Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Sep 2007

Turns Out He's A Superstar After All

61 catches for 911 yards and seven touchdowns.
51 catches for 775 yards.
22 catches for 403 yards and five touchdowns -- in just three games.

One of these stat lines is not like the others.

OK, so Randy Moss almost certainly won't continue to produce at this level over a full 16-game season. That would result in the NFL's best ever receiving season by any and all measures, and even put LaDanian Tomlinson's touchdown record within reach. Nonetheless, it's fairly apparent that he's going to meet and exceed his KUBIAK projection (the first of the three statlines listed) with some ease. The second prediction comes from Bill Barnwell's June 28th article on Wes Welker, who has also confounded FO's prediction systems.

So, what happened? There are two parts to this story: Moss is not who we thought he was, and the Patriots aren't either. For Moss, it's a case where statistics don't tell the whole story. DPAR and similarity scores don't have a variable for "this player clearly couldn't be bothered in Oakland." When it came to forecast his 2007 production, all we really knew is that he was an aging receiver who had once been dominant but relied on speed he might not have any more. A more interesting dilemma is figuring out what what this year tells us about his future. Has his half-hearted play in Oakland given him another year or two of peak performance elsewhere? No idea.

Fortunately, the changes in New England's offense are much easier to quantify. Bill Barnwell's article showed a target percentage by role for the New England offense in recent seasons, with a 2007 projection. Let's revisit that table, adding in standard deviation from 2003-2006 as well as the stats for the three games so far this year:

Patriots Target Percentage By Role, 2003-2006
2003 2004 2005 2006 Avg StDev 2007 Actual
WR1 20.3% 22.8% 23.0% 20.1% 21.6% 1.35% 27.5%
WR2 11.8% 20.4% 17.6% 15.0% 16.2% 3.18% 27.5%
WR3 10.8% 11.0% 10.8% 9.3% 10.5% 0.68% 9.9%
WR4 6.7% 6.2% 6.3% 3.9% 5.8% 1.10% 6.8%
TE1 12.2% 10.3% 9.9% 17.9% 12.6% 3.19% 11.0%
TE2 8.9% 4.3% 4.6% 6.7% 6.1% 1.85% 3.3%
Oth WR/TE 6.3% 7.1% 7.5% 6.9% 7.0% 0.50% 1.1%
RB1 13.0% 6.9% 6.8% 11.0% 9.4% 2.67% 8.8%
RB2 6.7% 6.5% 5.5% 5.9% 6.1% 0.48% 2.2%
RB3 3.2% 4.5% 4.8% 3.2% 3.9% 0.73% 1.1%

Now, it's unlikely that the Patriots will stick with this precise distribution of passes -- if nothing else, one player or another is bound to pick up an injury eventually which will see somebody else getting their pass targets. If Moss continues tearing up the league, his share of the passes may go down as teams increasingly sell out to stop him. Nonetheless, both Moss and Welker are currently getting nearly 4.5 percent more targets than any recent New England receiver. Unsurprisingly, they're outperforming FO predictions, which were based in part on recent Patriots offensive trends. It's true at this stage in the season we're not dealing with all that many targets -- the difference between Moss and Welker in 2007 and Deion Branch in 2004-2005 is less than 1.5 passes per game. However, the variation is in excess of four standard deviations above the mean for the primary receiver, and over three and a half higher for the second wideout. This makes it more likely that we are seeing a shift in the Patriots' offensive philosophy and not just an artifact of a small sample size. The extra targets for the primary receivers seem to have come at the expense of the tight ends, who are less involved in the passing game than they have been, and "other receivers." The Patriots have only thrown to four wide receivers this year, and those four players have all been healthy. New England rarely uses an empty backfield, and when they do the formation usually involves a tight end (and the play is often a Tom Brady sneak on third or fourth-and-1).

It's probably not a coincidence that, after spending a summer loading up on wideouts, the Patriots are throwing the ball more to imported wideouts. Previous Patriots teams had regarded wide receivers as fungible, and it will be interesting to see if this apparent shift in offensive game planning is reflected in New England's front office decision-making going forward. After all, when the Patriots restructured Randy Moss' contract a few months ago, they also made him a free agent in 2008.

Posted by: Stuart Fraser on 27 Sep 2007

62 comments, Last at 07 Oct 2007, 4:37pm by lolicheck


by Joe T. (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 5:34pm

I say we crown his ass now.

by Chris G (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 5:41pm

Who needs that pesky 2008 first round pick when you can change fourth round picks into gold?

by pawnking (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 5:47pm

How unprecidented is it for a WR to outperform his KUBIAK so much in the first 3 games? If there is precident, what was it and what does it imply for the remaining season for Mr. Moss? And how much weed did he smoke in Oakland, and what happened to it when he moved to Boston? Is he, in fact, Ron Mexico's dealer?

by Paul (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 5:56pm

You're using the wrong error measurement when you say that the WR1% is more than 4SD above the mean. That's like flipping a coin 1000 times and having it come up 500 heads, and then taking another coin, flipping it 4 times and getting 3 heads, and concluding that it must be weighted because it's some large number of SDs above 0.50.

You need to use the error on this year's data. If Moss has been targeted 24 out of 88 times, then that's 27.3 +/- 4.7% (using the binomial error, which should be close enough for these purposes). That's only slightly more than one sigma above the mean, which is still well within the realm of statistical fluctuation.

Of course, I would say that this is almost certainly not random chance, but there's just not enough pass attempts yet to say conclusively based solely on that data.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 5:59pm

I supported the trade of Moss to the Raiders, because it was obvious that the guy just wasn't motivated to play in Minnesota like he had been in the past, and I thought it would tranlsate into his willingness and/or ability to overcome injury. It's a shame the Vikings appear to have wasted the first rounder they got for Moss, but I still think it was the right move, no matter what he does in New England. The guy is obviously an upper echelon HOF talent, but unless he is surrounded by other very good players, he just doesn't like to play football enough to count on him.

by Brian (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 6:05pm

I'll grant you guys this: He's a superstar because he was willing to be a cog.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 6:10pm

I think we're going to see the Patriots pass more to TEs and other receivers more when they start facing teams with good corner backs. The Bills lost their best corner to free agency, and the Chargers and Jets don't corners aren't that good anyways. The Patriots offense is always based on throwing to the guy who's open, and if the guy who's open is 20 yards downfield, of course he's going to be getting the ball.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 6:11pm

Has his half-hearted play in Oakland given him another year or two of peak performance elsewhere?

Half-hearted? More like hoof-hearted. He stunk.

by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 6:33pm

Part of this emergence of the Patriots passing game may also have something to do with Holding calls. I heard John Clayton this afternoon on the raido say that holding calls on offensive linemen, league wide, are down significantly from last year. In fact, the Patriots through three games have not been called for a hold. If this is a trend, expect to see alot more passing from all teams, especially ones with quality quarterbacks. This might also have something to do with Favre's reemergance.

by Matt (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 6:33pm

The Patriots offense is always based on throwing to the guy who’s open . . . .

I know not every QB or offense can pull off this basic task, but I think most offenses are predicated on throwing to the guy who's open.

by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 6:50pm


I hate it when people use the line, "they throw it to the open receiver" because it is refuted just as you did it. What team out there is specifically throwing it to the covered guy?

But that is really not the way it works. The essence that the statement is trying to convey is that Brady is very good at determining who is the *most* open in any given play. He is excellent at going through the reads quickly and equally proficient at helping WRs get open by looking off safeties.

So it isn't just a case of throwing it to the open guy or the covered guy like that statement seems to indicate.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:02pm

"The extra targets for the primary receivers seem to have come at the expense of the tight ends, who are less involved in the passing game than they have been, and “other receivers.�"

TE 1 seems to be exactly the same (except for 2006, the year of no recievers). The loss of receptions for TEs may have as much to do with the transition from Graham to Brady as it has to do with Moss/Welker.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:16pm

#10 - somewhere, Jake Delhomme's ears are burning.

by Charles (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:28pm

Gee, so Bill Belichick figured out what anyone who's ever played "Madden" knows. When Randy Moss is healthy, motivated, and on turf, you throw to him! And this is a surprise how?

by NHPatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:48pm

Looking at those figures a step back, the average for the 4th WR, 2nd TE, and other receivers, plus the 2nd and 3rd RBs over the last few years was 28.9% vs 14.5% so far this year. Any idea what the comparable figures for secondary receivers on other teams?

While this may be a strategy shift, I agree that it's a more a move away from having to compensate for a weakness - relatively weak receivers - than a deliberate strategic choice this year. Put another way, the strategic choice was not "throw to the main guys more" the strategic choice was "quit screwing around and go out get better main guys"

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:17pm

The whole Moss saga may also be indicative of why major trades in the NFL are harder to pull of than in say, baseball, besides the obvious salary cap limits in football. Hitting a baseball is an instinctual and fun thing to do. Yes, hard work is needed to hone one's skill, but the act itself is fun, which makes it more likely that somebody will be reasonably diligent in honing one's skill.

In contrast, football, at all positions, requires a lot of non-instinctual, hard work, often filled with drudgery, when it isn't comprised of painful violence. You really, really, really, have to want to play football to excel at it.

Trade for a superstar baseball player, and you have to be far less concerned whether the guy is going to want to excel, because hitting a baseball is inherently a lot of fun. Chances are even the most non-enthusiastic player will concentrate to his full extent when in the batters box, although he may go to sleep on you in the field. Think Manny Ramierez. Even a lackadaisical Manny is a damned valuable player.

Trade for a superstar football player, who doesn't want the trade, however, and you have a decent chance to get a guy who looks like Moss did in Oakland. Football just inherently entails a lot more drudgery, and if somebody isn't committed, he can't just turn on the talent for 15 minutes a game and still be a very valuable player.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:20pm

#7 So what teams appear on the Patriots schedule that have "good corners"-they face Buffalo and the Jets once more-Miami 2 times. Dallas has Newman, but they stil allow a lot in the air, the Giants secondary is awful, Cincinatti made Derek Anderson look good, Leigh Bodden is decent-but again they are not awesome in the secondary....so I guess that leaves Philly (if Sheppard and Dawkins are healthy), Pittsburgh-I guess, Indy-again I guess...and thats it.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:32pm


Can't agree on your qualifications of "fun" there. I'd much rather hit people than hit a ball. I'd much rather run plays than force myself to stay alert pitch after pitch in the outfield.

That's just me. But that's the point. Fun is subjective.

I think it's more that batting is so often a one-man sport: one guy versus the field. You often see one guy have a whale of a season while his team tanks, and that doesn't happen in football too often. A batter can excel on a stinky team. That's tough for a wide receiver.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:30pm

I’d much rather hit people than hit a ball.

Fair enough. But would you want to go through all the drudgery and pain you have to go through before you can even get on the field to hit people?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:50pm

PatsFan has it right, bravehotoad. What do you mostly do to get better at the fun activity of hitting? You hit. What do you do to get better at the fun activity of hitting people? Heck, for a lot of teams, anything but hit people during the season.

There's no way around it, football is filled a lot more with regimented, repetitive, tasks, that do not actually involve actions that take place during the game. You really, really, have to love that one game a week to put up with all the other stuff.

by Derek (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:01pm

Will -

"Yes, hard work is needed to hone one’s skill, but the act itself is fun, which makes it more likely that somebody will be reasonably diligent in honing one’s skill."

I'm sorry, but that's an incredibly subjective and unsubstantiated claim, and a terribly weak way to formulate an argument.

I could go into how your example of Manny is terribly misleading because he's been notably mentioned as a hard worker who simultaneously has a poor attention span and can be moody and petulant... and like Moss he takes days off. You could just as easily argue that he would have been just as bad as Moss had the Sox been a poorer team. Or you could say that he only tried that hard, not because it was "fun," but because he has a clear sense of his place in history as one of the greatest right handed hitters of all time and wanted to make his statistical mark despite his displeasure... and that Moss just didn't have that same self awareness. Or you could argue that Moss just made a trip to the Juvenation Machine this summer.

Seriously, do you think Adrian Beltre is trying as hard as he was during his contract year?

Or why couldn't you make the argument that Jason Bay isn't having fun playing in Pittsburgh and that's why his numbers have tailed off... even having so little fun as to counteract the natural fun of swinging a bat?

And why is something "fun" the ten thousandth time you've done it that year? When you take batting practice every day and play in upwards of 150 games with multiple trips to the plate, not to mention working out in the offseason?

Why is it more "fun" to be less physical, comparably? What about players that love to hit? Or people that love to strain themselves to their physical limits?

C'mon... I expect better from you.

by ZasZ (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:03pm

Or, as in Curtis Martin's case (remember that article a while ago, when he retired, saying that he didn't care much for football?), you have to really care about that multi-million dollars contract.

by Robert (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:03pm

Re: fun

Gary Sheffield dogged it in Milwaukee in order to force a trade. Derek Bell engaged in "Operation Shutdown" in order to do the same. Luis Gonzalez has whined about playing time in two different cities - most recently saying he would terminate his contract in LA because of being benched.

Granted, those weren't all trades, but the point stands.

Then of course, there is always JD Drew.

I had thought major trades were hard to pull off because the only ones worth trading for cause massive cap hits.

by Alex (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:12pm

I know not every QB or offense can pull off this basic task, but I think most offenses are predicated on throwing to the guy who’s open.

Most, but not all. Some very successful offenses are built around throwing the ball to an elite receiver and just having him come down with it, regardless of coverage, while ignoring inferior receivers who have more separation from their defenders.

The 2003 Vikings, with the vaunted "Just throw it in the general direction of Randy Moss, and hope that he cares enough to catch it" scheme, ranked 3rd in the NFL in Offensive DVOA. The Panthers got to 2 NFC Championship Games and 1 Super Bowl using the innovative "Throw the ball to Steve Smith regardless of how many defenders are covering him" offense.

The distinction isn't "throw to the open receiver" vs. "throw to the tightly covered receiver".

The distinction is "throw to the open receiver" vs. "throw to the best receiver". And it's not always an entirely meaningless distinction.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:17pm

Derek, I didn't say it was fun to be less physical. I said, less clearly than I should have, that being a professional baseball player entails doing more of what presumably attracted the player in the first place, repeating the actions which take place in a baseball game, than a professional football player does in regards to repeating the actions which take place in a football game. Yes, there are players in baseball who undoubtedly do better when they are in a pennant race, but the indisputable fact is that a starting baseball player who is diligent in his efforts for fifteen minutes in a three hour game can be extremely valuable. A starting football player who is diligent in his efforts for fifteen minutes in a three hour game is darned near worthless, outside a few special teams positions. Football requires more commitment.

C'mon... I expect better from you.

by Derek (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:29pm

Well now, Will, THAT is a reasonable argument... but that wasn't what I got at all from your original post.

Carry on.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:30pm

Robert, I said in my first post that cap hits are the major impediment, and I don't deny that baseball players can completely tank it as well, especially given 100% guraranteed contracts. However, I don't need anything near a completely dedicated baseball player, particularly a hitter, to get considerable value out of him, IF he is an outlier in terms of major league talent.

Being on an NFL football field without anything close to 100% dedication, no matter the talent level, is 1)exceedingly dangerous, and likely to mean that one will be off the field soon, and 2)likely to be far less useful to a team, because a less than dedicated effort by a football player affects the performance of other football players more than a less than dedicated effort by a baseball player, especially since most baseball players' have their most important activity take place in the batter's box. Football is a more interdependent sport.

by johnt (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:32pm

Randy Moss hasn't exactly had the best health history lately. My expectation is that the crowned asses of the Patriots will look less unstoppable when Moss' hamstring pull makes its annual visit.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:40pm

You may be right, johnt, but it is funny how guys often are less likely to be injured when they want to play, and actually are more diligent about things like stretching and therapy when they want to play.

by Dan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 11:04pm

Paul (#4) is correct. The most relevant standard error for deciding whether or not we can reject the idea that the higher number of targets is just random variation is the error for this year's catches, since the smaller sample size makes that the larger error.

by jimcooder (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 11:10pm

Just "bumping" #4. hope someone here at FO responds to it.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 11:15pm

24: Just a quick point about the Steve Smith 2005 season:

The way people remember things, Steve Smith got billions of yards because he was targeted all the time. That's not as accurate of a description as one might think.

Steve Smith was targeted less than Johnson, Fitzgerald, Galloway, Boldin, Holt, Burress, and Chambers. And yet, despite having fewer targets than many of his peers, despite being the only offensive weapon on his team, Smith dominated. He caught a higher percentage of his targets than any other #1 receiver in the league, and was at the top of the league in yards per catch as well.

Passes thrown to Smith were astonishingly efficient, averaging well over 10 yards per attempt. As much as everyone loved to joke about how Jake Delhomme throws to Steve Smith every play, the Panthers actually should have been throwing to Smith even more.

by Robert (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 11:56pm


I missed the cap comment.

You do need a dedicated hitter. Check out Sheffield's last year in Milwaukee on baseball reference. It was by far his worst year as a hitter. He hit like Jason Kendall.

And even elite football players show indifference. Deion Sanders often seemed to be playing touch rather than tackle football. He isn't too different than Manny that way.

by Alex (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:22am

Steve Smith was targeted less than Johnson, Fitzgerald, Galloway, Boldin, Holt, Burress, and Chambers.

True, but that's only because the Panthers threw very few passes compared to the rest of the league. They were in the bottom five in pass attempts in the NFL in 2005, so there weren't as many passes to go around.

As much as everyone loved to joke about how Jake Delhomme throws to Steve Smith every play, the Panthers actually should have been throwing to Smith even more.

Not that I disagree, but they did throw it to Smith a lot, especially compared to his teammates. Smith was targeted 150 times. The other WRs on the team were targeted 146 times combined.

I mean, they had to throw to the other guys occasionally, or else people would just start sending 3 or 4 people to stop Smith, and we all know what happened when Seattle finally figured that out.

by Stuart Fraser :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:27am

#4 and others -

Yes, I know. My comment that the results are 3+ sigma above the mean of the previous data set should not be taken as an attempt at rigorous error analysis. It isn't. I wasn't using the standard error as a way of saying "this clearly isn't random variation" - I'm saying "this is completely out of whack with what they were doing over several previous years". The actual numbers are 25 targets each from 91 for Moss and Welker, which, as you say, returns "insufficient data" as to whether or not this is just a short-term variation or a shift in philosophy (which I also said). My comment about standard deviations was an attempt to quantify how far this is out of line. I said this makes it "less likely" this data is consistent with the larger set. Not "this is not random fluctuation" because, clearly, there isn't enough data to say that. What I am trying to point out is that, if we assume the first three games are an accurate measurement of New England's pass distribution (ie, that the error in the 2007 dataset is small), then the probability this is not due to a shift in offensive philosophy is low.

For the record, I apologise if people were confused by my statement - I did not intend to imply that there was enough data to show conclusively the Patriots are doing something different yet, just a strong indication.

(This is what happens when you're trying to point out an emerging trend - if you wait until it can be shown beyond statistical doubt, it's not "emerging" any more).

by crack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 10:31am

Will Allen-

I hated the Moss trade from the beginning. Tice learned the wrong things too well from Denny Green, paranoia and bureaucratic infighting. He's showing more of that in Jax. Additionally, the idea that one first round pick and Napoleon Harris could replace Moss didn't make sense to me, it's not like all first round picks are created equal.

by Don Booza (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:07am

(This is what happens when you’re trying to point out an emerging trend - if you wait until it can be shown beyond statistical doubt, it’s not “emerging� any more).

This is a great statement. Too often stat geeks (myself included) wait for the numbers to prove the existence of a trend. Unfortunately, this means we will never see an emerging trend, and will only recognize a trend after it has already occurred.
I brought up this exact point several weeks ago on FO in an attempt to convince people that the Indy Colts defense had "turned the corner" and was already an average to slightly above average unit. Most of the responses I got were along the lines of "a couple of good games is simply an aberration and I would expect them to return to their historical norm" or "they need to prove it over a series of games", and so on. It seems to me waiting for the numbers to prove the existence of a new trend is similar to a weather man waiting for it to rain before declaring there is a chance for rain today. Yes, you will always be correct, but what's the point? Stats are a great tool and I enjoy pouring ovem them as much as anybody. But I also need to remind myself to not get caught waiting for the numbers to prove to my brain what my eyes may already be seeing on the field.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:14am

crack (#36 )--

To be fair to Dennis Green and the Vikings, getting a first-rounder and Napoleon Harris looked like a steal for the Randy Moss who left Minnesota, and a huge one after Moss took the next two years off in Oakland.

That was the whole point of the "cog, not a superstar" reference in PFP2K7: Moss had not been a star for 3+ years. Now he looks like a superstar again, though we obviously don't know that he can keep this pace up. (If he does, he'll surpass my prediction for his 2007 season by game 7.)

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:42am

crack, no sane person ever said that Nap Harris and the random number 7 pick could replace Moss at his peak. The point was that the Vikings were extremely unlikely to ever get Moss' peak again, and the rest of the league knew it, which affected trade value. The fact that Moss has decided to be a great player again for New England in 2007 doesn't have much to do with what his value to the Vikings was in 2005.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:07pm

I think I've posted this elsewhere, but the best comparison for Moss, subjectively rather than statistically, that I can think of, is Joey Galloway.

Formerly high class speedster who had a prolonged drop in production, due in part to injuries and unfavourable offensive environments. The fact that Galloway is still going strong at 35 has to be a (mild) positive indicator for Moss down the line.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:30pm

I guess there are examples of speedsters who retain their speed. Daryl Green, anyone? He and Joey Galloway together make it interesting to ask what kinds of players retain their speed and what kind don't.

by Thinker (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:46pm

The Randy Moss resurgence reminds me of Roger Clemens. He was scary good for quite a while, got preturbed/disinterested/whatever, and became average. Though hard to remember, The Rocket was heavier and in worse condition for a couple of years. He could still show flashes, but the every time out greatness was gone. I know that injury was part of his decline, but that may be a chicken and egg discussion for another time. Cut to the next season in Toronto and suddenly the motivated ace is lean and carrying a torch. Cy Young awards followed him to NY and Houston. Today we regularly hear about how his career has been marked by a monster work ethic. Most reasonable observers had him written off as on his way to DONE.

Now back to R. Moss: The guy has rediscovered the fire. Hw is older and injury is always possible, but he has regained some of his his former swagger. He has the Dirty Harry, "You messed with the wrong guy." attitude again - like he did when he fell so far in the draft.

Ultimately, Roger's revival was good for baseball. The same could happen for football with Randy Moss - whether you like the Patriots or not.


by CA (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:49pm

Re: 39 the Vikings were extremely unlikely to ever get Moss’ peak again, and the rest of the league knew it, which affected trade value. The fact that Moss has decided to be a great player again for New England in 2007 doesn’t have much to do with what his value to the Vikings was in 2005.

I disagree, Will. Moss suffered from a series of nagging injuries in 2005, and he was playing with a putrid offense in Oakland. Nevertheless, he managed to be quite productive. Perhaps the Vikings fully expected Moss to continue to suffer from injuries in 2005, as he did. But why on earth would the Vikings not have expected a healthy Randy Moss to have been as dominant as ever? His career year had occurred as recently as 2003, and it was widely (although probably mistakenly) believed at the time that the Vikings had very good surrounding offensive talent, particularly at the QB position, where Culpepper was coming off one of the most productive seasons in NFL history. I would say that, if anything, the Vikings seemed likely to get Moss’s peak again.

The Moss trade was primarily a PR move, a naïve attempt to reduce the bad national press that the Vikings were accumulating. Moss’s trade value had been reduced by the media’s and public’s overreactions to the walking-off-the-field-early and fake-mooning incidents, not so much because teams questioned Moss’s future productivity on the field. The Vikings also were misguided in their beliefs that Culpepper was one of the best QBs in the NFL and that their offense would remain strong without Moss.

The Vikings may have believed that, going forward, Moss would have been completely ineffective due to injuries. If that’s the case, then they were very wrong. Moss wasn’t as good as he could have been in Oakland in 2005 in part due to injuries, but he still played remarkably well for an injured player in a bad situation. More likely, the Vikings thought Moss would have continued to have been a dominant player, but they believed they no longer needed him and that trading him would solve their PR problems. If that’s the case, then they were very wrong. The Vikings’ offense was heavily dependent on Moss and suffered greatly in his absence, and their PR problems only got worse after they shipped Moss out of town.

Let’s face it: It was a bad move by the Vikings either way. The Vikings were very lucky that injuries and the Black Hole of Suck that is the Raiders’ offense sapped Moss of much of his productivity, because an even mildly healthy Moss on a respectable team would have made the Vikings look stupid every week, just as he is making the Patriots look like geniuses now.

Keep in mind, folks, that Moss has had a single bad season in his entire professional career (last year). He has had eight, going on nine, good to great ones. The exposure of 2006 as an outlier in an otherwise brilliant career should surprise nobody.

by RickKilling (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 1:36pm

#43: Actually, the trade had more to do with former owner Red McCombs flipping MN the big bird on his way out of town (link in my name.) If current owner Wulf had had his way, Moss would still be a Viking.

by RickKilling (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 1:37pm

BTW, the Wulf piece is near the end of the article...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 1:39pm

CA, when your best wr walks off the field, when the team is an onsides kick and a hail mary away from getting a win that looks like is needed to make the playoffs, you are not going to get the player's best efforts anymore, and that is likely going to show up in his injury status. Yes, the vast majority of injuries are perfectly legitimate, but it is also true that when a guy gets disgusted, he is far more likely to be off the field due to injury. When Moss went to Oakland, I predicted that he would lose significant time to injury, and that his behavior would make the team as a whole more difficult to coach. I was right. When he went to New England, I predicted that he likely would fit in fine, and have a great season, and that prediction looks good too. None of this is because I am so good at predicting player performance; it is pretty easily observable that Moss' level of interest in playing the game is highly correlated with how he views his teammates.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 1:43pm

Oh, there is no doubt that McCombs' desire to squeeze every last nickel out of the team before selling it was a major motivation for the trade; I just didn't argue with it much because Moss had quit on the team.

by Vern (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 1:51pm

This is a pretty much a case study in the limitation of DVOA. While it's great at separating the player out from the surrounding game situation, it does nothing to separate the player from his surrounding teammates, system, coaching, etc.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:07pm

That's true, vern, and we should give Aaron credit for frequently saying that player x's DVOA does not mean he is the best, but rather player x's DVOA indicates that he is the best while surrounded by those particular teammates.

by CA (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:22pm

Re: 46, 47 I just didn’t argue with it much because Moss had quit on the team.

Well, it sure didn't look like Moss had quit on his team when, just a week after walking off the field two seconds early against the Redskins, a still-hobbled Moss took the field and scored two TDs against the Packers in the playoffs. Moss might have quit on the Raiders last year (I don't know if he did or didn't, but it's a plausible explanation for his struggles), but I don't believe he ever quit or would have quit on the Vikings.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:32pm

Well, CA, it seems to me that if a guy can't be said to have given up on a team as long as he plays hard in a playoff game where nearly everything goes right, that is an extraordinarily low standard to meet. I'd say it's more reasonable to assert that when a guy walks off the field when it looks like two plays are needed to make the playoffs, however unlikely, and the guy in question is one of the most likely candidates to make one of the needed plays, he has quit on his teammates, period.

by RickKilling (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:09pm

#51: Will, it's obvious we're both Viking fans. I see that walkoff in Wash a little differently. Granted I'm a bit of a Moss apologist (insurmountable as that job was over the years) but I read it as disgust over the playcalling, which drove me crazy as well. I don't remember the exact timeframe of his quote over Tice's ability to lead the team to a SB, but I want to say it was shortly after that short-lived playoff run.
Again, not excusing Moss' actions or decisions, just presenting a different light.
In addition, there have been other - more respected - players to have walked off on their teams during a tough game. I seem to remember Favre doing once upon a time, but I could be crossing it with another player.

by crack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:12pm


I guess that's why I thought the trade was bad, I figured Moss could still approach his peak production with the Vikings. He still wanted to be there. Does he do stupid things? Yes. Do a lot of them get overblown? In my eyes they do. Him walking off before an onsides attempt seemed to me to be more disgust than quitting. Was it stupid? Yeah. He is the sort of talent that can make a good QB look great and an ok offense look good. That is almost impossible to come by in the NFL.

Its also nice to see you belittle his effort in a playoff game where 'everything went right'. Good point, obviously him being there and playing had nothing to do with that. All the Vikings playoff games since then have gone swimmingly. Maybe we can count the fact that he only had good games when the offense was clicking against him too.

by crack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:17pm


My post was in process when yours landed, glad I'm not the only one who saw that as disgust.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:00pm

Quitting is quitting, and being disgusted doesn't even explain it. He was disgusted. So what? Here are facts: the team was two unlikely plays away from winning a game which at the time was seen as being very likely necesssary to get into the playoffs. Randy Moss was a critical player for the success of the 2nd play. Randy Moss instead decided to walk off the field. He's a quitter, period, in regards to the Minnesota Vikings, and no rhetoric can change that. Facts are stubborn things.

As far as Favre quitting, show me a situation where the Packers were two plays away from winning a game that was seen as critical for playoff hopes, in which Favre decided to leave the field.

By the why, I'm not a Moss hater, and I've said nothing to belittle his effort against the packers in that playoff game. I said he played hard in a game in which there was very little adversity. That's another fact. Why is in necessary to gloss over the reality that walking off the field in the manner Moss did, in that situation, constitutes quitting. Why is preferable to deny reality?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:06pm

As far as Moss still wanting to be in Minnesota, I gotta say that walking off the field in that situation is an extremely odd way to demonstrate that desire.

by BillWallace (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:53pm

Having watched almost every Raider game last season without any bias, I was able to predict that Moss was still an elite talent.

You simply could not underestimate how little he was trying. He did not care if he caught the ball or not... he ran at 80% to where he was probably supposed to run to, and stuck his hands out, if the ball stayed in them, fine, if not, oh well.

I would say his Oaktown stats had less predictive value than the Saints Katrina year.

by Waverly (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 8:22am

Regarding the title: what's the DVOA or DPAR definition of a "superstar"? DPAR > 30???

Of course superstardom usually correlates with popularity, but that isn't being quantified in this article or on this website.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 7:31pm

I feel like the answer here, is probably the simplest one. Football, more than any other sport you need your teammates to have talent to succeed. In basketball if you're Lebron James you can have your teammates clear out as you tear through the D. In baseball you take the mound or step into the box and you're working with your teammates but to a large degree you're on your own. In football it seems to me everyone is a cog, the best players will stand out even on dismal teams but there's still only so much they can do if they are surrounded with nothing. Maybe Moss could have done more than he actually did in Oakland but how much can you really expect in a situation that awful?

by vikinghooper (not verified) :: Sun, 09/30/2007 - 8:02pm

Hi Fellow Viking Fans,

Look at the tape of the 75 playoff game against Dallas. Page and Eller walk off the field with 48 seconds left. I enjoy Will's Vikings commentary, but I don't think Will realizes the extent with which Moss carried dunderheads like Tice and Culpepper.

Will, do you remember the Randy Ratio? Tice had the intelligence of a third grader.

Randy Moss was simply the best Viking player ever; and the Vikings shat on him on his way out. Randy Moss has made me root for the stinking Patriots while I wait a decade for Tarvaris to develop.

Randy Moss didn't quit on the Vikings. He simply made three OUTSTANDING catches in that Redskins loss, and watched Nate Burleson drop a sure touchdown, and just got burned out playing with losers. Todd Boman's, Gus Frerotte's, and Jeff George's spectacular success with Moss show Moss was an incandescent, nuclear receiver who just said enoughs enough.

by langsty (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 6:18am



by lolicheck (not verified) :: Sun, 10/07/2007 - 4:37pm