Chris Johnson is not going to want to hear this, but Randy Moss is the fastest player I’ve ever seen on a football field. By far.
Spare me any talk of stopwatches or scouting combine statistics. I’m talking about watching one man run away from 11 others, the way Johnson often does. Only better.
That speed was impossible to ignore the day after Christmas in 1998 at Vanderbilt Stadium, when Moss had a relatively benign five receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown as the Minnesota Vikings beat the Tennessee Oilers 26-16. The same was true in December 2001, when he had seven catches for 158 yards and a touchdown in a 42-24 Vikings romp over the Titans.
Even in his early 30s, Moss still looked pretty speedy last October, when he caught eight passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns in the snow at New England in what turned out to be the worst loss in Oilers/Titans history.
The point is that, like Johnson, Moss is one of those rarely gifted athletes who can make many NFL players look foolish. Of course, with his sometimes-uneven behavior, he also has the ability to make NFL coaches and executives look foolish.
One question that any professional organization must ask before it makes major personnel decisions is whether you would feel better with a particular player playing for you or against you. Twelve years ago, the Titans decided they’d rather have him playing against them. They were worried about potential off-the-field incidents and decided that it was best to pass on someone who could be a game-breaking pass catcher.
For years afterward, the general manager at the time, Floyd Reese, remained unrepentant about his decision. Never mind that almost every time Moss has played against the Titans, he has made Reese’s decision to draft Kevin Dyson 16th overall in 1998 look, well, foolish.
Now, finally, Moss is playing for them.
The decision to claim him off waivers undoubtedly is fraught with certain dangers. There is the possibility that his could be a fractious presence on a team that is in the race for an AFC playoff spot but hardly dominant.
Overwhelmingly, though, players in the current locker room supported the idea of adding Moss. Chief among them was Johnson, heretofore the team’s premier game-breaker. That’s key.
Great athletes like to be around other great athletes. There are remarkably few anywhere in the world, fewer still in the NFL who exist in the same realm as Moss. Johnson is one of them. Vince Young qualifies as well (remember, we’re talking athleticism, not quarterbacking fundamentals here). Being part of that group will motivate and excite Moss in a manner that will lead to production on the field.
Think about it: Moss’ best days in the NFL came with Minnesota, when he was part of a receiving trio that included Cris Carter and Jake Reed, with a raw, yet sometimes spectacular quarterback, Daunte Culpepper; and in New England, which was ripe with stars led by quarterback Tom Brady.
Now that he’s once again a member of a team with players who understand his physical gifts and his philosophy, there is the distinct possibility that the Titans’ offense is one of the best and most explosive in the league.
If it turns out that’s the case, it won’t be long before many of the teams that passed on Moss in last week’s waiver period feel foolish for having done so.