Moss now has a desire that just won't quit
"I'm enjoying every second of it," Moss said of his first Super Bowl experience.
Nine months ago, the talented and enigmatic Moss wondered whether his football life was over. He'd had the worst season of his career with the Raiders and he'd admitted losing interest in the game. No team seemed to want to trade for him. After six Pro Bowls, a spraying water bottle, one infamous early exit and varying degrees of effort, was this how it would end?
QUITTERS DO PROSPERYeah, Randy Moss quit on the Raiders last season. So what, says Jemele Hill. The Raiders quit on Randy Moss first.
Then, on draft day, New England traded for Moss. The team had carefully considered the options. Was Moss on the field worth Moss off it? Bill Belichick took the pulse of team leaders, who supported the addition. The risk was minimal -- giving up only a fourth-round pick. Management felt sure the Pats would affect Moss, not the other way around.
It was Moss himself who convinced Kraft.
"He told me he just wanted to come and win, and it wasn't about the money," the owner said. "You know he took a big pay cut to come to us. And a lot of players say that it is not about the money, it is about respect; but it's about the money. In his case, he came to us and wanted to be part of a team that could win, and he said to me, 'Mr. Kraft, I have made a lot of money, more money probably than I need. This is about winning.'"
The New England experiment had to work for Moss. He'd been traded for the 110th overall pick -- the Raiders used it to get a player named John Bowie from Cincinnati -- and the Patriots wouldn't hesitate to cut him loose if he caused problems. That's what it had come to; the greatest receiver of his generation swapped for an unproven rookie from a basketball school. Succeed, and revive his career. Suffer the same old problems, and end it. Those were the stakes. As he began, his former offensive coordinator in Oakland pronounced Moss' best days behind him.
Instead of showing his skills were in decline, Moss reinvented himself, breaking the single-season record for touchdown catches with 23. He didn't destroy the locker room, instead becoming part of the culture, and the word "team" now litters his interviews. He finally seems happy.
"How I approached the game when I was younger," he said, "it was very angry -- not at anyone in particular, just the game of football. Now, I still carry that same chip on my shoulder, but now I do understand that I'm a little bit older."
In the past, when faced with double- and triple-coverage, he'd taken plays off, complained, letting his frustration affect his effort. Now, having seen over the edge of his career, he handles periods of drought better.
"My process of playing four quarters and not receiving the ball or even seeing the ball," he said, "I think earlier in my career, I would have probably tried to voice my opinion in certain plays and certain ways to get open. Now I know that I'm a little bit older anything that will contribute to a victory, I'm willing."
Everyone wants to know why. One year after his worst season, he has his best. What's the explanation? Was he not trying before? Is it all a benefit of having Tom Brady throw the ball? That's R.W. McQuarters' theory. "Oakland wasn't winning," the Giants cornerback said, "so people forgot about Randy Moss. But Randy Moss was still Randy Moss."
Maybe Moss finally realized he had to get it together or lose football forever?
CHAT WITH WRIGHTWright Thompson will chat about Super Bowl XLII, live from Phoenix, on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.
Certainly, Moss' success is a combination of things. Brady thinks it's due in large part to an overlooked part of Moss' repertoire. Most of the attention is focused on his speed, or height, or jumping ability. Not as many people talk about his intelligence.
Offutt says Moss is a closet math wiz. He can process numbers well and is hell on wheels at a blackjack table, constantly updating the odds in his mind. Offutt noticed this about Moss when the receiver was just a high school student in West Virginia.
"He had this amazing mathematical gift of doing things with numbers in his head," he said. "I've been an engineer for years, and he's doing things in his head that I do. And he's 17, 18 years old."
Brady said this intelligence translates onto the field.
"I think the thing people don't realize about Randy is his understanding of the game," he said. "He is the smartest offensive football player I've ever been around, from his understanding of the receiver position, his understanding of football, how to get open, how to manipulate his routes, to how to change up his speed."
Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUPER BOWL XLII
Game coverage• Belichick ready to move on from Super Bowl loss
• Nevada sports books lose record $2.6M
• View to a thrill: Record 97.5 million watch XLII
• Giants' win shatters viewership records
• Clayton: Can the Giants repeat?
• Simmons: Free fallin'
• Giants spoil Pats' perfect season
• Wojciechowski: Blame Pats for this debacle
• Wickersham: Brady dazed and confused
• Clayton: Eli lets instincts take over
• Clayton: N.Y. 'misfits' harass Brady
• Sando: Was Brady rattled?
• Mosley: Belichick left a second early
• Chadiha: Ten things we learned
• Garber: Tyree's catch one for the ages
• Zoom galleries 1 | 2 | Great SB upsets
• SportsNation: Best Super Bowl?
• SportsNation: Biggest SB upset?
• SportsNation: Your favorite commercials?
Commentary/Features• Clayton: Top five contenders for the next SB
• '72 Fins breathe sigh of relief after Giants win
• Chadiha: Giants enjoy underdog role
• Sando: Coughlin, Giants made it work
• Super Bowl picks: Our experts weigh in
• Merrill: Nine previously perfect Patriots
• Merrill: Harrison deals with his rep just fine
• Clayton: Giants' O-line worthy of accolades
• Pasquarelli: Tip Sheet
• Pasquarelli: Tip Sheet notes
• Wojciechowski: 15 reasons Patriots will win
• E-ticket: Patriots' man of mystery
• Sunday Countdown
• Clayton's First and Goal
• Chadiha: Giants miss Shockey
• Garber: Injured war vet inspires Giants
• Pasquarelli: The Pats' crucial cameos
• Garber: In Brady's world, insecurity remains
• Merrill: Hixon's traumatizing season
• Football Outsiders: SB numbers crunching
• Pasquarelli: Patriots' silent sentinel
• Wojciechowski: Unflappable Eli
• Sando: Brady rising among all-time QBs
• Chadiha: Giants' rookies playing prominent role
• Fleming: Cardinals/Pottsville Curse
• Clayton: Youth serving Giants well
• Chadiha: Ranking the best QBs by decade
• Klancnik: Top QBs by jersey number
• Hashmarks: Media day coverage | Gallery
• Pasquarelli: Pats' old-school LBs
• Helyar: Marketing windfall for Eli Manning
• Garber: Seau's ring quest
• Pasquarelli: Bruschi's full-circle journey
• Animated plays
• From the research room
• Chadiha: Pierce just wants to win
• Wojciechowski: Explaining Bill Belichick
• Helyar: Recession? Not at Super Bowl!
• Giants' Snee doesn't stray from roots
• Sando: Seymour in eye of storm
• Merrill: Welker scales new heights for Pats
• Pasquarelli: Brady is ready to play
• Garber: The preservation of Plaxico
• Pasquarelli: Hill's spirit lives on
• Clayton: Giants' juggling act at CB works
• Wickersham: Giant ideas
• Klosterman: All too perfect
• Crown Jewels: A look at Super Bowl rings
• FB Outsiders: Giants one of worst SB teams
• Helyar: Patriots will drive TV ratings
• Clayton: First and goal
• Chadiha: Giants' glory road
• Mosley: Brady's ankle saves the week
• Woj: Preseason predictions revisited
• Merrill: David Woodley's dark spotlight
• Former SB QBs: Plunkett | Rypien | Ferragamo
• More: Morton | Humphries | Hostetler | Eason
• Starting matchups of Super Bowl QBs
• Ranking the QB performances: 1-40 | 41-82
• Jaworski: Six Super Bowl surprises
• Joyner: Brady's bad decisions
• Clayton: Eli's managing fine
• Chadiha: Focused Giants
• AccuScore simulation: Pats to prevail
• Chadiha: First Look at the Super Bowl
• Playoff schedule
• Vermeil doubts spying made difference for Pats
• Fish: Ex-Ram Warner suspicious of Pats in SB XXXVI
• Report: Pats taped Rams' SB walk-through
• Specter to Goodell: Let's talk
• Fish: Possible 'Spygate' witness surfaces
• Easterbrook: NFL can blame itself for scandal's timing
• Munson: Congressional interest serious
• Pasquarelli: Specter should stick with politics
• Clayton: Spy saga won't distract Patriots
• Hashmarks at Goodell's news conference
• Specter to Goodell (.pdf)
• Goodell to Specter (.pdf)
Page 2• Gallo: Five stages of heartbreak for Pats' fans
• Hill: Best Super Bowl parties
• Hill: Teflon Tom Brady
• Popculture roundtable on the Super Bowl
• Hill: Raiders quit on Moss
• Flem File at the Super Bowl
• Fleming: Defining greatness
• Best teams never to win a title
• TMQ: Title-game analysis
• Why Boston teams are so good
• Gallo: Countdown to kickoff
• More from Page 2
News• Brady ankle not on injury report
• Brady on Plax prediction: Only 17 points for Pats?
• Carey named first black Super Bowl referee
• Brady practices in Pats' first Super Bowl session
• Ross gets sick as unified Giants face flu
• NFL not worried about spying
• Security high for Super Bowl
• Williams to be honored during Super Bowl
• Bootless Brady departs for Arizona
• Tickets reselling for average of $4,300
• Burress: Giants' receivers are better
Scouts Inc.• Roundtable: Seven scouts weigh in
• Super Bowl XLII X Factors
• Coaching comparison: Styles vary, results same
• Defensive line breakdowns
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 5)
• Matchups to watch in Super Bowl XLII
• Running-game breakdown
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 4)
• QB tale of the the tape
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 3)
• Ranking NFL QBs 1-64
• Take II on Super Bowl XLII
• Giants' DBs overmatched or underrated?
• Horton: Notes from film room (Day 2)
• Horton: 10 things to watch in SB XLII
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 1)
• A tale of two underrated O-lines
• Take I on Super Bowl XLII
• Players ranked Nos. 1-106
SportsNation• Vote: Which team will win?
• Vote: Who wins the head-to-head matchups?
• Vote: Which team are you rooting for?
• Conversation: Talk Super Bowl XLII
• Map: Which states are picking the Giants?
• Quiz: 42 Super Bowl history questions
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Hello from Arizona!
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live from Media Day
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live with oddsmaker
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live with Matt Hasselbeck
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live with Gregg Easterbrook
• Rank: Super Bowl's best individual performances
• Rank: Super Bowl coaches
• Rank: Super Bowl careers
• Rank: Super Bowl teams
• Rank: Super Bowl games
• Rank: Greatest all-time quarterbacks
• Vote: Potential for QB greatness?
• Quiz: Greatest quarterbacks
• ABCNews: Super Bowl or Super Tuesday?
• Chat Rewind: When did undefeated talk start?
• Vote: Can we proposition you?
• Pulse: What is SportsNation saying about XLII?