by Scott Benson
It’s been said many times by many others, but I remember the great Elvis Costello once opining that songwriters do their best work when their personal lives in are in tumult. Peace and tranquility make a lousy muse for artists like Elvis – there’d have been no ‘Watching the Detectives’ or ‘Accidents Will Happen’ if ol’ Declan had been spending his days contentedly doting on a wife, kids and a home in the suburbs.
I’m getting that, in a relative sense, of course. Our football team was undefeated through 18 games a while back, inconceiveably, yet while it was all going on, I found fewer and fewer reasons to write about them. What do you say? “They’re awesome! I think they were even more awesome this week than last!”
Nobody wants to hear that.
Not a problem anymore, folks. Since the calendar turned to February 1, it’s been all uphill for Our Beloveds. And I have never been more inspired.
That’s sick, I know.
GO YOUR OWN WAY
It’s a Seventies Saturday here on WPD! Maybe I’ll title the next bit ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’.
So the idea that Randy Moss could sign with someone other than the Patriots is now going mainstream, as the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter and other nationals have learned (as have our locals) that the Pats and Moss aren’t close to a new deal. Conventional wisdom has been that the veteran all star would gladly return to the Pats and particularly Tom Brady, and his departure after one heady season in New England would no doubt be viewed by some, even many, as a blow on the order of the one laid on them about a month ago.
As Butch Stearns is fond of saying – I’m not so sure about that.
First, let us praise Moss, a unique talent if we ever saw one. And despite his lengthy rap sheet, real or perceived, Moss has by all accounts been a great teammate and leader with the Pats. There’s no missing the connection forged with Brady. From where I sit, he played hard every week, changed the offense like no one since Brady, and would have scored the winning points of the Super Bowl had the Pats had one more defensive stop in them. Even accounting for the ugly incident in Florida, Moss wildly exceeded any expectations we could have had for him. And certainly, his departure would leave a big hole in the Patriots offense, the dominant arm of the team.
So why am I kind of hoping he gets a better deal elsewhere?
Personal bias is reason one, I admit. Given my druthers, Sam Cunningham, Andy Johnson and Don Calhoun would still be plunging off the left side for the Pats. Every once in awhile they’d change it up and go right. Their biggest wrinkle would be an occasional bootleg by Brady. It would be great.
That aside, there’s something else. Doesn’t it seem like Moss is less a player than he is an intoxicant? How do you NOT make him the focal point of your offense? His incredible hands, his uncanny ability to establish position when the ball is in the air, his still-there explosiveness – how do these things NOT become the answer to every challenge you face?
The same kind of thing has overwhelmed coaches before. Denny Green had some threatening teams in Minnesota, but in the end, weren’t they over-reliant on chucking the ball up to Moss? And Mike Tice – the Randy Ratio says it all. Yet it was never enough.
I might argue that the wheels started to come off the Pats wagon when they fell into the same trap. Certainly in the axle-busting loss to the champion Giants. Without the ability to easily put the ball in Moss’s hands, there was suddenly nothing Super about those Perfect Pats. Gradually, everything else broke down around it.
That’s how addictive Randy Moss’s game is – it even took down the mighty Bill Belichick. In the end, the Patriots were too much about offense and not enough about defense and special teams, leaving a decided list in the proverbial three-legged stool.
If he returns, how does that change? How do the Pats become a balanced team again with such a dominant presence in their midst? How does it NOT become all about Brady and Moss again?
Kyle Brady was an extremely effective blocker for the Pats, perhaps even outdoing Daniel Graham in New England annals. His size, that of an offensive tackle, brought a needed physical element to the Pats front. But he’s 36, and coming off a shoulder injury, and you can see where this is going. I doubt Brady was ever considered to be a long-term fixture along the New England line anyway.
Still, its another loss for the Pats, who don’t have anyone to fill that role on a go forward basis. They do have Dave Thomas, but he’s a different kind of player, and besides, until he actually plays for the Pats again, its hard to say where he fits in any plan.
Maybe they figure they’ll be able to rope in another veteran blocker to fill the same role as Brady, and not lose any of the production. It remains to be seen if such a player exists.
WPD……less talk, more mellow rock hits….
The rumor mill says that now that Asante Samuel has landed in Philly, the Eagles will entertain offers for their own Pro-Bowl corner, Lito Sheppard. Naturally, every observer and his brother puts Sheppard right with the Pats. Nice, neat package.
You know, acquiring Sheppard is no way to lure Moss back in the fold. I doubt Randy would relish the thought of seeing Sheppard every day in practice, not with the way Lito treated him last season.
Sheppard is said to be perturbed by his contract, which apparently nets him about $2 million annually. A change of scenery undoubtedly means a new deal, which is only practical, as Sheppard is nearing the end of his current pact. Any suitors, though, will have to consider that he’s played only 11, 13 and 10 games in his last three seasons.
So if he’s unhappy with $2 million, what does it take to improve his disposition? It doesn’t seem like doubling, or even tripling, his salary is going to work. Wouldn’t he just be looking for the same kind of money that Samuel just got? Or somewhere in that neighborhood, given their differences as far as durability and rings. That appears to have become the going rate for players of that caliber.
I guess I don’t understand how Sheppard to the Pats would work, then. It seems like if you’re just switching out players at roughly the same salary, the Pats would have been better off sticking with the devil they did know.
Here’s my thing on the Moss issue. It’s not so much about keeping him as it is keeping Brady happy. He came out and said it around the playoffs- “Me and Randy are a package.” He got dicked around when they didn’t sign Branch, and then the team went out and got him Moss as a consolation prize.
I don’t know if he can get dicked around again without starting to think about how many times he’s lowered and changed his contract for the team and then thinking “Well, I always loved the Niners… maybe I could close my career out with the home team?”
EXACTLY my thoughts Aaron!! It drove me nuts as the season went on and Tom would just chuck it up or almost force it into Randy’s direction like Scott outlines. You nailed it though because it’s not necessarily about Moss (who on any given day I’ll take because an offence that potent even if we are off balance is great fun to watch) but keeping Terrific Tom happy, content, and a TEAM player is the key. I have to hope that the brain trust knows what’s going on and they have learned from a few of their missteps in the past and this whole thing gets us where we need to be which is not ‘perfect’ but instead just CHAMPS!!
Oh Scott relax, first off, Kyle Brady is so big,old, and awkward. I saw many speed rushers blow right past him before he could get his fat butt in gear. No big loss there. As far as Moss goes, you have to be kidding me. Are you really trying to say a guy who caught 23 touchdown passes is BAD for the Patriots?……….If he’s that much of a focal point, how did Welker manage to catch over 100 balls?….are you serious? or are you just reading from the, “Felger’s Devil’s Advocate” playbook?
I think you make a perceptive point, and I cite the Marino Dolphins as an example. Before #13 arrived, they had reached the Super Bowl with a run-defense kind of team (their light show in the Kellen Winslow game was an aberration). In that SB, they were in contention until the John Riggins play.
Then Marino comes along with his olive oil voice and gui–uh, they get Marino. And it’s a light show every week. They made 1 SB and got throttled, and then had a high-flying offense that got rolled by the Patriots (a run-defense-special teams operation) in the AFC Champeenship. And they never got back, but they did have the flashy offense.
Now Marino was a HUGE talent and a decent guy, but the Dolphins in the 15 years before drafting him (1968-1982) were much better, as a Shula run-d team, than they were in the next 15 years. I submit that the change in philosophy/emphasis was not good for the team over the long haul.
This doesn’t mean that the Patriots are better off without Moss, necessarily, but if they can use the savings to bolster the O-Line or the LB/DB corps, well, I’d rather watch the 01 Pats than the 01 Rams/07 Pats.
Teams can take Moss away, but they can’t take a stifling D away. The SB was weird b/c so many bounces went against the Pats late, but the Giants were in that position b/c they took away the flashy offense enough so that by the time Moss scored it wasn’t enough to clinch the game.
I’d prefer them to use the Moss $ on a LB and a CB. I also hope they bring Colvin back–he is not a star but is a solid guy.
Added: I know Shula wasn’t coaching the Dolphins in ’68, although he was involved in a big game in the Orange Bowl.
Added: I think Welker still flourishes in a more run-oriented offense. And Maroney showed flashes in the playoffs–with him Knight, Faulk, Evans, and a new Faulk-like guy, I think that’d be enough.
Added: 23 TDs IS great, but the TDs vs. the Jets and Fins early in the season are just stats. December-February is what really counts.
As much as I hate to admit it, as much as it is entrancing (indeed intoxicating as you said) to have that amazing Brady-Moss connection, I think you might be right.
Look, 23 TD, records, 16-0 is all great. But last time I checked, a freakin’ 10-6 team went on to win the SB, what you do in January and early February is what really counts.
Also, forgive me for suggesting this, but might Welker in fact in the end of the day be more the focal point of the offense. I realize the argument that even when he isn’t catching bombs he is drawing double coverage, but there were plenty of times as well when Welker was really the one moving the chains as well.
The thing that really captures the whole “chuck it up to Moss” mentality for the most though, was those last 35 seconds in the SB. Granted, it was less time to work with than SB XXXVI or XXXVIII, (although we did have 3 timeouts I think) but the fact that all they could think to do was just bomb it 75 yards downfield and hope that Moss made some freakish play I felt was very symbolic of what the offense had become.
Maybe I am in part just making these observations in order to justify a loss which I feel is growing closer and closer, but I do think if the Pats really want to host another Lombardi in the next few years its going to have to be with a more balanced offense (in Welker and Maroney we trust) and with a better defense (Dom Capers, Draft Picks?) and I think it is a reasonable point to argue that at least the first might be hard to achieve while you’ve got Randy Moss on your team.
But what do I know? Maybe they will resign him, go 13-3 and win # 4 next year.
Rick, I thought the wistful reflection on the Costello songbook was sufficient evidence that I’m pretty relaxed already. Just mentioning Brady because I thought he was an effective player. I tried to make clear the understanding that it was probably a one-year thing all along.
On Moss: yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Not for any reason other than it’s what I think. I don’t know that it’s as cut and dried as you say.
Aaron, one thing on your first point; I hope it never comes to the point where they build their roster only based on what it takes to keep Tom happy. There’s something Favre-ian about that idea. I think they have to do everything they can to take full advantage of his talents while he’s in his prime, but I hope we never get to the point where they treat the quarterback like he’s bigger than the team itself.
Great post, Scott. It encapsulates what PD is about – thoughtful and reasoned commentary and reaction from a learned fan’s perspective.
Keep it up, Senator.
I am going to go click on some google ads now. That effort deserves .17 cents in your pocket.
Unfortunately, Marion Motley isn’t walking through that door with Rupert Holmes’ Greatest Hits under his arm…
Marion Motley. “Him” again?
I’m a little shocked how willing to move on some of you seem. Having watched Moss in Minnesota for seven years, and then seen the Vikings in the three years post-Moss, I don’t think the answer is to try to fend without him.
He’s still Randy freaking Moss. He still takes away two defenders the majority of the time, when he’s not catching 23 touchdown passes.
The answer is taking on the challenge of how to build with him; knowing what he brings, without falling prey to over-reliance on him. I trust Belichick with that charge.
I sent TOMASE an email about the “Comments feature” of his blog being disabled. Here was his reply to me>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The comments thing isn’t my call. The paper has rules against readers
threatening the lives of its writers. Shrug. You’re always welcome to e-mail.
I don’t *think* I said the Browns signed Stallworth because of that one catch.
I merely said they saw him at his best. They signed him to pair with Braylon
As for laying off the doughnuts, absolutely not. I love them too much, and
they’re an essential part of my sportswriter diet.
While Dan makes a good point, let’s look at the Vikings. In ’98 they had a fantastic team, featuring Moss of course. I think they went 15-1.
In the playoffs, they lost to Atlanta, a hard-runnin’ team that had to play them on turf because they certainly couldn’t compete on paper. I don’t remember much about that Atlanta team other than Jamal Anderson having his entire career and Chris Chandler at the helm, so there the comparison must end.
And like the SB last month, the Vikes’ loss was a bit fluky.
It comes down to resource allocation, obviously, and neither loss was Moss’ fault, more obviously, it’s just interesting.
How about Bronko Nagurski with a Juice Newton album? Is that better?
Scott: I hear you on that, I really do. And I said the same thing when they moved Branch. What concerns me is that we all saw how frustrated he was that year, and he’s clearly gone out of his way this season to bolster the Pats bringing Moss back (like the “we’re a package” comment.)
I just think dumping Randy, taking away Tom’s favorite target again and not replacing it (are there any real deep threats on the market who could even come close to Moss?) is just going to slap him in the face.
Maybe I’m still smarting from the Super Bowl and want to feel like we can make another run right away. But this just seems like it’s going to be something like, like the Branch deal, will come back and bite us in the ass next season.
bottomline was, the Patriots made it all the way to the 2006 AFCCG with Caldwell, Gaffney, and Troy Brown as their wide outs and no matter how many people try to tell me otherwise they DID NOT lose that game because of their wideouts they lost because the DEFENSE couldn’t get Peyton Manning off the field….
Oh god I take back everything I said about you Randy, just please come back so I don’t have to come up with more arguments to justify your depature!
Tis’ a good point that both the 98′ NFC Championship game and this years superbowl were a bit flukish…and indeed it is pretty hard for Moss to catch to many balls when your offensive line is disintegrating like quick sand.
Nevertheless, even with Moss the Patriots still need more balance on offense and better defense (especially in coverage).