By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 06, 2010

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Okay, here's the question of the year: Which receiving trio would you prefer, Deion Branch, David Givens and Troy Brown or Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker?

Before you inquire as to what Yours Truly might have been smoking, think it over. Since losing Givens to free agency, Branch to a trade and Brown to retirement, the Patriots are 2-2 in postseason games with zero Super Bowls. This trio of wideouts won seven Vinces combined. This was back when Tom Brady was surreal, that he could do nothing wrong in January and February, and the Patriots were the unchallenged best franchise in all of pro football, if not all of pro sports.

But things changed on April 28, 2007. Since Corey Dillon was handled so nicely when he came to New England in 2004 and helped the Patriots win the third and most recent Super Bowl, the Patriots thought that bringing in these high maintenance manchildren who happened to be superstars wasn't all that bad an idea. Dillon, famous for his sour attitude in Cincinnati thanks to years and years of bad football in the Queen City, helped the Patriots win Super Bowl XXXIX in his first year with the team. It was a quick and painless adaptation, and Dillon suddenly became known as a solid citizen rather than a clubhouse cancer.

Given the success the Patriots had with Dillon, they decided to tackle a more complex case. They brought Moss in for the 2007 season, obtaining him from the Oakland Raiders for only a fourth round pick. Immediately the reaction around Patriot Nation was fast and furious. What a coup. We now have the most talented receiver in all of pro football. But is the Patriot Way now a thing of the past? Why bring in this guy when, despite his immense football talent, he is the dipolar opposite of what the Patriots are all about?

Like Dillon, Moss was good for one year and not much else. In 2007 Moss and Brady had a legendary season, with both gents setting NFL records for most touchdown catches and passes in a season respectively. The 2007 Patriots were also legendary, winning their first 18 games of the season before getting shocked in Super Bowl XLII. In that fabled loss to the Giants, Brady did hit Moss with what should have been the Super Bowl winning pass, but the defense failed in the end.

Four seasons later, Moss lasts only four weeks with the Patriots before he is shipped back to his team of origin in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikes sent the Patriots a third round pick for Moss. Good deal for the Patriots, you say, giving up a fourth and getting a third. But this was a much better deal for the Patriots on several levels.

Upon re-examination of the article posted by this writer the day after Moss was acquired from the Raiders, there were other players under a somewhat similar scrutiny. The Patriots had just drafted Brandon Meriweather out of Miami, and traded for wideouts Kelley Washington and Stallworth. Meriweather had issues back then with brandishing a gun during a fight and stomping on a Florida International helmet at the end of a game. Washington came from the Bengals, who can't seem to keep anyone out of prison, but he was clean. Stallworth had issues with substance abuse and was a possible suspension staring the Patriots in the face.

Brown, Bruschi, McGinest, these guys were not.


Moss was always one of the most celebrated problem children of recent years in the NFL. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
Now you bring in Moss, one of the most celebrated problem children of recent years in the NFL. He will still find his way to Canton some day, but one has to wonder what kind of numbers he could have put up if he had been somewhat more coachable and a harder worker. In between taking plays off, leaving the field before games were finished and mooning the Green Bay crowd, Moss was a feared receiver who seemingly could catch the deep ball for a touchdown on any given play.

So now he goes back to the Vikings, who drafted him in 1998 just after the Patriots took Robert Edwards and just before they took Tebucky Jones. Moss is now paired with Brett Favre, who hungered for Moss to come to Green Bay years ago. Now Favre finally gets his man, and all the NFL cannot contain themselves.

Well, some of us can. Here is why Moss will not pan out to be all that Minnesota thinks he can be.

Favre will find Moss now and then, but it probably will not be as much as he wants. Moss will stretch the field, which will allow much more hay to be made by Adrian Peterson. Then there's Percy Harvin. And then there's Visanthe Shiancoe. Moss will have to do some sharing. That will never sit well with him in the long haul, especially this year where he needs to put up big numbers to get him one more final big contract.

With Favre, eventually he will lose a game with a pick, and the bigger the game, the more likely. It's not likely to happen against New England when the Vikings visit Foxborough on Halloween, as Favre always seems to do well against the Patriots. But there will come a time where Favre does something foolish to try and win a game, and the Vikings' season will go in the tank. It happened last year at New Orleans. It happened the year before with the Jets, as Favre finished 2-4 down the stretch and took himself and the Patriots out of the playoffs with a season-ending loss against Miami.

The smart thinking is that Moss will be somewhere other than Minnesota in 2011, if anyone will have him.

Now, here is why the Patriots will be okay without him.

The beginning of this article was perhaps disrespectful to Welker. Welker would be welcome on any of the three Super Bowl winners. The simple truth is that over the Moss era in New England, Welker is the best receiver and not Moss. Moss may have the big game strike capability and perhaps his presence opened up routes underneath for Welker, but nobody can question the heart of Welker, never mind his talent or his numbers. One could postulate that not having Welker in the lineup was a huge reason Baltimore was able to chew up and spit out the Patriots in January.

The simple truth of the matter is that Brady really doesn't need Moss to succeed, and the record bears it out. Brady is simply not a good deep ball thrower, but sometimes he would find Moss deep and sometimes Moss would have to make an acrobatic catch on a deep ball. Brady is at his best in dump passes, screen passes and intermediate slants, sideline lasers and crosses. Brady has never been a home run ball thrower, plain and simple. The few he completes doesn't justify the many he misfires on.

Instead, Brady is a brilliant game manager, who distributes the ball better than any quarterback in the league. Moss doesn't fit this style. Moss wants the ball deep, take a few plays off, then another deep one, and so on. Moss tried to adapt to the Patriot style, but it eventually morphed into stinkers like last year's Carolina game and a shutout like Monday night's Miami game.

It seems like the Patriots geared up for this eventuality. They now have two talented rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. They now have Brandon Tate, who also looks like a primo kickoff returner. And they still have Welker, who can still get open with the best of them. Brady will be fine without Moss, but he may not actually verbalize that thought.

Moss rambled on and on in a 15-minute presser after the Patriots beat Cincinnati in the season opener about how unhappy he was here in New England despite the fact that his team had just won, and now he's finally gone. Like Terrell Owens, he wears out his welcome rather quickly. The Patriots need to end this practice of bringing in these high maintenance superstars and just get back to Patriot football.

In other words, no more deals with the devil.


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