No Moss Growing Under Bill Belichick’s Feet

Posted: October 6, 2010 in NFL
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See this article with photos on Bleacher Report

Boy, did the New England Patriots look great Monday night against the Dolphins.  The defense and special teams carried them, scoring on the trifecta of a kickoff return, a blocked field goal and an interception return.  If only that offense could get rolling, they could be really scary again.  And they did all that with Randy Moss not even getting a catch!  Just wait until they get him back involved, nobody will be able to stop…what?  They traded Randy Moss?!  To the Vikings?!  For a lousy third round draft pick?!  You’re joking, right?

It’s not often a team commits Superbowl suicide in the middle of what could be a promising season.  Even for Bill Belichick, this is pretty risky.  Without another legitimate number one receiver on the roster (Wes Welker is great underneath, but he’s not a primary threat) the Pats are making it more difficult for their struggling running game.  They are taking points off the board and relying more heavily on a very young and still questionable defense.  They did, after all, allow the Bills to put up 30 on them, in Foxboro, no less.

If you look at the AFC, the top teams are all improving through players returning from suspension.  Pittsburgh’s struggling offense is suiting up Ben Roethlisberger this week.  If they start scoring points to match that dominant defense, they have to be a definite Superbowl contender.  The Jets, who just beat New England a couple weeks ago, are getting Darrell Revis back from injury, and adding Santonio Holmes to a passing game where Mark Sanchez is looking good and Braylon Edwards is playing like an All Pro.  If that works out, they may well be the most complete team in the league and a definite Superbowl contender.  Houston is welcoming back Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing to a defense that’s having trouble keeping down the passing yards.  With Mario Williams playing like a stud, Cushing’s presence and the added pressure he can bring is much needed.  With their running game clicking under Arian Foster, and the passing game sure to come around, if they address the defensive issues, they are a definite Superbowl contender.

The decision to trade Moss at this point in the season can only mean one thing: Belichick doesn’t really believe this team is good enough to make a Superbowl run.  Otherwise, why give up your best offensive weapon, and the one guy on the roster that forces defenses to adjust to his presence whether he’s producing or not, for a modest draft pick?  It’s especially confusing, given the Pats already had seven picks in the first four rounds of the draft next year.  Do you honestly expect me to believe that that one extra draft pick is more important that having a receiver the caliber of Moss on the field for the rest of this season?  Is weakening your team’s strongest asset how you go about winning a Superbowl?

It’s been speculated that Moss and his quest for a new contract was becoming a distraction, a cancer on the team, if you will.  That may be, but New England has developed a reputation for dealing harshly with players looking for new contracts, particularly older players.  To be fair, Moss only has nine catches through four games.  His production has fallen off dramatically.  Maybe the Pats got out at the right time, getting a decent return for a player hitting the career wall from a desperate team.  Or maybe not.

For Minnesota’s part, adding Moss can be nothing but good.  The deep threat will open up the field even more for Adrian Peterson.  And if Sidney Rice comes back healthy later in the year, and Percy Harvin stays on the field, the Vikings could be the best offensive team in the league by season’s end.  It is well worth a third round pick for them to take that chance.

The future is hard to pin down, particularly in the parity-driven world of the NFL.  You never get as many opportunities at the brass ring as you think you will.  Minnesota understands that and took the chance while they have it.  New England threw away this season, choosing a possible chance tomorrow over a definite opportunity today.  Maybe it will work out in the long run, maybe it won’t.  But if it does, it will be Vikings’ fans  who benefit from Moss’ talents in the playoffs and beyond while Patriots’ fans will try to get pumped up for the late-third-round draft pick they’ll have instead.

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