Monday, April 30, 2007

The New Guy in Town

With the 110th selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select WR Randy Moss from the Oakland Raiders.

OK, so that's not what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell really announced at this past weekend's draft, but in reality it's the fortunate truth.

Patriots gave nothing more than a fourth-round pick to receive Moss who wanted out of an organization filled with issues. Moss mentioned earlier last week that he would restructure his contract that would grant him an estimated $9 million 2007 salary if he could move to the right team. Moss's wish was granted and has now topped off an off-season that has been nothing more than genius for the Patriots.

The media has ripped this deal to shreds. I have heard everything from "Moss will tear apart the character and good morale of the New England locker room" to "Moss will quit on his team, again" into finally "Moss will be bring home a championship, and a Hall of Fame induction."

Let's relax for a second. What we are dealing with here is arguably the best wide out in the game catching balls from a future Hall-of-Famer in Tom Brady. That is the bottom line, at least in Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli's minds.

NFL Analysts and other members of the media have not only questioned Moss's character entering the Patriot system, but more importantly New England's change in philosophy this off-season by spending lots of money on veteran talent and drafting a first-round pick with a troubled past. An organization that has thrived on teamwork, unity, and all those bubbly attributes we learned as children playing little league and pee wee football. A philosophy which has generally focused on bringing late-round draft picks into the system and creating talent. A system that has won three Super Bowls in six years.

So how will Randy Moss fit into the Belichick system? Just ask Corey Dillon.

The troubled bad boy from Cincinnati was acquired into New England in 2004 for a second round draft pick to the Bengals. The goal was to improve a lack-luster running offense led by Antowain Smith in years prior, while the Bengals wanted to free salary space and remove the problematic attitude Dillon had created. The Patriots ended up winning the Super Bowl that year with Dillon rushing for 1600 yards and 13 TD's. The Bengals drafted S Madieu Williams with that pick, and he has been a nice addition to their defense.

At the time, many people wondered how Dillon would have reacted to the "clean cut" system. Players around the locker room during the 2004 season were delighted to see his change of attitude and mentality around the team. Dillon eventually became a great teammate and leader which is what Belichick is expecting of Moss and company.

Randy Moss has been criticized most of his career over game conducts and lack of effort during his tenures with Minnesota and Oakland. Moss has been scrutinized for walking off the field late in games, squirting water bottles at officials, and quitting on plays and routes. Despite that fact, he averaged 1300 yards and 12 TD's per season in Minnesota. Once he was moved to Oakland, his demeanor dropped even further along with his stats. In two seasons, Moss caught for 1,500 yards and 11 TD's. His two-year stats in Oakland failed in comparison to his numbers in 1998 and 2003 where caught for over 1,500 yards and 17 TD's in single seasons. It was painfully obvious Moss did not feel motivated to play ball in an organization with numerous problems and holes. Oakland went 6 - 26 during Moss's tenure. They have not won more than 5 games in a season since their Super Bowl run in 2002.

It's my firm belief that Moss has been misjudged, slightly. Yes, he is guilty of a few different accusations that relate to his character. But you have to look at the context of the teams, coaches, and systems he has played under. When he played for Denny Green he was a young and cocky talent making a name for himself. Green kept Moss under wraps better than any other coach. Not to mention he had a great mentor in Cris Carter. Mike Tice has been a coach known to have very little discipline over his players. And Al Davis created a catastrophic situation around Moss with weak talent, poor coaching, and an organization with no direction.

The bottom line here is that Moss has had enough of playing for weak or middle tier teams. He has clearly shown that he is a player who places effort into teams that have the level of competition to win games. Statistically, Moss's better years came during the seasons where the Vikings were championship contenders and Dante Culpepper was healthy (and an MVP candidate.) I'm not trying to prove that it is a quality attribute to have as a player, but for a winning organization such as the Pats, it's golden. Moss is extremely excited about his arrival to New England as he stated in a press conference on Monday: "I don’t think you all understand how excited I am to be a part of this organization. I think their record and what they’re about speaks massive volumes. I’m just very, very happy to find some happiness and getting back to what I love to do – that’s play football and going out there and compete.” If you believe actions speak louder than words, he has already restructured his contract from $9.75 million to $3 million. Moss claims that the Patriots will witness the old Randy Moss. At least that's what he said after being asked about his present below 4.40 40 yard dash time.

Tom Brady has gained a receiving core that is arguably better than any group Peyton Manning has ever thrown to in his career. Outside of Moss, Stallworth is a number one receiver on many teams and the combination of Caldwell and Wes Welker on the inside creates a top notch offense. Jabar Gaffney will be fighting for the fifth spot on the roster alongside new acquistion Kelley Washington. With Moss entering the picture the Patriots have solidified themselves a Super Bowl contender and Moss has cleared a path that may lead him to the Hall of Fame. The New England system has not only created talent over the years, but has controlled and re-invented egos. Moss now has a shining stage to prove that he is what he says: A winning competitor, and a great teammate.

No comments: