It’s just so convenient to demonize Randy Moss, whose history of hubris makes the wide receiver an easy target for sports fans fed up with coach killers. Not this time, though, and not with this team.
Blame for the trade-and-release debacle, the kind of front- office mismanagement that should prompt every patron in purple to question his or her allegiance, falls squarely -- and solely -- on the Minnesota Vikings. Blame the where-have-you-been owner, who still hasn’t given his side of the story. Blame the executive staff. And blame the coach.
“It was a poor decision,” said Brad Childress, the Vikings head coach, referring to the Oct. 6 trade in which Minnesota sent a third-round draft pick to the New England Patriots for Moss, who was waived this week after four games. Moss wasn’t worth the headache. The Vikings, we’re told, want good football players and good people. We know Moss is a good football player.
Let’s not forget, however, it was the team that wrote the rules, or lack thereof, for how things would operate this season. It was the Vikings that created an atmosphere whereby a me-first athlete like Moss was absolutely right to assume that his needs, wants and whims were more important than the collective ambition of winning games.
It was the Vikings who long ago surrendered control of the franchise to quarterback Brett Favre, who was allowed to show up when he wanted, if he wanted. It was the franchise who begged, pleaded and put up even more millions. Favre, in essence, became the de facto leader. Whatever Favre wanted Favre got. And the Vikings allowed it to happen. Players talk, you know.
Learning From Cleveland
It’s as if the owner, Zygi Wilf, and Childress weren’t listening and learning from the LeBron James divorce from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs gave James, the franchise player, whatever he wanted. Too much, really. Special rules for the so-called King. They catered. They babied. They cajoled. Only in hindsight did Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert come to the realization that he’d created the atmosphere that made it easy for a player to trample on supposed bosses who’d shown no backbone. Too late.
Maybe the Vikings brass should start a book club. The first week’s offering should be Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” a copy of which Phil Jackson gave to Kobe Bryant as a gift. The message Jackson, the best coach in sports, wanted Bryant to digest was that a leader has to become someone others want to follow. In order for that to happen, the best player can’t enjoy perks that aren’t offered to the last man on the roster.
It’s obvious the Vikings weren’t paying attention any of the times San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a four-time National Basketball Association champion, spoke about Tim Duncan. If the team’s best player doesn’t buy into the system, Popovich has said countless times, the coach can kiss his job goodbye.
You can bet that Childress, whose team has two wins and five losses, knows it now.
For the uninitiated, losing a third-round pick might not seem like much. It is. The National Football League isn’t like the NBA, where franchise-altering players are usually found in the first few selections. New England’s Tom Brady, for instance, was a sixth-round pick. Giving away a pick is inexcusable.
As for Moss, he’s lucky that, in sports, talent still trumps everything else.
He’s already found a new home with the Tennessee Titans, who claimed the 6-foot-4 deep threat on waivers two days after his release.
“We think that he can help us,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher, whose club is 5-3, a half-game behind the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South, told the Associated Press. “I’m looking forward to seeing him run under those deep balls.”
Yes, we’ve heard that before. Heard it in Minnesota. Heard it in Oakland. Heard it in New England, where one of the best coaches in sports, Bill Belichick, ultimately concluded that his team was better without you know who.
This just might be the last stop for Moss, whose talent, the Vikings found out, isn’t worth his temperament. Moss might end up like former NBA Most Valuable Player Allen Iverson, who was in New York last week to announce a two-year, $4 million contract with a Turkish team. Iverson, you know, would’ve preferred a spot in the NBA. Only he wasn’t wanted.
We’ll have to wait and see about Moss, who hasn’t changed, who won’t change.
All those fans clad in purple had better hope the same isn’t true of their team.
(Scott Soshnick is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)