Have Talent, Will Play

NFL teams willing to give second, third and fourth chances.

NFL teams willing to give second, third and fourth chances.

There were a line of teams forming to take their shot at Randy Moss after it was clear he had sabotaged his future in Minnesota (again). Of course there was a line. There’s always a line. No team is immune to the sirens of a talented player, no matter what other sirens may come along, too.

Every coach, every general manager, in the win-at-all-costs world of professional sports always thinks: I can be the one to control this guy. He won’t pull that garbage here.

And enough is almost never, ever enough.

So Randy Moss, one of the most talented receivers in NFL history, will play again and get millions of dollars to do it despite wearing out his welcome now with three different teams, including one team — the Minnesota Vikings — twice. It won’t matter to his next coach that the Vikings once jettisoned him in his prime, despite having 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in six of his seven seasons. It won’t matter that the Oakland Raiders, a traditional home to some of the NFL’s problem children, couldn’t make it work with Moss. It won’t matter that Bill Belichick, the walking legend, and his Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady, couldn’t co-exist with Moss in the midst of what might be another Super Bowl season.

And it won’t matter that, on Monday morning, Vikings coach Brad Childress reportedly stood in front of his players one day after Moss added yet another definition to “crazy” in a bizarre, postgame press conference/rant, and announced the Vikings were cutting their best receiver, reportedly telling his players “We want good people that are good football players and this just doesn’t fit.”

Why won’t it matter? Because Childress, on behalf of NFL coaches everywhere, is lying.

The idea that anyone involved in sports — and that sadly includes non-professional leagues, too — wants “good people that are good players” is outdated and na├»ve and insulting to anyone who can read the sports pages or the police blotter in the newspaper. Coaches — and, to be fair, teammates, fans, and everyone else associated with sports — don’t care so much about “good people” as they do “good players.” No one is measured by how few arrests their team has or how much money they raise for charity.

Everyone in sports is measured by wins.

So by “good people” what Childress really meant is this: A person who doesn’t cause any trouble that the team can’t handle while it’s still able to win.

Where’s the line? It’s in the eye of the beholder. Last Friday, according to a report in Yahoo! Sports, Moss apparently went a little crazy on the poor people who dared to serve him a free, post-practice meal that he didn’t like. He reportedly berated the servers and the owners of the small restaurant in what one witness described as a “brutal” display. Supposedly he yelled “What the [expletive]? Who ordered this crap? I wouldn’t feed this to my dog!”

That, by the way, was the same day on which the NFL did something it almost never does — it fined Moss $25,000 for not talking to reporters, which is a violation of the league’s media policy. Players all around the league routinely violate the policy, yet the NFL almost never gets involved. That’s how fed up the league must have been with Moss to finally step in.

None of that is the behavior of a “good” person. And that was just the latest example. It doesn’t even take into account all the previous bad things Moss has done. He served three days in jail for a fight in high school. He blew his scholarship to Notre Dame after getting into another fight. He blew his second chance at Florida State for smoking pot while on work release from jail. As a “professional” he knocked over a female traffic cop with his car. He walked off the field during a game. He fake-mooned the crowd in Green Bay as part of a touchdown celebration.

After Sunday’s game, of course, Childress — though not necessarily the entire Vikings organization — had seen enough. Of course he did, because Childress’ job is in jeopardy, the Vikings keep losing, and now they’re in danger of becoming a nationwide joke. So he drew the line when Moss defiantly met the media after the game, but refused to take questions that didn’t come from himself (Moss is 33 years old, by the way, and this seems like a good time to point that out). The troubled receiver used his “interview” to express his love for his former team and coach, while criticizing Childress and his staff. That, most definitely, was not “good.” It was insubordinate. Add a laugh track and it was insubordinate comedy. All that was missing was a picture of Childress wearing a clown nose.

Sure, that was discussed around the NFL even before the Vikings announced that Moss would be waived. But the most important thing that Moss’ new suitors will focus on is this: He’s 6-4, gifted, and last year he caught 83 passes for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns. You don’t think Pete Carroll would love to have that kind of production in Seattle? Wouldn’t he look great next to Brandon Marshall in Miami? Could he help Donovan McNabb in Washington?

Hey, Terrell Owens once helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl despite his reputation for ripping his own quarterbacks and becoming a locker-room cancer. Sure he melted down the following year and did all the things everyone expected. But they did get to the Super Bowl.

Plaxico Burress was a key part of the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl run despite a checkered past of minor run-ins with the law and some insubordinate behavior in Pittsburgh, including skipping out on a mini-camp against his coaches’ orders. Yeah, OK, one year later the Giants suspended Burress for not showing up to work — supposedly because he had to take his infant son to school — and then he later shot himself (literally) and submarined the team’s season. But hey, they did win a Super Bowl.

The examples go on and on. Christian Peter, a notorious lout with a history of violence towards women, was once given a new lease on life by the Giants. Pacman Jones got a second chance from the Cowboys and a third chance from the Bengals despite his remarkable criminal past. Ray Lewis was once caught up in a murder investigation, yet now he’s one of the NFL’s most marketable players.

The examples — criminal and otherwise — go on, and on, and on ….

But don’t worry if your team is the one to land Moss, who for all his issues this season, has caught 22 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns through eight games with two teams. The numbers may not be worth the trouble or the prorated portion of his $6.4 million salary, but he’s talented. And there’s no doubt that his next coach will be the one to finally tame him, for the good of the team.

And if not? Well, there’s always next time.

There’s always a next time.

— Ralph Vacchiano

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