Randy Moss – his own worst enemy
Thursday evening, the NFL Network completed one of their more interesting programming concepts – complying and naming the top 100 players in NFL history. All 100 members of the list either are or will one day be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Moss was number 65 on the list suggesting one day indeed he’ll be a member of the Football Hall of Fame – that despite his off-field antics which at times have driven coaches and team officials to question their sanity. A six time Pro Bowler and one of the better NFL receivers since he was drafted 21st overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFL Draft. As a football player who has played in the NFL the last 13 years, Moss at times has been a game changer and at times his own worst enemy but more an enigma on and off the field than anything else.
Moss’ career has included stops in Minnesota, Oakland, New England, a return to Minnesota (for what could cost Vikings head coach Brad Childress his job) and this week he will be playing for the Tennessee Titans. Since his days as a high school football player in West Virginia, Moss has always been linked to problems, controversy and problems on and off the football field.
Moss' dream was to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, he also considered going to Ohio State, where his half-brother, Eric, had played offensive tackle. Former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz said "Randy Moss was the best high school football player I've ever seen." Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said "He was as good as Deion Sanders. Deion's my measuring stick for athletic ability, and this kid was just a bigger Deion."
After originally signing a letter of intent to play college football with Notre Dame in 1995, Moss took part in a racially-charged fight at his high school that left one person hospitalized. Notre Dame subsequently denied his enrolment application, but this did not stop another high-profile college football program from giving him a chance. Notre Dame Officials suggested he attend Florida State due to the reputation of its coach, Bobby Bowden, for handling troubled players. However, because of his signed letter of intent at Notre Dame, the NCAA considered him a transfer student, which made him ineligible to play for the Seminoles in the 1995 football season – he never played a down of football at Florida State.
He was red-shirted in his freshman season. While at Florida State, Moss ran a 4.25 40-yard dash, with only Deion Sanders being faster (4.23). The talent was there but as was the case at Notre Dame, Moss had off-field issues at Florida State.
In 1996, while serving his 30-day jail sentence in a work-release program from 1995, Moss tested positive for smoking marijuana, thus violating his probation, and was dismissed from Florida State. He served an additional 60 days in jail for the probation violation.
Ultimately, Moss transferred to Marshall University about an hour's drive from his home. Because Marshall was then a Division I-AA school, NCAA rules allowed him to transfer there without losing any further eligibility.
His two years of football at Marshall demonstrated to the football world that Moss had great potential on the field. But it was his off field issues that made him the 21st overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. The bottom fell out on Moss’ hopes of becoming an early first round pick, costing him tens of millions of dollars in bonus money. After the draft, Moss signed a 4 year, $4.5 million dollar contract that included an additional $4 million dollars in bonuses and incentives. As part of the deal, he also received a $2 million dollar signing bonus.
Just prior to the start of training camp in July 2001, then Vikings owner Red McCombs signed Moss to an 8 year, 75 million dollar contract extension. The extension included a $10 million dollar signing bonus and another $8 million in guarantees. It remains as the largest contract, in terms of total dollar value, ever handed to an NFL wide receiver.
Moss made the Pro Bowl five times in his seven-year career with the Minnesota Vikings (1998–2000, 2002, and 2003).
On March 2, 2005, Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders for linebacker Napoleon Harris and the Raiders' first (7th overall, which Minnesota parlayed into WR Troy Williamson) and seventh-round picks in the NFL draft. The Raiders were terrible on the field and Moss’ attitude appeared to be one that he did not care.
Moss’ career changed almost overnight when during the 2007 NFL Draft the Raiders traded Moss to the New England Patriots – pairing the NFL’s team of the Decade with one of the best receivers of the decade.
One of the conditions of the trade was that Randy Moss would have to restructure his contract for salary cap reasons. Just hours before the Moss trade was completed, New England quarterback Tom Brady converted $5.28 million of his 2007 base salary into a signing bonus that is spread out over the remaining portion of his contract so that it could free up cap room. This enabled the Patriots to absorb Moss' incoming contract under the salary cap.
Moss had two years remaining on his current deal and was scheduled to earn $9.75 million in 2007 and $11.25 million in 2008. Once the Patriots had Moss on their roster, he quickly agreed to a new one year contract to replace his old one. The new deal gave him a $500,000 signing bonus, a base salary of $2.5 million, and the ability to earn an additional $1.75 million in incentives.
NFL contracts are not guaranteed, if the Raiders had not traded Moss to the Patriots the Raiders could have cut Moss and he would have had nothing. Instead Moss agreed to redo his contract make significantly less money but play for a winner – the New England Patriots.
The Patriots had a great 2007 season – and Moss was one of the keys to their success. His 2007 season featured touchdowns in 13 of 16 games (including 8 multi-touchdown games), nine 100-yard games, six touchdown receptions of 40 or more yards and Moss was selected to his sixth Pro Bowl team. The Patriots represented the AFC in Super Bowl XLII, going into the game undefeated, ultimately losing to the New York Giants.
On February 28, 2008, Moss became a free agent after the Patriots decided not to place the franchise tag on Moss. Although the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers were rumoured to have interest in Moss, he decided to return to the Patriots, signing a three-year, $27 million deal on March 3, 2008. The contract included a $12 million dollar signing bonus, and a total of $14.1 million guaranteed.
Moss’ 2010 season has been one for the ages – at least in terms of what has happened off the field. In the last year of his current contract, Moss it appears became a distraction to Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Moss was traded to the team that drafted him 13 years ago, the Minnesota Vikings, on October 6 two days after the Patriots blasted the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. He did not record a catch in the game for the first time in his Patriots career with his closest opportunity coming off a fake spike play that bounced off his hands in the end zone.
Belichick’s remarks following the trade to the Vikings might indicate otherwise but it was clear to those who understand Bill Belichick, and his no nonsense attitude, he had had enough of Randy Moss.
“Well, it’s a combination of things. That would be a much longer discussion than we’re going to have. It’s a combination of factors. But I would say this: there was never any incident or discipline problem with Randy. There never has been one with me in four years. And it certainly wasn’t about contract and money. I think Randy showed and proved the first year he was here what that was all about. What he did with his contract made the whole deal work. I think you can eliminate those two things.
“It was a combination of factors. There was no one thing. It was a combination of things, and in the end, we felt like what we did what was best for the football team. And again, another part of it was just the personal relationship with Randy. And in talking to him, some of the feelings and things that he expressed that he and I talked openly about, when all was said and done and it all was put together, I felt like that was the best thing.”
Belichick has always been a “class act” a coach who does his best to stand by his players. The Boston Herald reported that after the Patriots second game of the season Moss asked to be traded and after the teams’ first game of the year suggested he would not resign with the team even if he was offered a contract. Two classic examples of why the team, with the best record in the NFL this year, traded Moss for a third round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Bringing Randy Moss back to where his career began at least on the surface appeared to be a great move by the Vikings. It gave future Hall of Fame Vikings quarterback Brett Favre another game breaker receiver to throw to and from a marketing and merchandising perspective offered the Vikings a great opportunity to leverage Moss’ return into real dollars for the organization.
Disaster struck almost from day one. Moss’s undoing with the Vikings began with an alleged incident that took place at a team function last Friday, October 30. The Vikings have a tradition whereby the team invites a local establishment to cater the team's post-practice meal. Last Friday, it was a St. Paul, Minn., restaurant -- a favorite of former Vikings center Matt Birk -- that served chicken, pasta, ribs and other dishes.
"We had the whole buffet set up, and we had a nice spread: chicken, ribs, round of beef with a carving station, the whole deal," Tinucci's co-owner Gus Tinucci told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. "(Moss) he comes in, and I'm helping one of the guys and didn't look up, and all of a sudden I heard, 'What the (expletive) is this? I wouldn't feed this (expletive expletive) to my (expletive) dog!'
"And he's screaming it at the top of his lungs. He never even came through the line. He walked up towards it, looked at it, made the big stink and walked away. He didn't eat."
The Vikings met Moss’ former team the New England Patriots in Foxborough. Moss was not happy after the game, in fact he was very upset. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert did his best to transcribe Moss’s dressing room meltdown on Sunday evening. What happened – Moss essentially ranted and raved for nearly five minutes in the interview room at Gillette Stadium.
"I'm going to go ahead and start this thing off. I'm going to go ahead and say this. I think I said something a couple weeks ago. Look, I got fined $25,000 for not speaking to you all. Me personally, I really don't care. But at the same time, I do answer questions throughout the week. For the league to fine me $25,000, I'm not going to answer any more questions for the rest of this year. If it's going to be an interview, I'm going to conduct. So I'll answer my own questions. I'll ask myself the questions, then give y'all the answers. So from here on out, I'm not answering any more questions for the rest of this season. Enough said of that, now we'll get to the game.
"Let me hold it down. Alright. I really haven't had a chance to talk to the guys, so this is no disrespect to the Minnesota Vikings and their organization. The captains, Wilfolk, Tommy Boy, Mayo, Kevin Faulk, man I miss them guys, man, I miss the team. It was hard for me to come here and play. It's been an up and down roller coaster emotionally for me all week. And then to be able to come in here and see those guys, running plays and I know what they're doing, and the success they had on the field, the running game, so I kind of know what type of feeling they have on their locker room, man. I just want to be able to tell the guys, I miss the hell out of them, every last helmet in that locker room.
"I mean, Deion Branch came up to me after the game. I've never had a chance to meet Deion Branch, but it was definitely a pleasure to meet him. Coach Belichick, he gave me an opportunity to be a part of something special. That's something I really take to heart. I actually salute Coach Belichick and his team and the success they've had before me, during me and after me. So I'm actually stuck for words, just because of the fact that, man, this is just, a lot of memories here. To the New England Patriots fans, that ovation at the end of the game, that really felt heart-warming. I think I actually shedded a tear for that.
"Like I said, it's been an emotional roller coaster all week. Tried to prepare, tried to talk to the players and coaches about how this game was going to be played, couple tendencies here and a couple tendencies here. The bad part about it, is you have six days to prepare for a team, and on the seventh day, that Sunday, meaning today, I guess they come over and say, 'Dag Moss, I guess you was right about a couple plays and a couple schemes they were going to run.' And it hurts as a player, that you put a lot of hard work in during the week, and at the end of the week, Sunday, when you get on the field, that's when they acknowledge about the hard work that you put in throughout the week. That's actually a disappointment.
"I can't really say enough about this team and this organization. I met with Mrs. Kraft before the game because I really didn't have a chance to talk to her before I left. I thanked Mrs. Kraft for letting me have the opportunity to be a part of something special. The New England Patriots have always been a special organization and I've always watched from afar.
"When I got drafted by Minnesota, and I think I said this a couple weeks ago, I think I felt obligated to bring a Super Bowl to Minnesota. And this season is still not over. Do I know what next season and the future is going to bring? No, I do not. But all I can say is that it's a lot of work that we leave on the field each day.
"There is a lot of film study that we leave in that room each day. I know how hard these guys work in New England and the only thing that I really tried to do was take what the best coach in football history has brought upon me, or the knowledge that he's given me about the game of football, and I tried to sprinkle it off to the guys the best way I know how. So I'm going to go ahead and end this interview, I have my family to see.
"Definitely down that we lost this game because I didn't expect us to lose this game knowing that we had a few things that we had to clean up. But like I said, they played a good game. I wish we could have had that three at the end of the half. Maybe it could have been different. Maybe not. I don't know how many more times I'm going to be up here in New England, but I'm going to leave the New England Patriots, Coach Belichick, man, with a salute. Man, I love you guys. I miss you. I'm out."
Vikings head coach Brad Childress decided Monday he had had enough and it was time to get rid of Randy Moss, saying: "This decision was made based on what we thought was in the best interests of the Minnesota Vikings, both in the short and long term," Childress said in a statement.
"We wish Randy the best as he moves forward in his career."
The Vikings lose their third round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (third round picks are invaluable in building NFL franchises), and whether Childress has control of the team is now an issue for the Vikings organization.
“When he told [the players] that he was cutting Randy, it was like a double-shot of pure caffeine,” a team source told Yahoo Sports Jason Cole. “It was one of those moments where you’re just jolted up, like, ‘Whoa, what just happened? Did he really just say that?’
“Really, I thought he was joking, then I realized it was Chilly and he doesn’t joke. Well, he jokes, but it’s not funny.”
Another team source told Yahoo’s Jason Cole: “I just thought, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ This is nuts. We’re just getting to the point where he’s getting on page with [quarterback] Brett [Favre] and the offense is starting to really move the ball and then we do this.”
Foxsports.com’s Alex Marvez reported that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf Wednesday visited his team and personally apologized for the Randy Moss mess and the distraction it has cost his NFL team. Wilf gave Childress an extension through the end of the 2013 NFL season after the Vikings went to the NFC Championship game last year – but with Wilf looking for taxpayer support to build a new stadium for the Vikings in the not too distant future, the Moss debacle could indeed cost Brad Childress his job.
And so the Tennessee Titans, who picked up Moss on waivers Wednesday, save the Vikings more than $3 million in salary to Moss (Wilf can at least be happy about that). How does Titans head Coach Jeff Fisher feel about Randy Moss joining his football team?
"We have a great locker room and I know our team is going to welcome him and I know he is going to enjoy playing here," Fisher said. "It is a fresh start, a new opportunity for him.
"We kind of did some research and felt like we had a chance," Fisher said. "I am very excited, very pleased. I spoke with Randy and he is excited to be here. We had some discussions and did some research and are fortunate it worked out."
Hopefully whatever research the Titans did is not from the same playbook the Vikings used.
For SportsBusinessNews.com this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: ESPN.com, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Wikipedia, Yahoo Sports and FoxSports.com