Randy Moss is living the good life with the New England Patriots, where by all accounts, he’s been a team leader and professional enough to meet or exceed the exacting standards set by Bill Belichick.
The same Moss who used indifference as a weapon to get himself traded from the Oakland Raiders to the Patriots for a fourth round draft pick.
In preparation for Sunday’s game at the Coliseum agaisnt the Raiders, Moss and the Patriots will be practicing at San Jose State this week. They opted to remain on the West Coast following a 24-21 win over the Seattle Seahawks rather fly home and then double back.
It’s doubtful the Raiders will be sending a police motorcade to bring Moss to the Coliseum, as they did when the trade with Minnesota for Napoleon Harris and a first-round draft pick became official.
In 29 games with the Patriots, Moss has 159 receptions, 2,334 yards and 31 touchdowns. In 29 games with the Raiders in 2005 and 2006, Moss had 102 receptions for 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Al Davis is still steaming over allowing Lane Kiffin to talk him into dumping the most explosive receiver of his era, saying the coaching staff didn’t feel they could deal with Moss.
Kiffin’s version, of course, was much different. Kiffin said Moss told him his problems were not with the then-rookie coach, but with the organization.
Considering the rejuvenation of Moss, one could conclude it was the Raiders which dragged down the receiver rather than Moss contributing to the continuing demise of the Raiders.
In reality, Moss and the Raiders were bad for each other.
Through training camp and the first four games of the 2005 season, Moss was everything the Raiders expected and more. There was a miracle a day in Napa, the most incredible training camp I’ve ever seen from a Raiders player. Some of his catches defied description.
“Randy and C-Wood (Charles Woodson) used to go at each other all the time,” Raiders wide receiver Ronald Curry said Monday. “I never had seen anyone get the best of C-Wood time and again but Randy seemed to be one of those guys that did.
“A lot of guys struggled against C-Wood, but Randy came in and did well against him. To me, that pretty much told me how good he was.”
Through four games, Moss had 19 catches for 466 yards and two touchdowns. There were scoring plays of 73 and 64 yards, plus another of 79 yards. When the 2008 Raiders finish a 16-game season, there won’t be a single wide receiver anywhere near 466 yards.
Following a bye in Week 6, Moss went up for a leaping attempt against San Diego, came down in a heap with injuries to his pelvis and groin, and from that point on, things were never the same.
He played 24 more games and was only over 100 yards twice. He finished 2005 with 60 catches for 1,005 yards, with injuries assuming much of the blame.
In 2006, there was no magic in training camp, and Moss looked ordinary. The week of the opener, Moss said on a weekly radio spot that things were “fishy” in Oakland.
Moss dropped passes, blamed the miscues on being unhappy, loafed his way through pass routes and had 42 catches for 553 yards and three touchdowns through 14 games before calling it quits with an ankle injury.
There was some speculaton among NFL types that Moss had lost his legs, and that being a jump-and-catch receiver who relied on speed and athleticism rather than precision, he would never return to the form of his prime with Minnesota.
Davis did not agree, but reluctantly traded Moss for a fourth-round draft pick. The owner went on record at Rich Gannon’s retirement press conference saying he had regrets about trading Moss and that he was convinced Moss could still play.
The fourth-round pick for the Raiders turned out to be Cincinnati defensive back John Bowie, who never left the bench in 2007 and is on injured resrerve this season.
As Moss re-ignited with the Patriots, former Raiders defensive back Jarrod Cooper noted, “That’s OK. At least we got Bowie.”
Raiders coach Tom Cable was delighted to plead ignorance where Moss and the Raiders were concerned.
“I was not part of any of that,” Cable said. “I knew he was here. I thought he was going to be here. So I really didn’t know anything about that.”
The Moss situation spoke to the declining state of the franchise. Once upon a time, the Raiders were a perfect place for an iconoclast. The various behaviorial quirks and “I play when I want to play” persona would have been welcomed and even celebrated.
But without a self-policing group of veteran players and with a dearth of victories, Moss simply quit trying until he got his way and was sent out of town.
He remains reviled not only by some in the media but by old-school players and coaches who believe there is never any excuse for giving less than a best effort, regardless of the circumstances.
But there was a big difference from Moss and the 49ers-vintage Terrell Owens, who moved about as a loner in the locker room with many teammates not knowing what to make of him or having outright dislike for him.
Moss engendered very little ill-will amongst his teammates despite an obvious lack of effort. Curry said he would remember Moss as No. 18, the number he wore in Oakland.
“Randy was great in the locker room. He was great to be around,” Curry said. “I’d take him any day. He was a good person.”
Curry shrugged off the Moss years in Oakland as a blip on the radar screen.
“A pro is a pro. You’re here to play. People are going to have off years, down years here and there,” Curry said. “Two of his down years were here. It didn’t make his career. It might have made him a little hungrier. That may be one of the reasons why he is doing what he’s doing now.”
That’s not the kind of credit Davis had in mind when it comes to the legacy of Randy Moss.