Raiders needed to dump Moss

Randy Moss was traded to the Patriots for a fourth-round choice Sunday, a huge discount from the trade Oakland made to acquire him two years ago., John Clayton writes.

Updated: April 29, 2007, 4:47 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

For offenses, Al Davis loves the Vertical Stretch.

To Davis, the West Coast offense is to football what small ball is to baseball. Although his Raiders teams have dabbled in the West Coast offense off and on for years, Davis isn't much for singles hitters, moving base runners and sacrifice bunts. Davis loves the long ball. He wants the home run. With that in mind, Davis traded for Randy Moss, and at the time, many that the deal wasn't exactly a steal.

It wasn't.

Moss was traded to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round choice Sunday. That's a huge discount from the trade two years, in which Oakland sent the seventh pick in the 2005 draft and linebacker Napoleon Harris to Minnesota for Moss. As it turned out, the Moss trade was a Vertical Stretch of reality.

The Raiders weren't ready for Moss at this stage of their franchise. Had a Randy Moss been acquired during the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, he might have been one of the Raider greats. Davis would have been planning to present him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after his retirement. Moss would be averaging 15 touchdowns a year. He would be among the leaders in yards per catch and receiving yardage. He would have been a regular at the Pro Bowl.

The Moss trade was portrayed as the biggest move of the 2005 offseason. The end was sad. In the dark of the night, Moss flew to New England for a physical and a contract restructuring. His passing to New England came almost as an afterthought on the second day of the NFL draft. His name was announced as a secondary part of a trade. At Radio City Music Hall, it was announced: "The New England Patriots traded the 110th pick in the fourth round to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Randy Moss.''

Moss couldn't even get top billing on Day 2 of the draft. Where did it go wrong?

The answer is simple. Moss couldn't play on a losing team. The Raiders were 6-26 during Moss' two seasons. He caught 102 passes for 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers would represent one season in Minnesota with Daunte Culpepper. Basically, losing allowed Moss to develop an attitude in which he lost his lust for football. Losing football games bored him. There were times he'd go through the motions in running routes in Oakland. Unmotivated, Moss only gave half effort and half production.

Plus, physically, he's not the same player he was in Minnesota. Though he may not have lost much as far as his 40 times, he has lost some of his burst. It now takes him about 15 yards to get to full speed. That allows most cornerbacks -- even average ones -- to stay with him in man coverage during those 15 yards, enough time to get a quarterback to look to the other side.

As hard as it is to believe, Moss only had four catches longer than 40 yards during his time in Oakland. He had only 21 of 20 yards or longer in two years.

Moss made it clear he didn't want to come back to Oakland for a third season even if it meant giving up some of his $10 million salary. He was on his third head coach and was staring at a new leader who was basically his age. Lane Kiffin is 31. Moss is 30. Moss didn't show up at the minicamp. If he showed up in training camp, it would only be in body, not mind.

What's a shame is a young quarterback such as JaMarcus Russell won't have the option of throwing deep to a Moss, but there was no way the Raiders could wait for Russell to develop into a top-level quarterback. Davis was smart in getting a fourth- round pick despite the embarrassment of getting so little for such a talent.

Kiffin and Davis are rebuilding the offense on the run, and, believe it or not, they are doing it the right way. Josh McCown should be the starting quarterback in September while Russell learns the system. People forget the Raiders are paying Ronald Curry $4 million a year. They can try to get by with Curry and a remotivated Jerry Porter. They took a flier on Mike Williams of the Lions. They have Alvis Whitted, Doug Gabriel and Carlos Francis. If the Raiders don't win this season, they will be in position to get a No. 1-type receiver next year with a potential top-10 pick, but they have enough to get by with in 2007.

The Raiders' offense bottomed out last year -- scoring only 12 offensive touchdowns. You can see the transition developing at running back. The Raiders signed Dominic Rhodes to pair up with LaMont Jordan, but if Jordan struggles this season, he's gone. There to pick up his role is Michael Bush, a fourth-round pick from Louisville who is coming back from a broken leg. If Bush regains his college form, he could be the starter by 2008. In the second round, Oakland drafted Zach Miller and immediately put tight end Courtney Anderson on the trading block.

Kiffin will watch to see if the offensive line will come together. If it doesn't, changes will start next year. Over the past couple of years, the Raiders have rebuilt their defense with good, young draft choices. The changing of the guard on offense has begun. Having an unmotivated Moss hang around in that environment would have dragged down everything.

Moss needed a new home, and the Raiders needed to cut their loss. It was time.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer