By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 9:08 pm in Oakland Raiders.
So the 49ers have signed Randy Moss. It was originally reported elsewhere, but now that the 49ers have confirmed it, I’ll believe it.
Once upon a time, a fledgling site called Profootballtalk.com reported the Vikings were trading Randy Moss to the Raiders, a story I immediately disregarded and belittled.
The logic was along the lines of, “the Raiders have Jerry Porter’’ or something equally nonsensical, when it in fact the union made perfect sense.
Moss was the ultimate playmaker and vertical threat, and the Raiders were owned by the man who adored both things.
As we know through our history, Moss and the Raiders were a horrible match, although it didn’t begin the moment he arrived by police escort.
Fact is, during his first training camp with the Raiders going into the 2005 season, Moss was the most spectacular player I’ve ever seen. He’d missed three games the year before, had 49 catches for 767 yards and 13 touchdowns, and felt he had something to prove.
(As if 13 touchdowns was something to apologize for).
Throughout the training camp in Napa , it was a miracle a day. Catches I’ve never seen before or since. An extra gear once Moss caught the passes. He even got Charles Woodson motivated, for some incredible 1-on-1 drills and scrimmage battles.
Moss was as good as advertised, averaging more than 24 yards per catch, until he went up for a catch in a Week 6 loss to San Diego , came down in a heap with groin and pelvic issues, and was never the same.
He played through the rest of the season, as well as the following one (when healthy) and there was no more magic. He wasn’t much interested in playing for coach Art Shell and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh and it showed. Either Moss didn’t care, or he was done.
After Moss once explained how he was misunderstood, I asked him about all the dropped passes in Oakland that he never seemed to have in Minnesota . He explained that if he were happier, he’d be catching more passes.
Moss was gone the next season, dealt to New England for a fourth-round draft pick that became cornerback John Bowie.
He caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an NFL record 23 touchdowns _ 12 more than he’d caught with the Raiders in 29 games.
Why the turnaround?
Clearly it had a lot to do with Bill Belichick, a coach Moss respected. More importantly, Moss realized he’d be out the door the moment he produced at anything less than his best.
Belichick doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. He has that in common with Jim Harbaugh, a coach who can disregard conventional wisdom as if it doesn’t exist.
Moss is 36 now, well past his prime. He’s got something to prove.
Whether he can contribute or not isn’t the point. It will be easy enough for Harbaugh to end the experiment the moment Moss either demonstrates he doesn’t have it any more or chooses to exhibit his famous brand of indifference.
Think about how the 49ers looked in the postseason last season and ask yourself if you’d liked to have had even an aging Randy Moss out there as a jump-and-catch option.
It’s a no lose proposition for the 49ers.