- Jemele Hill, ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine
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Who knows what prompted his stream of consciousness in his postgame news conference? But in a word, it was bizarre.
Moss scolded the Vikings for not following some of his advice on how best to beat the Patriots, announced he wouldn't answer any questions from the media the rest of the season and praised Patriots coach Bill Belichick with such superlatives that it came off as a shot at his own coach, the Vikings' Brad Childress.
As though the rant wasn't strange enough already, Moss ended the news conference with this: "I'm definitely down that we lost this game. I didn't expect we'd lose this game. I don't know how many more times I'll be in New England again. But I leave Coach Belichick and those guys with a salute. 'I love you guys. I miss you. I'm out.'"
The only thing missing was Moss dropping the microphone and saying, "Sexual Chocolate."
As much as he can be criticized for unprofessionalism and as much as he seems to be following Allen Iverson into late-career irrelevance, there is another side to the Moss-in-Minnesota story. That side has Moss as a convenient scapegoat for Childress, whose antics make Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan's thoughtless decision to bench Donovan McNabb look brilliant.
Just as Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's infantile letter to Cleveland fans about LeBron James backfired on him, Childress bungled Moss' departure from Minnesota so badly that the wide receiver looks like a sympathetic figure. That's even though everyone knows that Moss has caused problems for every team he's been on and, according to reports Tuesday, had alienated some of the Vikings with some erratic behavior in the locker room late last week.
It's laughable that Childress took such a hard-line stance with Moss, considering how much Childress has coddled quarterback Brett Favre during the past season and a half. Certainly, Favre earned some latitude by getting the Vikings to within one win of the Super Bowl last season, and yes, 11-time Pro Bowlers don't exactly drop from the sky. But the way Childress has handled his two diva players, you wonder whether he torpedoed Moss in part because he knows he'll never win a battle with Favre.
It's just hard to believe that in the month since he joined the Vikings in a trade from the Patriots, Moss was more of a distraction and a problem than the quarterback who: (1) missed training camp again as, for the umpteenth consecutive year, he agonized over whether to retire, (2) has been linked to an alleged sexting scandal that is still under investigation by the NFL and (3) reportedly has no respect for Childress.
At least now maybe we can understand why.
The truth behind the Vikings' decision to waive Moss is still being sorted out, but several media outlets have reported that Childress didn't inform upper management of his plans to let Moss go. If that's true, it was beyond shortsighted. It's career suicide, or should be.
Several reports also indicate that some Vikings players were unhappy and stunned that Childress released Moss, who, despite work-ethic shortcomings, still commands a double-team in this league. I'm guessing Percy Harvin was in the pro-Moss camp for that reason, if no other.
If it's true that the players are upset with Childress over this decision, he not only has lost more of his credibility but also has given his team a little less incentive to climb out of its 2-5 hole.
If we're comparing distractions, no one in the Vikings' locker room has anything on the head coach -- not even Favre. Two weekends ago, Childress had his own when-keeping-it-real-goes-wrong moment with the media. After the Vikings' 28-24 loss to Green Bay, Childress dropped a hammer on Favre, who'd thrown three interceptions against his former team. Childress blasted Favre for the turnovers and revealed he'd considered benching Mr. Gunslinger.
To be a good coach, you have to be able to manage personalities, especially talented, big-ego players.
Childress -- like Shanahan, his twin brother in incompetence who has had public problems with Albert Haynesworth and McNabb -- has mishandled his relationships with two of his best players, Favre and Moss.
Airing his grievances to the media was a bad idea. But when you analyze what Moss said, it sounds as though he was frustrated because his knowledge of the game and the Patriots weren't taken seriously.
And that's on Childress.
"I tried to prepare," Moss said after the loss to New England. "I tried to talk to the players and coaches about how this game was going to be played and a couple tendencies here, couple tendencies there. The bad part about it -- you have six days to prepare for a team, and on the seventh day, that Sunday, meaning today, I guess they come over to me and say, 'Dag, Moss, you was right about a couple plays and a couple schemes they were going to run.'
"It hurts as a player that you put a lot of hard work in all week, and toward the end of the week -- Sunday, when you get on the field -- that's when they acknowledge about the hard work you put in throughout the week. That's actually a disappointment."
If Childress had paid the slightest attention to Moss' history, he would have known that Moss is the kind of player who needs to be engaged and praised constantly. He's high-maintenance and has been that way for virtually his entire career. The Vikings, of all teams, had to know that. He played there for his first seven years in the league.
For Childress to act as though Moss' behavior is a revelation exposes Childress' own failures as a coach.
You can't feel sorry for Childress considering that he (A) sold his soul to Favre and consequently undermined his own authority and (B) didn't have the guts to fully develop quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, choosing a short-term answer (Favre) that has created a number of long-term problems.
The most immediate of those problems for Childress right now is his own ability to stay employed.
And to think, it wasn't that long ago that a giddy Childress was picking up Favre from the airport.
Something tells me he didn't even help Moss print out his boarding pass.
Jemele Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg