The Randy Moss Effect

Samori Benjamin

Randy Moss has been the number one reason New England quarterback Tom Brady has had the best season of any quarterback, ever.

 10 years ago in the middle of West Virginia on the final day of the college football regular season a skinny quarterback dropped back and took his normal progression's looking over the football field at his different options.  But there was an obvious choice of who and where to get the ball.  The right handed quarterback calmly lofted a deep pass along the right sideline where his receiver, sporting long green and white stripped socks and wearing number 88,  was running by himself easily beating single coverage defense and catching the ball while gliding gracefully into the end zone to record his 55th and final touchdown over a two year period.  Numbers unheard of.   Number 88 had just almost single-handedly put Marshall University's football program on the map while padding the season statistics of his quarterback Chad Pennington and making him look like a prolific deep ball passer at the same time.   That's the type of effect Randy Moss has had on football programs during his unparelled athletic career.

Moss was born and raised in West Virginia, played his high school ball at DuPont high school in Belle, West Virginia and by the end of his senior year Moss had already won a state football title, won state 100 yard and 200 yard meter dash titles, he was winning two basketball athlete of the year awards while catching alley oops from current 10 year NBA veteran Jason Williams, and as a centerfielder on the baseball diamond he once inspired a Chicago Cubs scout to remark "He has the most range in the field that I have ever seen."  Coming out of high school in 1994 Moss was strictly focused on making a career for himself on the gridiron and had aspirations of playing college ball for the Notre Dame fighting Irish.  Then Notre Dame head football coach Lou Holtz said Moss was the greatest high school athlete he had ever seen and that he was a bigger version of former two-sport standout Deion Sanders.  Moss signed a letter of intent to attend Notre Dame in 1995 but saw that dream fall out of the reach of his long armed grasp when he was involved in a racially charged fight at his high school which left at least one person in the hospital.  Moss would later enter a plea of guilty to battery charges, placed on probation and given a suspended 30 day jail sentence.   Notre Dame immediately rescinded their scholarship offer and cut ties with Moss.   Randy then transferred to Florida State University and was forced to sit out a year because of NCAA regulations.  But during his year wait he tested positive for Marijuana thus violating his probation.  Moss was sentenced to 60 days in jail and was subsequently dropped by Florida State.

The decision for Randy was to then go back home to West Virginia where he starred at Marshall University which at the time was a Division I-AA program.  After breaking multiple records during his freshman season and leading the school to an undefeated record and the Division I-AA title in 1996, Marshall was elevated to Division I-A for the 1997 season where he and current New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington hooked up for continued success.  That first year in I-A ball Moss set the Division I-A record for touchdowns in a season with 25, he was named first team All-American, and Marshall won their conference by winning the Mid-American Conference title.

Moss would only stay two years at Marshall before entering the NFL draft where he fell all the way to the Minnesota Vikings with the 21st overall pick because teams were afraid of his high school incident.  In an interview early in Moss' rookie season in 1998 he said his intention was to dominate the league and at some point in his career have 9 figures in his bank account.   In that rookie season Moss went out and set the league ablaze.  He was a talent that the league had never seen before and he left NFL defenses hopeless as they tried to stop him.  He caught a rookie record 17 touchdown passes which was tops in the NFL that season and his performance was one the best by a receiver in the game's history.  He was voted offensive rookie of the year and named a starter on the NFC Pro bowl team.  That season Moss joined pro-bowl receiver Chris Carter to lead an explosive passing attack headed by quarterback Randall Cunningham which turned Minnesota's offensive into an unstoppable force as they set the then NFL record for most points by a team in the regular season.  Minnesota that season was very similar to the New England Patriots of this 2007 season and it's because of the Randy Moss Effect.   Minnesota went 15-1 in the regular season that year losing only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their former defensive coordinator Tony Dungy who was Tampa's head coach at the time and had an understanding of how to slow down his former team.  Since the NFL moved to a 16 game schedule only 4 teams have gone 15-1.

When New England finished this regular season becoming the first team in NFL history to complete a season 16-0 Moss became the only player ever to play for a 15-1 team and a 16-0 team and the impact he had on both teams are clear.   He is now in his 10th NFL season and it’s been a revival for him.  After spending 7 incredible record breaking seasons in Minnesota Moss was traded to Oakland at the end of the 2004 season.  His two seasons in Oakland were forgettable playing for a dreadful Raiders team that had terrible quarterback's who were being protected by what was arguably the worse offensive line in the NFL.  No matter how talented a receiver is he can't make an impact on the game if the quarterback is not able to get him the ball.  During his time in Oakland Moss seemed resigned to the fact that Oakland was a team depleted of talent and going nowhere.  The team had a record of 6-26 in the two seasons Moss was in Oakland in 2005 and 2006 and he scored just 11 touchdowns, including just 3 in 2006.

After a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts last season in the AFC championship game New England reloaded and traded for Moss in a draft day steal only giving up a 4th round draft pick.  The day of the trade many NFL pundits declared that Moss would make the Patriots the best team in football if he came to New England and regained his old form.  That's exactly what happened.  The Randy Moss effect took place in New England in 2007, that's why he should have been NFL 2007 most valuable player.

There is no doubt the New England Patriots were a great team and a dynasty before Randy Moss even entered the picture.  They had won 3 Super Bowls since 2001, they have a mastermind head coach in Bill Belichick who is about to tie Chuck Noll for the most Super Bowl victories by a head coach all-time, and they have a first ballot hall of fame quarterback.  But coming into this season New England had gone two years without reaching the Super Bowl, their longest drought since they won their first in 01', and they were finally beaten in the playoffs for the first time by the man they had owned for years, the great Peyton Manning in last season's AFC championship game.

It now seems ludicrous that all New England had to give up for a player the caliber of Randy Moss is a 4th round draft pick in last season's NFL draft.  Every team had an opportunity to make a move for him without giving up much.  Most NFL teams bought into the hype that Moss was a bad apple and slept the chance to add arguably the greatest receiver in NFL history.  Once Moss entered the Patriots stable the Randy Moss effect immediately took place.  From Week 1 when the Patriots opened against the New York Jets, who they beat in the playoffs the season before, Moss caught 9 balls for 183 yards and a 51 yard touchdown reception in which he outran triple coverage.   By the end of the season Moss set a NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions and he sparked his quarterback Tom Brady to the best regular season of any quarterback in league history.

Before this season the most touchdown passes New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ever threw in a regular season was 28 which is not in the top 15 of most touchdowns thrown in a season by a quarterback and the most yards he threw for in a season was 4,110.  Last season Brady threw 24 touchdowns.  Before this season Brady was often looked at as the Derek Jeter of the National football league.  A guy who wins a lot and was the centerpiece of his team but did not have the great individual statistics like some of his counterparts in the game.   This season Brady finally matched his star championship status with all world numbers.  He set a NFL record by throwing 50 touchdowns in the season more than double the amount he threw last season and he set another personal best by throwing for 4,806 yards.  Those numbers and the fact that he is the quarterback of the only team to go 16-0 in a regular season carried him to winning Most Valuable Player honors. However, the effect Randy Moss had on the already 3-time super bowl champion cannot be ignored.  He gave Brady and the offense a legitimate threat that made things easier for him and everyone else on the offense.  Moss is not only a problem for opposing defenses to defend but his mere presence on the field opens things up for the quarterback and the other receivers on the team making things easier for everyone.  On top of all that, like his initial season in Minnesota the Patriots this season set an all-time record for points scored in a season in this Moss' first season in New England.  While Brady set a number of personal best this season with the addition of Moss, the same cannot be said of Brady for Moss.  Though Moss obviously had a personal best 23 touchdown receptions this season he has had more receiving yards in a season, more catches in a season,  and a higher yards per catch average in prior years.

Jerry Rice is the only receiver to win MVP honors in the modern era when he did it in 1987.  Randy Moss should have been the second.   Him coming to New England took New England to the next level.  It made an already great team unbeatable, made them the best team ever if they can seal the deal and win the Super Bowl come the first week of February.  The Randy Moss effect is guaranteed to make everyone better.

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