Randy Moss has reached the Super Bowl again, but this time he has grown farther than he did in his New England days
From a pure rivalry standpoint, fans of the New England Patriots should be rooting for a victory for the San Fransisco 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Currently in the American Football Conference, the Baltimore Ravens would be considered the New England Patriots greatest rival. They have met in three playoff games over the past four seasons, including two hard-hitting and emotional AFC Championship games that were split between the two teams. Not since the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots played many times in the playoffs has there been an opponent that the Patriots’ are almost destined to meet each and every playoff run. Familiarity breeds contempt, and that is the case between the Patriots and the Ravens. For that reason, it would be awful for New England Patriots fans to have to watch Baltimore hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the Louisiana Superdome.
For those Patriots’ fans looking for active rooting interests besides simply “screw Baltimore”, there is another reason. Until this last week, it was a quiet reason for the fans to root for the San Fransisco 49ers. Quiet because before he referred himself as the “greatest receiver of all time” during Super Bowl media day on Tuesday, former Patriot receiver Randy Moss was sitting in the shadows. He made a couple of big-plays during the season and certainly helped the 49ers running attack because of the secondary help he still demands, but the statistics weren’t there. Perhaps its because his quarterbacks were Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick during the season, but Randy Moss only put together a season where he amassed 434 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was a far cry from the days when Randy Moss was catching 23 touchdowns from Tom Brady.
The Randy Moss we saw off the field in 2012 was very similar to the one seen during his first few years with the New England Patriots, albeit without the mind-blowing statistics. During those times, he appeared in New England as a humbled man, changed from seeing what it was like to play for a true loser in the Oakland Raiders. His opening press-conference with the Patriots saw him well up with tears, promising that he would “play for the minimum” and that he just wanted an opportunity to play for the title. This was believable to an extent. I’m sure plenty of Patriots fans assumed that he would fall into line, as long as he received the targets he expected. Randy Moss got the targets he needed, put up huge numbers and was a leader in the locker-room for the New England Patriots.
Everyone who followed the New England Patriots knew that he had a shelf life and it reared it’s ugly head in 2010. In a slowly changing offense where he was being used more as a decoy to open up the short-routes for the Patriots’ receivers, Randy Moss started to publicly question his role in the Patriots’ organization. The fact that Moss was in a contract season certainly didn’t help his growing discontent. At mid-season, he was traded to the Vikings. He played in one Super Bowl for the New England Patriots and very nearly had caught the Super Bowl winning touchdown twice; once before the “play that shall not be named” when Tom Brady led the Patriots on the “game-winning drive” and the other when Randy Moss came within inches of catching one of the greatest balls ever thrown. The tale of Randy Moss was similar to that of a tragic hero. He came to New England to finally win a title, matured into a team leader, and very nearly won the Super Bowl. He left appearing as the immature child he once was and perhaps always was, never having won that title.
When he returned to New England a few weeks later, he lamented about the error of his ways and how the Patriots organization was the greatest thing that ever happened to him. It felt like the boyfriend who realized how important an ex-girlfriend was to him after the fact and would do anything to get them back. He was waived by the Vikings and there was hope that the Patriots would pick him up again. It never materialized and he retired at the end of the year.
That press-conference after that game on Halloween in 2010 might have been when Randy Moss finally matured. When he announced his return to the NFL, it sounded like the 49er’s might have been the only team that asked for his services. The only thing that kept them from getting to the Super Bowl a year ago was the lack of a vertical threat on offense, and even at 35 there was a sense that he could do it. The only issue with the signing was Randy himself. Alex Smith wasn’t Tom Brady. If Smith didn’t find Moss enough, there was a real question about whether or not Randy Moss would act out again. Maybe that day in New England changed him, when he finally discovered the error of his ways, that if he were ever able to finally get his elusive Super Bowl ring.
And he did, he fell in line. Despite his sub-par numbers, there was no “Randy Moss acting out” story that resonated through the 2012 season. Was he totally happy? No, and that was discovered Tuesday during Super Bowl media day when Moss brushed off the question whether or not he would be back in San Fransisco next year. The look on his face said he was unhappy, but he kept his words to himself, and ultimately that was the most important thing. The fact that the Randy narrative of media day was his boast that he was the greatest wide receiver of all time was more important. Ultimately, it was a harmless boast from a man that normally has a large ego but one that never manifested itself in a negative way during the 2012 season. The reason for him is this; Randy Moss wants to win a Super Bowl and he understands this might be his last chance to do it.
In week 15 against the Patriots, Randy Moss caught a touchdown pass in Gillette Stadium and did his patented celebration where he parts his hands and then points to his nameplate. In many stadiums, this is greeted with a chorus of boos, but it was a quiet moment in Gillette. New England fans are some of the most intelligent in sports and they realize that Randy Moss was probably the most exciting Patriots player to ever done the uniform.
I still own a Randy Moss jersey. I wear it from time to time and I did in the first half of that game against the 49ers until I determined that I was messing with some bad karma and switched back to my Brady jersey. Randy Moss was one of my favorite New England Patriot players due to the exciting nature of his play. He has also been one of its most complicated, a player where no real moment stands out in his career except one of failure. I once wrote about Moss that he has the “plays but not the moments”. There was nothing more exciting about watching Moss take his three-step jog start before moving into a full-sprint, sticking his outside arm up and running free down the sideline. Yet, at the end of the day I will always remember that Hail Mary attempt in Super Bowl XLII where he just didn’t jump or the ball was deflected by the Giants corner-back or something. All that matters is that the catch wasn’t made and the New England Patriots didn’t win the Super Bowl and didn’t finish the perfect-season. I loved Randy Moss but still never understood him.
Finally, I have reached a point where Randy Moss is somewhat understandable. It is all his own doing. He has reached a point where all he cares about is getting that one Super Bowl ring, and if it means he is only going to catch the ball twice on Sunday night, so be it. I will be in my home, sitting there with my Randy Moss jersey on, hoping to see him finally win the Super Bowl. I hope he gets that one opportunity to take three-jog steps to start his move and then turn on the jets, streaking down the sideline with a speed that few players in NFL history have ever had. The pass will fly into the air and 75,000 fans will all stand knowing that something special might happen. It will be caught beautifully in stride and Randy Moss with his long strides will appear as if he is walking into the end-zone even though he is running faster than few NFL players before him. Touchdown, 49ers and Randy Moss will soak in the moment and point at least one more time to the Moss name plate adorning the back of his jersey.
Straight cash homie.