Can this man handle NY? This is the big question mark in deciding to trade for Vikings star Randy Moss. (AP Photo)
Watch out Jonathan Carter, there might be a new No. 84 coming to town.
Randy Moss, the much-maligned Vikings wide receiver, is on the trading block and the New York Jets are a potential suitor.
With the jettisoning of Paul Hackett, the Jets have already shown a commitment to a new offensive style by hiring former Titans coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, a coach who admittedly likes to stretch the field vertically with his play calling. Now, they must give him the tools to reform a sluggish offense that mustered just two field goals in the Jets season-ending Divisional playoff loss at Pittsburgh.
Who better to start with than Moss, arguably the most physically gifted receivers to ever play in the NFL?
Moss would leapfrog the Jets into the upper echelon of teams in the AFC, increasing the likelihood of a possible trip to Super Bowl XL next February in Detroit.
Moss’ addition would directly impact quarterback Chad Pennington and give him a go-to receiver for the first time since the exodus of Laveranues Coles after the 2002 season, when Pennington’s 22 TD passes and six interceptions had Jets fans envisioning Lombardi trophies.
Undeniably there is a precedent for the Pennington-to-Moss connection. The duo played together for two seasons at Marshall University at a time when Pennington – who threw a then-NCAA record 27 of 39 TD to Moss in 1997 – seemed to have no problems throwing the deep ball. Moss’ 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and leaping ability are perfect for Pennington, who tends to loft passes. If there was ever a receiver equipped with the skills to come down with a deep ball, it is Moss.
Along with Pennington, the ripple would flow through the entire offense. Instantly changing would be the rolls of receivers Justin McCareins and Santana Moss. A three wide receiver set featuring Santana in the slot would rival the potent attack of the Indianapolis Colts, whose three starting receivers each had 1,000-yard seasons in 2004.
Not only would pressure be taken of Santana on offense, but he could be a deadly punt-returner without the burden of being the No. 1 receiver.
However, as promising as Moss’ addition is in theory, it first must come to fruition. Various reports have said the Vikings are requesting two first-round picks or a combination of draft choices and a premiere defensive starter (Don’t unpack your bags yet John Abraham). The Jets pick 26th in this April’s draft and the Ravens and Raiders – both with better selections – could upstage the Jets potential efforts.
Another potential roadblock could be new ownership in Minnesota. Late Sunday night ESPN.com reported the probable sale of the Vikings to Arizona business man Reggie Fowler for an estimated $635 million. Fowler, who owns the Arizona-based company Spiral Inc. and would be the first black owner in NFL history, may have a longer leash with Moss.
Fowler needs a face for the franchise and Moss is extremely marketable despite the admission to taking plays off in the past when the offense did not involve him early in games. Fowler also must win if he wants a new stadium, a task current owner Red McCombs failed with.
McCombs reportedly gave the green light to trade Moss shortly after the Super Bowl partly because Moss has worn out his welcome in the Twin cities. But if Fowler decides to insert a new regime of front office personnel and coaches, Moss may be off the hook.
Nevertheless, the Jets must consider the leap of faith in mortgaging their future on a win-now philosophy for a player whose laundry list of off-the-field antics is longer than the Pentagon papers.
This season, Moss drew ire from the media, teammates and fans after he walked off the field in the Vikings’ regular season finale with three seconds remaining and the team trailing by four with a chance at recovering the onside kick. The following week Moss torched the Packers for two touchdowns on a tender ankle.
But he overshadowed his heroics with the celebration that followed the second touchdown, where he pretended to moon the Green Bay fans.
Is Moss’ talent enough to balance the scales? A monumental determining factor is Herman Edwards, a player-friendly coach who could succeed where Vikings coach Mike Tice has failed. Edwards is eager for the challenge.
“Absolutely,” Edwards said last week during an interview on WFAN when asked if he could coach Moss. “I would think if any player’s going to play for us, at the end of the day, they’re going to know how to conduct themselves with touchdowns and those type of celebrations. That’s just part of the process if you’re going to play for us…I’ve got no problem with that. I’ve dealt with harder guys than that in my life.”
Amid all that coaching rhetoric, Edwards, who had to be physically restrained from running backs coach Bishop Harris in the Jets Wild Card win at San Diego, must use veteran leadership from Curtis Martin, Kevin Mawae & Co. to help tame Moss – especially from public displays of dissent.
When he played with Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, Moss had some semblance of guidance. Now he is like a pit-bull whose chain snapped.
But Martin and Mawae won’t be around forever, and the Jets likely must restructure Moss’ contract to fit their cap. That long-term commitment to Moss is a double-edged sword and the Jets must win quickly to keep him content. If the Jets acquire Moss and do not win a Super Bowl in either 2005 or ’06, this trade will likely backfire. After all, in an era where the Patriots team-first concept has won three of the last for Super Bowls, Moss’ me-first attitude goes against the grain.
Maybe the Jets and Moss can buck the trend.