is a future Hall of Famer. A guarantee first ballot inductee. However, we have been here before with Randy Moss. He was a stud in Minnesota, making three All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowl appearances, including the 2000 MVP. He quickly established himself as a great receiver his rookie season with 17 touchdowns and 1,313 yards en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
During the 2004 season he was off to a quick start, but after missing a game with hamstring injury, he returned with minimal results. He went two straight games without a reception, it was the first time he did not record a catch in a game. He missed several games with “questionable injuries” relating to his hamstring and finished the season with 767 yards, his worst outing at that point in his career. By the end of season he was shipped to Oakland where his 1,558 yards in two seasons were the worst two year period in his career. His motivation was called into question and as Oakland struggled, he seemed to just not care.
Before the 2007 season, The Raiders looked to unload the burden of Moss on a different team. When the Packers and Patriots were the only teams to show interest, New England grabbed him for just a fourth round pick. That was all it cost New England for a future Hall of Famer. The risk worked out as Moss went for 1,493 yards, the second best season of his career, and a record-setting 23 touchdowns. After a strong sophomore outing with the Patriots, it seemed that Moss was a fixture on the team and a leader on the field.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the Hall. He got off to a hot start in 2009, but has since fizzled. No more then five receptions in his last four games and has not gone over 67 yards in a game. More importantly he has no longer been the man. Instead, Wes Welker leads the team in receptions (105) and yards (1,158) and has back-to-back ten reception games. He is Tom Brady’s go-to guy and stepped up against Carolina when Moss slid away.
Moss is no longer the big threat in New England and has opposing defenses getting in his head. There is no question that he won’t be giving it his all for the rest of the season. With his history of being thick headed and a downer when things don’t go his way, he will become a problem for New England. He will probably pack it in for the season and perhaps in the off-season the Patriots will be the team to try to get rid of him for pennies on the dollar. It’s not New England’s fault, they took a chance on him and it payed off for two seasons, but it was destiny that Moss would implode eventually.
Wait! There is one thing missing from this whole situation and that is the team he is playing for. New England is the best at taking so called head cases and turning them into team players. Remember when Corey Dillon was booted from Cincinnati for being detrimental to the team? He then went to the Patriots where he helped them win Super Bowl XXXIX with 106 total yards and a touchdown. So who were the people to turn him around? How about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Bill Belichick is the leader of New England and if you question him, he will tear you apart (cough*Adalius Thomas*cough). However, he does understand how to handle players and get them to buy into his system. Consider that when Moss was run out of previous places his coaches at the time were Mike Tice (Minnesota) and Lane Kiffin (Oakland), not exactly the quality of coach that gets you to a Super Bowl. Belichick already showed support for Moss and has slammed the Panthers.
“My response is, that’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game.”
Not exactly Shakespeare, but gets the point across. We will never know what conversation Belichick and Moss will have this week about the media’s coverage, but expect it to to inspire confidence and get Moss back on board.
Then there is the on field captain, Tom Brady. “…Randy’s one of the best players in the history of the NFL.” Brady’s words were clear that he feels Moss has the talent to contribute and be a stud on the team. He may have only targeted Moss an average of five times over the past four games, but considering they played the Panthers, Dolphins, Saints and Jets, some of the best passing defenses in the league, it’s no wonder why there weren’t many deep opportunities. Although there could still be problems against Buffalo, remaining games against the Jaguars and Texans could equal big games for Moss.
There are those who will say Moss’ better days in New England are behind him. Then there are those, such as myself, that think his one reception for 16 yards was just a bad day. The only way to truly find out will be on Sunday. Will the Moss of old return and things will go from bad to worse, or will Moss have a renaissance and become the leader he has the potential to be? I will put my money on the latter.