logoby Dan Snapp

“It’s just not right,” my brother said. “Other guys that have left, I was happy for them when they found success. But I just can’t bring myself to root for Randy. It doesn’t seem fair he can quit his way onto a winning team.”

It’s not an uncommon sentiment among Viking fans like my brother. In their minds, Randy Moss quit on the Vikings, he quit on the Raiders, yet now he’s being rewarded. Like my brother said, it doesn’t seem fair.

So how come he’s won us over?  

I knew I’d love the player. Art Shell’s objections aside, everyone recognized Moss was still a game-breaking talent. And he had every incentive to work hard and keep his nose clean: a chance to revive his career, a chance at winning a ring, and a chance at a stats bonanza catching passes from the league’s top quarterback, and all just in time for his last big payday.

For one year, we believed, Moss’s selfish agenda aligned perfectly with the Patriots’ team agenda.

The Pats got him on the cheapo one-year loan, and when the time came to collect his payoff – hopefully long after the Pats won their fourth title – he’d be somebody else’s property, somebody else’s bloated contract,  and somebody else’s problem when things would eventually get ugly. That was the plan, anyway.

Back in May, the Patriots Daily Roundtable predicted Moss would be one and done. We bought into the old Moss stereotypes: quitting on the team, the concern only with stats and money, and the character issues. At the time, I labeled him a “Class-A jerk.” 

But from the start, Moss showed he really wanted to be part of this team. He called himself “The second-best receiver out of Marshall” in deference to Troy Brown. He participated in the offseason workouts, though not contractually bound to do so. Though barely knowing the man, he accompanied the team for Marquise Hill’s funeral.

In the few interviews to which he agreed, he was cautious, yet open.

“You know me,” he said early on, “I’m the same as I always was,” a confirmation for many that Old Randy was right around the corner.

Say, whatever happened to Old Randy, anyway?

Somewhere along the way, Moss became the consummate Patriot: smart, hard-working, involved, loving football, and most importantly, focused on winning. He’s been content when the ball was coming his way in bushels, and content when it wasn’t – one of the supposed keys to keeping Randy happy.

Even Terrell Owens’ blatant baiting couldn’t coax Moss out of his happy place:

“I don’t really get into that. I just wanted to come out there and do what I could to help my team win this game. I didn’t really want to really feed off what he was saying or the hype of a game between two 81s. I have a job to do, that’s to go out there and try to catch touchdowns, and get first downs, and that’s what I tried to do today.”

In hindsight, it’s little wonder Randy Moss and Bill Belichick connected.

They’re both prodigious talents, sharing a deep understanding of and love of the game, and they both profess to wanting to win above all else. Neither suffers fools lightly, and so share a healthy mistrust of the media. The media returns the mistrust in kind, always suspecting ulterior motives over the plain truth of what they say.

They’re kindred spirits.

When Moss broke his months-long media silence, it wasn’t to fire back at Owens. It was to lavish praise upon his quarterback and coach, and to marvel at the Patriots’ method of doing business.

“I enjoy it. I come to work every day, I love seeing the guys, love the camaraderie in the locker room and going out there to practice every day. We have fun. But at the same time, you all have heard about the humble pie. Coach Belichick has a tight grasp on us; he doesn’t let us get too ahead of ourselves. At the same time, he lets us enjoy what we’re doing.”

Sounds like a happy man. One who might be sticking around a while.

Legend has it Old Randy rears up when his team starts losing. But come on, when’s that likely to happen?