- Jackie MacMullan, ESPNBoston.com columnist
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Editor's note: About 12 hours after this column was first published, Vikings coach Brad Childress told his players that Randy Moss was no longer with the team. Below is the column in its original form, while Moss was still a member of the Vikings.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- So now Randy Moss gets it.
Moss wanted out of New England because the Patriots wouldn't offer him a new deal, and they were an organization that "wouldn't pay." The wide receiver was "hurt" by the dearth of dialogue on his future and the lack of respect that demonstrated. He felt "unwanted" in his final days in Foxborough and became disenchanted with an offense that did not call his number nearly enough for his tastes.
It seemed simple at the time: If the team won't pay me or throw me the ball, then I need to force their hand. I'll make so much noise they'll have to trade me. I gotta find me a team that will enhance my free-agent résumé!
No need to dwell on trivial details, such as walking away from New England meant bailing on a championship-caliber team that included one of the game's top quarterbacks and a Hall of Fame coach who resurrected Moss' career.
Hey, man, it's business.
A mere four weeks have passed since the trade, and Randy came back to town Sunday with his new company, the Minnesota Vikings. He arrived without a new contract, caught one pass for 8 yards, then promptly threw his teammates under the big purple bus for not heeding his helpful hints on how to beat the Patriots.
Bet Vikings coach Brad Childress, Brett Favre and the boys loved reading the quotes that Moss was "disappointed" they didn't listen more attentively to his scouting report. I'm sure Childress, whose frosty relationship with Bill Belichick is well-documented, was heartened to learn that Moss proclaimed Belichick "the best coach in football history" within minutes of New England's crushing 28-18 victory.
The Vikings' season is on the brink of disaster. They've lost three of four, saw Favre get carted off the field with a lacerated chin that he said required eight stitches to close, and their so-called "money" receiver spent most of his postgame press conference pining away for his old Patriots pals.
"The captains, [Vince] Wilfork, Tommy Boy [Brady], [Jerod] Mayo, Kevin Faulk I miss those guys," Moss said. "I miss the team." Later, he admitted, "I miss the hell out of them -- every last helmet in that locker room."
The receiver spoke for several minutes without taking questions; in fact, he announced he would not take any more questions for the remainder of the football season. He was fined $25,000 by the NFL this week for refusing to speak with the media, so his plan going forward, he explained, was to only answer queries that he posed to himself.
(So Randy: Do you miss New England? "Yes, Randy, I really, really, really, do. Any chance they'll take me back?" Maybe if you promise to take your headphones out at the next team function )
Moss had three balls thrown his way. Aside from his forgettable 8-yard third-quarter reception, he drew a 24-yard interference flag on Brandon Meriweather that provided Minnesota with a first-and-goal from the 9, and he failed to connect with Favre on a throw into the end zone.
New England implemented the same tactics that used to frustrate Moss when he wore a Patriots uniform. The Patriots jammed him at the line of scrimmage, then double-teamed him on almost every play. Afterward, Favre conceded Moss wasn't going to catch 10-12 passes a game in their schemes, but the extra attention he commanded was valuable because he freed up other targets underneath.
"I know what it's done," Favre offered. "It's made Percy Harvin a better player."
Yes, it has, just as it made Wes Welker a better player when he and Randy were teammates. But Harvin's robust statistics aren't going to help Moss score that lucrative contract he's become obsessed with. Heck, if he had known it was going to go like this, he would have stayed in New England.
What a concept. He could have stayed in New England, with Welker and Hernandez and Wilfork and Mayo and, above all, Tommy Boy.
Who would you rather have as your quarterback, a 33-year-old superstar who takes great pains to spread the wealth when it comes to accolades and attention, or a 41-year-old former superstar who has a cranky elbow, a cracked ankle and a sliced-up chin, and has become consumed with his own crumbling legacy?
Randy Moss sounded Sunday like a man who realized he's made a mistake. Instead of running routes for a 6-1 football team that has legitimate Super Bowl potential, he is on a sinking Vikings ship that is 2-5 and taking on water. Moss, meanwhile, still hasn't gotten paid, still doesn't have big numbers, and still doesn't feel respected.
He left a number of friends behind in New England. His former teammates recognized his unique talent as one of the single most terrifying offensive weapons in the game, and they miss his camaraderie in the locker room. They could use a deep threat like him -- that remains indisputable.
"You know how I feel about Randy," said Belichick, "but today he was the competition."
Sorry, man. It's business.
Jackie MacMullan, who spent nearly 20 years as a beat writer and columnist in Boston, is a columnist for ESPNBoston.com.
Randy Moss sounds like a man who knows he made a mistake.