Randy Moss is an enigma.
While this descriptor is typically applied too loosely to athletes (Ryan Leaf was just angry and Ricky Williams was simply detached, to give a few examples) it fits the bill with New England's most important player not named Tom Brady.
The reason the Pats should make an exception is simple: History has shown that the swings of Moss' enigmatic persona often dictate the fortunes of his football team.
Moss is upset that he isn't getting much love from fans (who have short memories and, especially in Boston, a glut of sports teams to follow) or from New England's front office (who just made Brady the richest quarterback in the NFL but have yet to give Moss, who is playing out the final year of his contract, a new deal).
Whether or not Moss has reason to be upset is a moot issue. The problem is that an upset Moss is an unproductive Moss.
And for the Patriots, an unproductive Moss means an invitation for defenses to focus on second receiver Wes Welker.
A stymied Wes Welker means...well, you get the idea. Maybe it's not that simple, but for a Patriots team that features perhaps the league's most inexperienced defense (see Peter King's explanation here), any threat of mud in the offensive wheels has to be a big concern.
If New England is considering sticking to its standard plan of all-but-ignoring player gripes and issues (or simply cutting said player), then Robert Kraft and Co. should read a page out of Vikings and Raiders history.
A standout at former Division I-AA powerhouse Marshall, Moss was one of the first players in the NFL's Character Issue Era to drop much lower in the Draft pecking order than his talent would normally dictate.
The Vikings drafted him 21st overall in 1998, and Moss wasted no time inserting chip on shoulder, promptly breaking the rookie record for touchdown receptions in a season (17).
Minnesota fans showed him some love. The media showered him with some more love. His quarterback, flash-in-the-pan star Daunte Culpepper, loved him in a way the signal caller would only realize once his career fell apart.
Then Moss stopped trying.
Maybe it was the Vikings' run of early-2000s mediocrity. Maybe it was the Minnesota nice populace whispering about Moss' character. Maybe it was former coach Mike Tice's ill-fated "Randy Ratio" that put a limit on the most prolific play in Vikings history: the deep jump ball to a streaking Moss.
Regardless of what it was, Moss was unhappy. His play suffered. The Vikings languished.
Then he was traded to Oakland. Rinse and repeat, minus the whole productivity aspect.
Enter the Patriots, and a second chance for Moss to prove he was still the guy who tortured the Packers whenever he felt the desire to play.
Moss liked the organization's track record, loved winning games, and certainly didn't mind being unleashed to run deep routes like he was a rookie all over again. The result was the NFL record for most touchdown receptions in a single season (23).
And in case you forgot, the Patriots finished the season one mind-bending David Tyree catch from a 19-0 record.
Fast forward two more championship-less seasons (you have to admit Moss has experienced some heartbreak in his career) and the now-aging wide receiver is unhappy again.
Why is he unhappy? Who knows. Nightmares of retiring ring-less, money, feeling under-appreciated?
All of these things are possibilities. Enigma, remember?
But rather than focus on why Moss is unhappy, as the case has always been in the past, fans, teammates, and most of all Patriots owner Robert Kraft, need to focus on what they can do to appease the guy.
If anything in the NFL is certain in this age of parity and impending lockouts, it's that you need everything to come together to win a championship. Waiting patiently for next season is futile and irrational, especially when there might not be a next season.
The Patriots need Randy Moss. Just like the Vikings and Raiders once did.
So give the guy what he wants.
Just don't look to me to tell you what exactly that is.