"Randy Moss Traded to Minnesota Vikings" was not a headline I was expecting to see this afternoon. It's a move that defies all logic and essentially crushes the Patriots' chances at a championship.
This time, the "Patriot Way" has gone too far.
To label this as a purely business decision would be ignorant. It has almost nothing to do with making the team better.
A third-round pick may or may not be market value for the 33-year old Moss. He's certainly not the player he was 10 or even five years ago. But he's also in the last year of his four-year contract, and a rookie deal in 2011 would be far more economical towards the cap.
But, this sort of rational thinking only applies to a team with no Super Bowl aspirations, a team that has nothing to gain by holding on to one of the game's best receivers through a losing season.
The New England Patriots are not that team.
They are 3-1 after a shell-shacking of the Miami Dolphins and look as good as any team in the AFC. The main reason for this is an offense that has scored 131 points (two touchdowns more than any other team in the NFL). Without a high-powered offense, the Patriots become an average team. Without Moss, executing that offense becomes impossible.
As the deep threat, Moss draws his own defender in addition to the safety at the top of the zone on nearly every play, opening up the field for Tom Brady to hit targets like Wes Welker over the middle. If those defenders drop off Moss, Brady still makes them pay. There's little a defense can do to stop them.
So, why trade one of the best wideouts in the history of the NFL and one of the players most responsible for keeping the Patriots competitive?
I present to you Mr. Bill Belichick's ego.
After New England's Week 1 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Randy Moss took the podium and discussed his precarious contract situation.
"When you have done so much and put so much work in, it kind of feels like I am not wanted," Moss said. "I am taking that in stride and playing my final year out and whatever the future holds is what it holds, but it is kind of a bad feeling, feeling not wanted."
Moss later apologized and said that he enjoyed playing in New England, but the damage had already been done. Moss had violated the first cardinal rule of the "Patriot Way"—putting the individual ahead of the team.
Now, this isn't necessarily true. Moss never said he was more important than the team, or that he wanted to leave the team. All he said was that he felt disrespected, which he has a right to do.
But Belichick doesn't tolerate insubordination on his team, and in his power-hungry mind, Moss had stepped out of rank.
So now, Moss likely gets to finish his career with the same team he was drafted by—the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings get the best deep threat in the history of the game and legitimize their candidacy for a championship. The Patriots, meanwhile, get a draft pick.
This isn't a lop-sided deal. It's just a stupid one. Moss did everything that was ever asked of him in New England and even set a few records along the way (23 touchdowns in 2007). Tom Brady loves him. His teammates need him. But his coach apparently has grown tired of him.
Shame on you, Belichick.