Miami's Missed Opportunity: Should the Dolphins Have Made a Move for Randy Moss?
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It took just 26 days for Brad Childress and the Minnesota Vikings to cut ties with Randy Moss, following his emotional homecoming in early October. After a tantrum over lunch, and a very public criticism of his coach and teammates, Moss found himself looking for his third team in under a month.
Traded from New England to Minnesota two days after the Patriots’ win in Miami, Moss returned to the team that drafted him back in 1998. The Vikings gave up a third-round pick for the pleasure of the wide receiver’s company and expected his union with veteran gunslinger, Brett Favre, to propel the Vikings towards the playoffs.
Randy Moss declared that he had returned home. Only he did not really want to be there.
Judging by his nausea-inducing reunion with Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck in New England this Sunday, this was his place of preference. He looked as at home in New England as Elton John does on Ladies’ Night, and if it was not clear that there were issues behind closed doors in Minnesota before the game, Moss made it evident after:
“It was hard for me to come here to play. To see these guys running plays and I know what they are doing, I know what type of feeling they have in the locker room. I miss every last helmet in that locker room."
How touching. Moss’ love-in then took a back seat to more important issues, and with the same level of careful diplomacy that LeBron James demonstrated in The Decision, Moss degraded his teammates and coach on live television, before declaring that the Vikings would have beaten his old side, if only they had listened to Randy Moss.
"I tried to prepare; tried to talk to the coaches and players about how this game was going to be played… But the bad part about it, you have six days to prepare for a team and on Sunday ... they come over to me and say, 'Dang, Moss, you were right about a couple plays and a couple schemes that they were going to run.'
"It hurts as a player that you put a lot of hard work in all week and toward the end of the week, Sunday, when you get on the field that is when they acknowledge the hard work you have put in all week. So that is a disappointment."
Clearly, he was fed up with Minneapolis already; a 26-day stint was more than enough this time round.
It seemed that the writing was on the wall, and sure enough, the next day, Vikings head coach Brad Childress told his players that Moss was going to be waived. Childress refused to try and get value for the third-round draft pick he sent to New England less than a month earlier, and he ended the second coming of Randy Moss immediately.
Childress even went as far as saying he made a “poor decision” when signing Moss. Childress continued that Moss’ release “was the most unemotional decision I've had to make in this job.” So no love lost there then; how things can change in 26 days.
It has since been reported that Moss’ egotistical press conference was at least the second mistake of his brief stint in Minnesota. On Friday, Moss was reported to have launched into a foul-mouthed tirade about a lunchtime barbeque buffet put on for the team.
Gus Tinucci, whose family run business supplied the buffet and has been in operation since 1958, said Brett Favre was clearly unhappy with Moss’ behaviour. After the wide receiver’s expletive-laden outburst criticised the food, he refused to eat and left a stunned, and silenced, locker-room. Tinucci claims that members of the Vikings organisation approached him to apologise for Moss’ outburst.
The wide receiver found himself on the waivers, and was picked up by Tennessee Titans. The Titans had the 22nd opportunity to claim Moss; meaning that 21 teams passed on him. In fact, Tennessee were also the only team to put in a claim for Moss; meaning 31 of the 32 teams in the NFL saw no benefit in moving for Randy Moss.
Among those teams was the Miami Dolphins. Apparently in need of a wide receiver to play opposite Brandon Marshall, Randy Moss was seen by many as the perfect compliment to the Beast.
At a relatively low cost, and offering a deep threat that Miami currently lacked, it seemed the perfect opportunity to claim the player that the Dolphins needed. The front office did not think that way; instead, they passed on Moss, just like in the 1998 Draft.
Moss has been one of the most productive wide receivers in the game over his career, and pairing the enigmatic wideout with Brandon Marshall would not only take some attention off Marshall, but it would also have opened up the running game, given Henne a deep target and another big receiver to look for in the red-zone, as well as helping Davone Bess from the slot.
Why did Chris “C2K” Johnson lobby so hard for the Titans to go after Moss? Perhaps he felt like it would help him in the running game (as if he needs any help!). Brandon Marshall posted a message on Twitter encouraging the Dolphins to “go get” Moss. Why? He saw benefits in Moss’ arrival both for the team, and for his own play as Moss opens up the field.
There is no doubt that a player of Moss’ stature brings a benefit to any team. His footballing ability is second to very few, and despite his age, he is still productive: 22 receptions for 313 yards and five touchdowns in seven starts this season. While they are by no means his best stats, they are still productive.
Looking at the wider picture, Moss has seven Pro-Bowl appearances, 948 receptions, 14,778 receiving yards and 153 touchdowns, but he is still not worth a waiver claim.
So, why was the potential solution to the Dolphins offensive woes allowed to slip through the net?
Well, it might have something to do with his behaviour in Minnesota.
Firstly, his verbal assault on a caterer was simply disgusting behaviour. It would not have been expected of a jumped-up, arrogant, self-obsessed sixteen year-old looking to act tough in front of his friends. Instead, it was coming from a 33-year-old man, who is lucky enough to have played football and earn mega-bucks over the past 12 years.
It was a cowardly, low and a pathetic indictment of what sort of a man Randy Moss can be when he so chooses.
Furthermore, his postmatch press conference was an obvious attack on the Vikings organisation, and who is to say the same fate would not befall the Dolphins if they failed to keep him happy. Do Miami really have to risk that possibility?
Moss clearly did not want to leave New England, but he still forced the Patriots hand enough for them to see a brighter future without their top wide receiver and cut ties with him. He was clearly close with his former teammates in New England, and appeared to be a popular member of the roster; however, his return to New England also showed the side of Randy Moss that has become all too familiar in the NFL.
Moss was in single coverage and running deep when he was impeded by the Patriots safety, Brandon Meriweather. A pass interference flag was thrown, but Meriweather had tripped, and Moss was alone within catching distance of a perfect Brett Favre pass. Instead of reaching out and catching the football, giving his team the lead in the process, Moss took the penalty and gave up on the play, and an almost certain touchdown, watching the ball drop about a yard or two in front of him.
Why did Moss give up? Well maybe he felt he could not reach the ball, maybe he did feel like reaching the ball; or maybe he loved his New England buddies just too much to inflict a defeat on them. Obviously the latter argument is mere speculation and highly unlikely, but do Miami really want a wide receiver giving so much love to their rivals twice a year?
Moss’ love for the Patriots certainly would be disconcerting for the Miami front office. For the fans it would be outright concerning.
Even more worrying though, is Moss’ tendency to give up in games. Carolina Panthers cornerback, Chris Gamble, once said that Moss “gives up a lot.” Certainly his attitude on Sunday would support that assumption.
Would Jerry Rice have ever given up on a play? Would Mark Clayton have ever given up on a play? How about Nat Moore? More interestingly, would Brian Hartline ever give up on a play?
The latter is the question that may give a greater indication into Miami’s refusal to sign Moss, as the decision was a resounding call of support for the second-year receiver from Ohio State University. The Dolphins ultimately chose Hartline over Moss, and his effort and attitude both on and off the field would likely have been key reasons for this decision.
Furthermore, Hartline represents the youth movement which the Dolphins’ front office has embraced this season. Miami have put faith in youth, with Hartline, Chris Clemons, Koa Misi and the two second-year cornerbacks, all a testament to this. Moss did not fit this dynamic, and perhaps his arrival would have limited Hartline’s opportunities to blossom.
Sure, Moss could have taught Hartline some moves, but would a head coach really want a demanding, egotistical receiver like Moss having any sort of influence over a potentially impressionable young receiver? If he has any sense, the answer would be no.
The current team morale in Miami is good. Past troublemaker Joey Porter departed after several outbursts against the organisation. Fans were calling for his departure, but they wanted an arguably more disruptive force in Moss? Furthermore, would Moss be happy as the number two receiver in Miami? Would he be happy running routes just so Miami could get the ball to Brandon Marshall? It is highly doubtful.
The attitude Moss could give to a young quarterback like Chad Henne would certainly impact upon him too. Henne does not need distractions at such a crucial time in his career, and Moss could be just that. Chad Pennington is a close friend of Moss from their college days too; would it be out of the question that Moss lobbies for Pennington as starting quarterback if things don’t go his way?
So, Miami passed. Interestingly, so did 30 other NFL teams. That begs the question, was Miami right to turn down the talent after all?
They’ll find out in two weeks, when Randy Moss makes his Titans debut against the Dolphins. Vontae Davis held him without a reception when he played Moss and the Patriots, and Miami will be hoping for a repeat performance.
However, the Titans now have a replacement for the injured Kenny Britt. This is something they would not have without Moss, and would have allowed Miami to concentrate all their attention of the 2,000-yard man, Chris Johnson. Now they will have to deal with Moss too, in what could be a crucial game in the playoff race.
There was an excellent argument for Miami taking Moss purely to keep him out of the hands of a divisional rival, or another AFC playoff candidate. By claiming him, at least until the end of the season, Miami could do this; instead, he fell into the hands of an AFC team that will be fighting Miami for a place in the playoffs come January. The front office better hope that this one does not come back to haunt them.
So, it’s clear that Randy Moss can still be a threat, and he has a great upside (if he chooses to try and implement it), but is he worth the trouble?
Arguably not; Moss’ reputation precedes him now, and the egotistical diva has been red-flagged by so many teams that he may be on his last chance with the Titans.
He is a constant hole in the head for coaches and has found trouble on so many occasions, that he now carries it as hand-luggage. Today, it will be checking in at Nashville International Airport.
Thankfully for the Titans, Nashville can cook a damn good barbeque.
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