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Another freak occurrence

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  November 1, 2010 05:04 PM

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mossfinn2.jpgSo many questions whirling about the Shocking Randy Moss Transaction of the Month. Or should we say, Transaction-To-Be, since the move isn't official yet. Like that's going to stop us . . .

  • How much would you have loved to be a fly in the film room when Bill Belichick got word this afternoon that the Vikings we're dumping the receiver for whom they gave up a third-round draft pick not even a full month ago? He must have looked like the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes that day.

    • Did the Vikings have Brett Favre's jaw wired shut so he can't call a press conference to blather about his disappointment? I can't imagine what he might pull to get his name back in the headlines. Best guess: He'll shoot himself in the foot with his trusty BB gun, then blame it on Jenn Sterger.
    • Who will claim Moss? The battered Chargers? Kansas City, to reunite him with Matt Cassel, a quarterback he helped make rich? The Redskins? The -- gasp -- Jets? What about Indy? Would Peyton Manning want him with the Colts? The Bengals, with T.O. and Ocho Cinco? Pete Carroll's Seahawks? Josh McDaniels's Broncos? The Ottawa RoughRiders? New Jersey Generals? The University of North Carolina?
    • Is Brad Childress's ego really so fragile, or is he simply a paranoid control freak desperately clinging to his last bare threads of authority? Clearly he took Moss's comments yesterday as verbal insubordination, and reports indicate the Vikings thought he was joking when he said Moss was "no longer with them." And then he apparently decided to cut Moss -- inexplicably, he has roster autonomy -- without informing anyone else in the front office. This is the most unbelievable part of this to me. Did he think owner Zygi Wilf wouldn't notice when he wasn't on the field Sunday? Actually, Moss was barely noticeable yesterday, so perhaps that was Childress's plan. He's had dumber ideas.

    Which brings us to the most tantalizing question of all: Could Moss's next destination be his previous home? Could he come back to the Patriots? It's fascinating to consider for a number of reasons, but I can't convince myself there is a chance, and not just because 30 teams will get a crack at him on waivers before the Patriots.

    I think we all took his compelling "Baby, I'm sorry, I miss what we had together" act during yesterday's postgame press conference as an acknowledgment that he regrets forcing his way out of the best professional situation he's ever been in. His tone fell someone between pandering and pleading when he was talking about his affection for New England. It was quite a contrast to when he talked about the Vikings and was certainly disrespectful of Childress. ("There is a lot of film study that we leave in that room each day . . . I wish we could have had that three at the end of the half . . . PLEASE, MR. KRAFT. DON'T MAKE ME LEAVE AGAIN!!! PLEASE!!! I'LL LEAVE MY EARPHONES AT HOME NEXT TIME, PROMISE!!!")

    He's probably holding up his boom box outside Tom Brady's place in the Back Bay right now. Giselle must be puzzled.

    It sure didn't take long for his Vikings sequel to turn into a wake-up call. He thought he was getting traded back to the Vikings, the team with which he made his Hall of Fame name. What he likely realized in three short weeks was that he might as well have been dealt back to the Raiders given the Vikings' dysfunction and the Childress/Favre ego fight.

    We know better than to say never with Moss -- who would have thought a month ago that he'd have bounced from the Patriots to the Vikings to NFL purgatory by now? Maybe the lesson is learned and his perspective has been altered, and he can convince Belichick of as much. Maybe Belichick believes he can bring him back this season without fear of an outburst or another goofy, incendiary press conference or having to watch him run half-hearted pass routes because he's not the focus of the offense and doesn't have a new contract.

    What a story a comeback route would make. But there's an even better story in the making. The Patriots are 6-1, and 3-0 since he left. There's an irresistible 2001 vibe about this team, with all the kids and the Ninkoviches and Arringtons thriving, and you look at the names they've pared off the roster since last season -- Thomas, Burgess, Maroney, and yes, Moss -- and you realize selflessness, focus and unity are again atop the priorities list.

    Maybe Moss has been humbled by his Minnesota hiatus. But given what the Patriots have become without him, he's not worth the risk. In a way, he will remain to this team what Terry Glenn was to the 2001 Patriots -- a talented, high-maintenance, eventually discarded afterthought.

    Which is why Moss's words yesterday will always read as a goodbye and a thank-you rather than anything foreshadowing a potential return.

    "Maybe it could have been different. Maybe not," he said. "I don't know how many more times I'm going to be up here in New England, but I'm going to leave the New England Patriots, coach Belichick, man, with a salute. Man, I love you guys. I miss you. I'm out."

    Less than 24 hours later, he's out of Minnesota, too. And we wait, with equal parts skepticism and eagerness, to discover if the Patriots fulfill his thinly veiled wish and bring him back in.

    It's a contradictory set of feelings to be sure. Which, given the player we're talking about, couldn't seem more appropriate.

    * * *

    A few other thoughts on the Patriots we were working on when the Moss bombshell dropped . . .


    BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 117 rushing yards yesterday -- 43 more than Laurence Maroney has this season -- and scored a touchdown for the fifth straight game. It would easy to say that there's something to be said for putting your head down and running straight ahead . . . except that Green-Ellis, who is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, has a little bit more style than he gets credit for. He's never going to be mistaken for Maroney in the open field -- that is, if you can remember the times Maroney got through the line and to the open field -- but he came close to breaking a couple of long ones yesterday, and he's got a little more shimmy that he gets credit for. Feel free to go ahead and consider this yet another complimentary comparison to Antowain Smith.

    * * *

    Maybe the Patriots miss Kevin Faulk in some subtle ways that aren't apparent to this Sunday citizen of the couch. I'm sure they do. But Danny Woodhead -- averaging 4.9 yards per carry, tied for fourth on the team with 14 catches, and the author of two completely Faulkian plays (the direct-snap TD and a 16-yard catch-and-run to pick up a first down with under 4 minutes remaining -- has been a very reasonable facsimile, and perhaps even the long-term successor. (In a related note, loved seeing him in the No. 39 throwback jersey yesterday. He looked like a kid wearing a Sam Cunningham gamer in 1977.)

    * * *

    I'm jumping the gun here like Jared Allen trying to make up for that step he's apparently lost, but I don't care. I realize these guys aren't even a half-season into their NFL careers, but hypothetically and for the fun of it, let me ask you this: If there were a do-over on the 2010 NFL Draft tomorrow morning, where would Devin McCourty be selected? McCourty looks like a genuine No. 1 cornerback -- one who is also willing and able tackler, not exactly a common attribute among "shutdown corner" stars at the position. A top-notch corner might be the rarest asset in the NFL these days. He'd have to go in the top 10, right? The irony is that he's become so valuable as a cornerback that its almost too risky to put him on special teams, which was widely believed to be his best skill by those puzzled by his first-round draft status.

    * * *

    I wouldn't want to be a fan of these Vikings. Save for perhaps the Chargers (who have injuries as an excuse to some degree), they are the classic the-whole-is-less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team in the league, and that includes Dallas, whose talent is overrated annually. As frustrating as the Vikings must be to root for -- Childress forgets Adrian Peterson is on his team at the most inconvenient times -- it is impressive to watch the individual skill of some of their players. We've known Peterson was the total package since he was a freshman at Oklahoma, but it's startling to watch a running back with so much skill take such pleasure in punishing his would-be tacklers. It may cost him years off his career, as Troy Aikman noted yesterday, but you have to admire a running back puts staying bounds and gaining an extra yard or two ahead of self-preservation. It's Paytonesque, and there's not a higher compliment for a running back than that.

    * * *

    The other Viking who is a blast to watch is Percy Harvin, who runs his patterns like a receiver but has the open-field moves of a running back. I don't know if we'll ever know for sure whether Brad Childress's claim that they drafted him in the first round in 2009 knowing that the Patriots coveted him is true, but it could be. The Vikings took him 22d; the Patriots traded the 23d pick to the Ravens when they were on the clock and ended up with four second-rounders, their top choice being Patrick Chung at No. 34. No gripes here about how that turned out, particularly since the Patriots ended up with a relatively similar player in Brandon Tate in the third round, but if they were interested in him, Sunday was a reminder why.

    * * *

    It never dawned on me that the middle of the game would overlap with prime trick-or-treating hours until I heard Jonathan Kraft apologize for the start time during his spot on the Patriots pregame show. So like many of you, I imagine, I DVR'd the second half and took the queen and Superman on the neighborhood candy raid they've been anticipating since about June. I managed to peek at the score at a few houses -- and got a few knowing nods and occasional details from the dads who talked their wives into letting them stay home and hand out the goodies, a more football-friendly duty. But I didn't know that Favre had been knocked out of the game until my wife filed her sideline report when we got home. She said he'd been hit in the mouth and it looked bad and had to be carted off. I snorted and said he'd find a way to have postgame press conference even if his jaw had to be amputated and the rest of his face was now wired to his neck. Wouldn't you know it, less than, what, an hour later, there he was, drawling over 100 I's, me's, and my's in a 12-question press conference, and that's when my wife understood why Favre is a first-ballot Hall of Fame drama queen. Now, if we could just convince some certain national NFL broadcasters of the same.

    * * *

    As for today's Completely Random Football Card:

    rashad.jpgYou've been in the public eye since the beginning of forever. You were apparently a master at keeping your hands warm during those frigid Sundays in Minnesota. And you had one fewer catch than Moss yesterday. Here's to you, Ahmad. Here's to you.

  • About Touching All The Bases

    Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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