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Does Moss have anything left for comeback? Former coaches disagree

by | Senior NFL Columnist

It's not all about open-field sprints; Randy Moss will have to fight to get off the line. (Getty Images)  
It's not all about open-field sprints; Randy Moss will have to fight to get off the line. (Getty Images)  

Randy Moss says he can run a 4.3 40, and let's just say I have my doubts. I don't know many 35-year-old guys who can sit out a year and run a 4.3 40. In fact, I don't know many guys, period, who can turn in that time.

Then again, I don't know Randy Moss.

What I do know is that a coach who worked with him in 2010, Moss' last NFL season, insists that speed shouldn't be a problem for Moss because it wasn't when he last played.

OK, fine. But a 4.3 40?

"I don't know about that," he said.

Another assistant who worked with Moss in 2010 does, and he's not just skeptical about Moss' boast; he's downright certain Moss is wrong.

"If he can run a 4.3," he said, "I'll give you my next paycheck."

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The divergence of opinion on Moss' skills reflects a split among NFL scouts, coaches and GMs on Moss' value to his next employer. One coach who worked with Moss told me he believes he has something left, said he wasn't a distraction or disruption and thinks he could help the next team that takes a flyer on him. Yet another warns that anyone who signs him assumes a considerable risk -- with Moss' talents eroded and the guy trouble waiting to happen.

"I don't think he has anything left," he said.

Well, I guess we find out.

What we know about Randy Moss is that he has had an impact in only one of four stops since leaving Minnesota after the 2004 season, and that was New England. There, he was a perfect fit for the offense and quarterback Tom Brady, with the suddenly focused and subdued Moss setting a league record with 23 touchdown catches in 2007.

It was the ideal spot for him, with the Patriots keeping him in line. Yet even they tired of his me-first act and traded him away after four games in 2010. After stops in Minnesota and Tennessee, Moss retired -- saying nothing as he left -- but has since changed his mind and now wants back in the NFL.

In fact, he wants back in so badly that he said, "I'm coming to tear somebody's head off," on an appearance this week on Ustream -- otherwise known as "Moss TV."

"I got something on my shoulder," he said, "and it's a chip I need to get off."

He insists he's still "got it," can fly through a 40-yard workout and doesn't need to be someone's No. 1 receiver. And while he didn't specify which team he would prefer, he did say he would like to play for someone that "has missing a piece here and there" -- in other words, a club with Super Bowl potential.

All of which is great ... except last time I checked a club with Super Bowl potential -- New England -- couldn't wait to dispose of him. The same went for Minnesota, which happened to be the NFC runner-up the year before. Then there was Tennessee, and while the Titans were floundering they also had Moss nailed to the bench by the end of the season.

You can look it up. In eight games there he had six catches, no touchdowns and didn't start the final four weeks.

"The tank is empty," said one coach who once coached him.

At his best, Moss was a game-changer, an extraordinarily gifted wide receiver who demanded double coverage and was one of the game's most dangerous deep threats. When defenses game-planned for Moss they almost always had a safety stationed behind the cornerback covering him to protect against the big strike.

Nevertheless, Moss found ways to make plays. He was so effective that in little more than three seasons with New England he produced 50 touchdowns and averaged 15 yards per catch in 52 regular-season games, and his departure left a hole in the Patriots' offense that hasn't been filled.

At his worst, however, he was a recalcitrant receiver who took off plays and lost interest in contests where he wasn't targeted or his team was woefully behind. In the 2000 NFC Championship Game, he was accused of jogging through routes in the second half of a 41-0 loss to the New York Giants, and former teammate Cris Carter -- now an ESPN analyst -- this week charged him with having "a quit mechanism that is huge" and activated "when things don't go well."

Carter isn't the first to make that observation, and one guy I spoke to told me of a game where he thought Moss packed it in after one series. All I know is the guy is intriguing because of his past successes, because of his considerable skills and because after one year away from the game he seems determined to correct his mistakes.

Yet based on what we saw in 2010, which wasn't much, I'm not sure why anyone would want to take a chance on Moss. What I am certain of is that somebody will. Yeah, I know, Moss was one of the premier receivers in the game, but that was years ago. Plus, the guy has a history of making news off the field ... and for all the wrong reasons.

The question, of course, is who makes the first move and what, exactly, is that team getting?

"Well," said one coach who worked with him in 2010, "he still has the speed, but he could have a tough time getting off the line of scrimmage, which is more a question of quickness.

"He was a good teammate, good in the locker room and good at practice. He was the first one to work, and he was willing to help some of the other, younger receivers. I didn't sense that we had any problems with him.

"He can still run and he can still catch. It's just getting off the line of scrimmage that could be an issue."

"Well, now, that's a problem, isn't it?" said the other assistant. "I mean, when you're talking about running routes you have to go through obstacles. He can say he can run a 4.3, but this isn't an Olympic time trial on a track. You've got to run around people and go to areas, and I don't see him doing that. If you ask me, he's good for a 'post' and 'go,' and that's about it -- and even then I don't know that he can beat the coverage."

There are, then, two sides to Randy Moss, as there have always been. One guy likes him and would give him another chance. The other would not. What we know is that Moss is no longer a premier receiver and probably not someone who burns up the next 40. But so what? He is someone who will draw interest, if for no other reason than curiosity.

But be careful what you wish for.

"When you talk about risk/reward," said one coach who dealt with him, "I think there's too much risk."


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