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Is Randy Moss Worth a Look
New York Jets Salary Cap Page

Is Randy Moss Worth a Look?

With the little news story coming out this week that the Jets are interested in Randy Moss there was at least a little buzz around the fans for the first time in months as the NFL lockout has seemingly sucked the life out of the fans.  There are a lot of thoughts out there on the potential of Moss as a Jet. Many opinions have been negative on the idea pointing to his diminished stats in 2010, while others have been very positive pointing out how Randy was simply upset about his contract and didn’t have enough incentive to play similar to what happened in Oakland in 2006.

I’ve always found Moss to be an interesting player. He is likely the most physically gifted player to ever play the position.  There are plenty of players who have had to work very hard to become great, but you get the feeling watching Moss that he doesn’t have to do a thing to be great. He just decides when its time to be great and when its time to be a nobody. The problem is other teams and players picked up on that trait and often can keep him from making that added impact when they guess properly as to when he is pulling himself out of a play. That one trait is what will keep him from going down as the greatest WR of all time.  

Moss clearly had an awful year in 2010.  He fought with Tom Brady and the Patriots about getting more passes thrown his way as well as a contract extension.  It almost seemed as if he felt that he was intentionally not getting passes thrown to him to limit his value on the free market.  Eventually the Patriots let him go and he signed with the Vikings to play with Brett Favre, who basically forced the teams hand into signing him.  Moss bombed in Minnesota and quickly was sent packing.  Next up were the Titans, a team where Moss was so invisible you probably did not even know he was still a Titan at year’s end unless he was on your fantasy football team.

The reason, people say, to simply ignore last season is because of the experience Moss had transitioning from being a Raider to a Patriot.  It seemed that Moss just decided to be a nobody in Oakland and then turned it on once he got what he wanted by moving on to New England.  If it happened then it can happen now with the Jets, after all Rex Ryan is known for taking bad guys and making them good guys, right?  Moss will be happy and play well and the Jets will be in the Super Bowl. Is that really true?  Lets look at it a little closer by starting off with his final years in Minnesota and subsequent arrival in Oakland.

Moss pretty much barked his way out of Minnesota in 2005.  Off the field issues, PR problems, and a bad attitude had the Vikings ship him off to Oakland where Moss proclaimed he would be great as he paired up with Kerry Collins, who Moss proclaimed was the greatest QB he ever played with, a subtle dig at Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper.  The expectations with Moss were huge.  He was going to go off for over 1,500 yards per year and open up a vertical game that nobody else in the AFC West could handle.  By 2006 the only thing that opened up for Moss was the door out after two nondescript seasons. Everyone said he was finished as a player.

In hindsight what people failed to realize was just how bad Oakland really was.  Moss is an amazing athlete.  He can make a great QB look incredible and a good QB look pretty great.  But Randy Moss can not make a football team look good.  No player at that position can do it.  The WR position is far too dependent on the offensive line, the QB throwing him the football, and the surrounding skill position talent than people want to think.  Culpepper was a good QB before he got injured.  Moss helped him look better than he was and his skillset was perfect inside the dome and on a fast surface, but Culpepper was still a capable player on his own. The Vikings had a decent team around him to boot.   

The Raiders were different.  Collins had just gotten the boot from his old team and was trending down in his career.  The team around them was hideous. The line was like a sieve.  They had no running game.  There were no complementary pieces at receiver.  Basically the idea was Collins would drop back and throw deep to Moss and the Raiders would be great again.  It was a joke.  So Moss’ stats plummeted and when Collins was replaced in 2006 he more or less shut himself down.  But when you look deep into Moss’ stats were they really that bad or did they just look that bad because he played on an inept football team.

First lets look at his final three season with Minnesota and his contribution to the passing game:

Year % of Team Completions % of Team Yards % of Team TDs % greater than AYPC
2002 31.45 34.09 36.84 12.73
2003 33.33 39.14 53.13 28.66
2004 15.55 19.23 40.63 29.23
Total 27 30.93 44.58 21.07

Now lets look at the Raiders

Year % of Team Completions % of Team Yards % of Team TDs % greater than AYPC
2005 18.98 25.88 38.09 49
2006 21.43 24.47 42.85 18.86
Total 19.92 25.37 39.29 36.6

When you factor in the ineptitude of the Raiders passing game Moss’ stats were not too bad.  He caught about 20% of the teams passes and 26% of the teams yards.  He was responsible for about 40% of their receiving touchdowns.  When there was a QB that could throw the ball deep his YPC was nearly 50% higher than the average of the other Raiders receivers.  Sure the numbers were not what we saw in the early days in Minnesota, but when you put them in context, which nobody did at the time, the Raiders probably got as much out of him as they could when he suited up to play.

He was used differently than those monster Vikings seasons and was actually more important a piece in the Raiders offense in 2005 than he was in his final Vikings season, though it should be noted that those numbers are skewed by two games where Moss suited up to play and was used as a decoy for just a few plays and then pulled from the game before being shut down for three weeks.  If you take those games out he caught about 18% of the teams passes and was responsible for 21% of the yards, still worse than his role with Oakland.

Upon moving on to New England the overall stats spiked and he was given credit for being the driving force behind the record setting offense in 2007 that went undefeated in the regular season.  He was considered the number 1 target of the offense through 2009.  Lets see just how big a role he played on those teams:

Year % of Team Completions % of Team Yards % of Team TDs % greater than AYPC
2007 24.31 30.72 46 38.04
2008 20.35 26.59 52.38 41.78
2009 21.28 27.84 56.43 42.72
Total 22.08 28.54 47.47 40.95

Certainly those are great numbers, but as a percentage of the teams plays it’s not that far superior to what he did in Oakland and is nowhere near those early Minnesota days. The last two years in New England, which saw the QB play dialed back down to a normal level are pretty much right in line with what Moss accomplished with Collins in year 1 in Oakland.  About the only substantial difference is that Moss was more of a goalline threat in New England than he was in Oakland.  It is also pretty clear than the Patriots only viewed Moss as a vertical threat, as evidenced by the huge difference in YPC between he and the rest of the team. But it’s not as if he really exploded from a statistical standpoint. The overall numbers were more a byproduct of being his usual self on an excellent offensive team rather than one of the worst offenses in the league.

So really the fall from 2004 to the Oakland era was far softer than people made it out to be and the rise from the Oakland era to the Patriot era was nowhere near as great as it was made out to be.  Looking closely at it, the 2004 year is probably where Moss, who had already been in the league for 7 years, was beginning to slow down. The Pats changed up his role somewhat to take advantage of the parts of his game that were still excellent, namely letting him run the deeper passing routes while using the other players to clog up the underneath to help free some of the double coverage that would normally roll his way.

So that brings us to 2010.  This was far different than the Oakland fall.  The Oakland fall was unexpected because people didn’t realize that the player was changing nor did they realize just how bad Oakland was.  Oakland didn’t understand what was going on, something that the Patriots saw and capitalized on, but Moss was still productive within that Raider offense.  2010 was cataclysmic:   

Year % of Team Completions % of Team Yards % of Team TDs % greater than AYPC
2010 9.27 10.78 19.23 18.26

These stats are based on the numbers put up in the games he played for those teams. Sure the last team he played on was bad, but he was a non factor.  His TD production was basically cut in half. He was below 10% in completions, a huge drop especially when you consider the fact that he played on teams with no options.  Even his worst year in Oakland he accounted for 19% of the team receptions. He was still getting open deep from time to time, which I guess is why Rex Ryan supposedly stated that Moss is a viable deep threat, but the YPC numbers were well off his norms meaning teams either did not think he could go deep anymore or nobody he played with could throw the ball deep.

2005 and 2006 were the signs of a good player on a bad team whose game was going to have to change. 2010 was the sign of an aging player trying to hang on.  Those are numbers that would see a no-name player out of the league.  At 34 years of age it is hard to imagine Moss being able to reinvent himself again the way he did in New England. Sure there are guys who have done it, but Moss has never been a hard worker like Jerry Rice or a fitness freak like Terrell Owens. 

The numbers say that this is far different than what happened in Oakland.  This isn’t ambivalence from Moss.  This isn’t about bad teams with no time to throw the football. This is about a HOF player whose career is winding down.  The Jets need to let it wind down somewhere else.  

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