Timing is everything, although it offers little certainty.
The Tennessee Titans chose now – halfway through a season of some promise, seven years removed from their last playoff victory, more than a decade after their lone Super Bowl appearance and a little more than a week away from the 16-year anniversary of the day they hired their current coach – to make one of the boldest moves in franchise history.
The question is whether their waiver claim of uber-talented but well-traveled wide receiver Randy Moss was made too soon after a series of public and private missteps (all of which ultimately were reported), far too long after the franchise had the opportunity to draft him or at exactly the right time.
After all, none of the NFL’s other 31 teams put in a similar claim. So it’s not as if anyone else saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Ever since they let him go I’ve been talking to my agent every day trying to make it work,” running back Chris Johnson, who employs the same agent (Joel Segal), said.
With Kenny Britt sidelined by injury for a period of time the Titans’ offense has an immediate need for a big, fast, athletic wide receiver who can stretch the field and help create running lanes for Johnson.
Moss fits the bill on all accounts. Even at 33 years old, he is a lean 6-foot-4, 210 pounds with a career average of 15.6 yards per reception. In four of his first five games (with two different teams) this season he made a reception for more than 30 yards, and three of those went for touchdowns.
“I’d welcome him with open arms,” Britt said a few hours before Moss actually became a Titan. “There’s a lot that I could learn from him, being a young receiver and him coming in here. He could definitely help with our offense.”
He joins the team at a time when its starting quarterback, Vince Young, shows an increasing ability and comfort level when it comes to throwing down the field, as evidenced by the fact that he is one of only three NFL quarterbacks currently averaging better than eight yards per attempt. The backup, Kerry Collins, has made a career out of standing in the pocket and trying to get the ball deep.
At the same time the running game, while ranked among the league’s top 10 in yards per game, is averaging one full yard less per carry than it did in 2009.
“Why do we need Randy Moss?” Johnson asked. “You can’t play eight in the box if you’ve got Randy Moss out there on the outside. … You just can’t play him one-on-one, so I feel like Randy will be a great addition to this team, be a great addition to our receiver group and can help us out and can really help us go deep in the playoffs.”
Moss has been to the postseason in six of his 12 NFL seasons (the Titans have been to the postseason the same number of times over that span) and has been involved in two of the most disappointing finishes in recent history.
As a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, he was part of a team that went 15-1 in the regular season but then lost to Atlanta in the NFC championship game. In 2007, he was a member of the New England Patriots who were unbeaten all the way until the New York Giants upset them in the Super Bowl.
Moss’ postseason average for catches per game (3.92) is down from his regular season average (4.89), but his yards per receptions are dramatically higher (18.4 as opposed to 15.6).
“The guy’s talented,” Collins, a teammate of Moss’ for one season in Oakland, said. “Anytime you go into a new offense there’s going to be some adjustment. He’s a really bright guy. … I would expect he’ll pick it up real easy.”
The Titans, of course, opted not to add that talent in 1998 when they needed a wide receiver and Moss was available but they picked Kevin Dyson 16th overall. Questions about his character following aborted attempts to play college football for Notre Dame and Florida State lingered even after two dominant seasons with Marshall.
Similar concerns have been raised throughout his professional career. He achieved a level of infamy when he once declared that he only plays hard when he wants. Just days ago, it was reported that his disrespectful behavior regarding a catered meal for Vikings players contributed to that team’s decision to place him on waivers.
“I think a lot of the stuff you see and hear gets overblown,” Collins said. “He speaks his mind. He’s very truthful with what he says, and that doesn’t always play well.”
If Moss plays well for the Titans, they could be in for the time of their lives.