Thursday, October 7, 2010

The "System" Won't Be Able To Replace Randy Moss

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

In-season trades involving high-profile players are pretty typical. Contending teams pick up big-time talent from teams with no shot in exchange for draft picks and/or prospects.

Have you ever seen a team tied for first in the division get rid of one of its top players? Only to get a mid-round draft pick in return?

The New England Patriots did just that when they traded star wide receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings for a third-round draft pick in 2011.

No, the Patriots aren’t giving up on the season, at least not literally. Instead it is one of the most arrogant moves ever made.

With this move, Bill Belichick is emphasizing his famous philosophy that they can plug anyone into their system and succeed.

Many people may be able to point out examples that they trust in Belichick, but the evidence is strongly misleading.

People will look to the 2008 season when Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the first quarter of the first game, thrusting Matt Cassel into the spotlight.

Cassel lead the team to an 11-5 record, was franchised after the season, traded to the Kansas City Chiefs and signed a six-year deal worth $62.7 million and was not even remotely close to matching his success.

Cassel was a product of the Patriots system, yes. He had a good year. But he did not get the Patriots into the playoffs. This was a team one year removed from an undefeated regular season and Super Bowl loss. The system did not save them then.

Some people have pointed out that when the Patriots dynasty was at its highest peak, they won championships without true No. 1 wide receivers.

While Deion Branch, Troy Brown, and David Patten were not star receivers, they had plenty of experience under their belts, specifically Patten and Brown, and had developed a good working relationship with Tom Brady.

Other than Wes Welker, the guys expected to fill in for Moss are Brandon Tate (six career games 11 career receptions), Julian Edelman (14 games, 41 receptions, and most of his damage came in three big games), rookie Taylor Price (no stats) and rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

Moss was Brady’s favorite target. He loved throwing downfield to the tall and speedy receiver, sometimes to a fault. Brady is also without his favorite target out of the backfield, the injured Kevin Faulk, and now has Welker as his only safety blanket, the only guy he really has any working relationship with. Everyone else is unknown to him.

Can Brady work these brand-spanking new guys not only into the system, but into the NFL, fast enough?

Also, those championship teams were dependent on and anchored by strong defenses. The Patriots defense now is also young, inexperienced, poor at rushing the passer and poor in coverage.

Teddy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, Lawyer Milloy, Troy Brown and Mike Vrabel aren’t coming through that door anytime soon.

But what about Monday night’s bashing of the Dolphins, when Moss didn’t have a single catch?

The offense played well, but the Patriots had a kickoff returned for a touchdown, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a blocked punt. Chad Henne also threw three interceptions, one of which was a pick-six. Special teams won that game.

It’s no secret what Moss did on the field.

He stretched the field and created space, space for Welker to run his slant routes and, although the Pats didn’t use it too much, space for running lanes. He forced teams to double team him, and even then he would pull off amazing leaping catches and one-handed grabs.

Without him, there is no more double coverage on the field, which means more attention on everyone else. The safety doesn’t have to worry about playing deep, because there is no downfield threat, so he can sit in the box and clog the running lanes, making life difficult for BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.

That third-rounder New England got won’t help them this year. It may not even help them next year.

Randy Moss would’ve helped them this year, regardless of whether the team was going to bring him back next season. He would’ve helped a lot.

This is not a case of addition by subtraction.

The Patriots, as currently constructed—not past versions of the team, not thinking ahead of any moves to be made—are worse off without Randy Moss.

The system will not be able to replace the thing Moss did on the field and the wins he helped provide.

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