Mailbag time and this is the end of all things Moss . . . or at least until the Titans come to town for the AFC Championship.
So we say goodbye to Randy -- at least for a few months -- and also take a look at the true object of Brett Favre's affection, why I'd still take Manning over Brady, break down sports movies (again), figure out why Jerod Mayo isn't getting the love from ESPN and I confront the truth about Sacco and Vanzetti.
To the 'bag we go (and email me at email@example.com if you want to see your name on the internet version of the Bright Lights) …
I don't think I would want Moss to come back. He played the game, and Bill Belichick hit the reset button on him, and sent him to Minny. Then he came back to Foxboro, lined up all day against Kyle Arrington (who? exactly!) and got his ass handed to him on a platter. BB knew exactly what to do to stop him, and now the rest of the league knows what to do to stop him. The Moss ship sailed. I don't think Moss actually thought he would get traded midseason. Now, his old team looks like a team on the rise, getting better each week (that is not the Week 2/Week 3 defense we saw). If not for a pathetic Cowboys team, the Moss Vikes would have been 0-4 since "the return." No way the Pats pick him up.
A: I agree, Rick. If he had somehow managed to slip through waivers, Belichick doesn't bring Moss back. There's a reason they got rid of the guy in the first place, and it wasn't because of his on-field performance. I mean, do people actually believe that Moss is a changed man? I've heard this from people (including Neumy on the Big Show yesterday) -- Moss went to Minnesota and learned the error of his ways, and if he had returned he'd keep his nose clean and play every snap like his life was on the line. And this theory is based on comments made by Moss while he was bashing his head coach and his organization after a game in which he flat-out quit on a very catchable potential TD pass. Yeah, Moss might be on good behavior for a week or two, but what happens when he catches three balls in two weeks? I'll take 12 years of evidence over a four-and-a-half minute press conference when it comes to judging Moss. The reality is that he was worth the trouble in 2007 but he's not the same player anymore. Selfish is OK when you catch 85 passes and 15 TDs.
Moss never wanted to leave. He really thought the Pats were playing contract games and I think he was stunned when they traded him. Too bad, he'll never have it as good again and the Patriots could have used him. I know they are winning but this offense needs Moss to spread the field.
A: It never seemed to me that Moss was happy in Minnesota, even watching that first press conference. No question in my mind that he wanted to stay in New England and sign an extension. And once he realized that wasn't going to happen he started to pull his act, and Belichick took a look at Moss' declining production and the chemistry of the team and decided to make a move. And Belichick doesn't want to go through that again.
But it's true that the three wins since the trade have masked the fact that this offense has missed the presence of Moss. In the first four games (with Moss) they averaged 32.8 points and 344 yards. In the last three games (post-Moss) the offense has averaged 24.7 points and 311 yards. Tom Brady had three multi-TD pass games in the first four, and none since the Moss trade. And Wes Welker has really missed having room in the middle of the field -- all three of his TDs this season were with Moss and in those four games he averaged 6.5 catches for 54 yards (8.4 yards per catch). Since Moss left Welker has averaged 4.6 catches for 34 yards (7.2 yards per catch).
Good column, Mini-brain, but aren't you the guy who called Moss' Week 1 act a "pity party?" Well, what's the difference? He still wants us to feel bad for him, just in a different uniform. I do like the Kenny Powers/Favre reference.
A: I don't disagree, Todd. Don't know where in that column you saw anything different. Moss is all about Moss and always will be. Belichick knew that, Childress knows that and if Jeff Fisher doesn't know that he'll find out.
Favre basically is Kenny Powers after a two-week media training session and a minor makeover. I'll give him this, though: I think the guy is legitimately astonished at his ability to fight off pain. He really thinks he's different from other people, he buys the whole Favre act. Favre has no bigger fan than Favre (silver medal to John Madden and bronze to Peter King). He'd stalk himself if he could. After watching his postgame presser on Sunday I'm half-convinced he meant to text the pictures of his junk to himself.
Mulligan offer for you here. You wrote that Peyton Manning is a better quarterback than Tom Brady, but Brady is your MVP this year and mine also. Admit right now that Brady is better than Manning and we'll let you back in the Tommy Boy Fan Club.
Pats Fan 2010
A: Can't do it. Brady is carrying the Pats right now, no question. He's got a bunch of castoffs, undrafted guys and reality TV stars on his offense and he's somehow on pace for 3,700 yards and 27 TDs. When they had Moss he put up big numbers and without Moss he's managed the game and made every clutch throw needed. If he plays well and the Pats win on Sunday he's my mid-season MVP. The problem is that the guy right behind him is Manning, who has thrown 15 TDs (three more than Brady) with just two INTs (two fewer than Brady). I'll go along with the idea that Manning has more weapons than Brady (though none of the Colts has ever done anything without Manning) but let's be fair: Manning is playing at an incredible level. This is Bird and Magic battling for the 1987 MVP, two of the top five of all-time at their peaks. But as I wrote a couple of months ago, it comes down to this: Manning has played 199 games in his career, Brady 136. That's a 63-game spread, not insignificant. Even if you think Brady has had the better career (which is a perfectly legitimate stance), is this difference great enough to make up nearly four full seasons of Manning? Having watched these two guys over the last decade-plus I just don't see how that could be. But if Brady tacks on another MVP and/or Super Bowl it would be time for a serious re-evaluation.
Re: Sports Movies Podcast
You guys need to check out The Hammer. It's a boxing movie written by and starring Adam Carolla. It did nothing at the box office during a limited release, but Sports Illustrated voted it in the No. 1 sports movie of the year in 2008. Definitely worth seeing.
A: I saw it last year, I think. It was OK, but Carolla -- a really funny guy -- isn't an actor. You can't forget that he's Adam Carolla, he's exactly the same guy you see on TV and hear on the radio. That's the thing, back in the 1970s you had Paul Newman and Walter Matthau taking lead roles in shockingly profane sports movies. Academy Award winners. If you remade "Slap Shot" today it would be a Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy with a PG-13 rating. And it would probably make $100 million, so what do I know?
Man I loved "Cinderella Man." I thought it was a great period piece and the boxing was terrific. Surprised to hear you ripping on it during the podcast with Rob Bradford.
A: Ugh, absolute hero worship at its worst. They made Jim Braddock this figure of heroism and didn't give us a chance to see what he was actually like as a person. Would a little ambiguity hurt? It's just a bunch of scenes where Braddock faces obstacles and either gets by them or doesn't, with his wife always handy with the kind of line that people never say to each other (stuff like "You're the champion of my heart," lines that wouldn't even make the first cut of a Tim McGraw song).
But I know plenty of people who think Cinderella Man is a great sports movie. I'm probably just being cynical, I should give Russell and Renee another shot. While I'm on the happy train I guess I should give Kevin Garnett the benefit of the doubt, right? I mean, 'You are cancerous to your team and our league' sounds exactly like something KG would say. He's always struck me as someone who could easily go three words without an F-Bomb buffet.
(Oh, I know. I don't understand Garnett. Believe me, I've read the same profiles over the last four years, written by people who can't find a way into Garnett's impenetrable world. He's intense, he's so complicated, he's his own worst victim. I've heard it all three million times. Great player, but his whole act is so tired. And if he didn't say it, OK. But don't we all kind of think he did?)
Just for the record, giving an A grade to the defensive coaching staff and singling out their planning for recognition, but not to the defense that executed it, seems a little bit stingy. I think you should add a plus to each of the defensive grades.
A: Fair point, I guess I was trying to grade Belichick and the rest of the staff in a bigger-picture kind of way, which is exactly how I should not be doing a weekly report card. Good catch.
(Aside: My favorite Troy Aikman being Troy Aikman moments from Sunday? These two: "Bill Belichick is lucky to have Tom Brady, and Tom Brady is lucky to have Bill Belichick" and "Converting on third down means you aren't going to punt, and that's what you want with an offense." First-ballot Mute Button Hall of Famer.)
Great article. I must point out that Jerod Mayo is first in the league in tackles. The next guy Stephen Tulloch is seven behind him despite not having a bye week yet. It amazes me that Mayo is on pace for nearly 70 more tackles this season than Bruschi had in his best year yet there is little more than murmurs about the type of player he is becoming.
A: Moron File #468, I had Mayo second in the league in tackles. Yup, one of the two or three biggest stories for the Patriots this season has been the changing of the guard on defense. This is Mayo's group now. He's the guy. He won't get the pub nationally for a couple of reasons -- Brady and Belichick I think are always the headliners and Mayo isn't a hugely outspoken guy and doesn't produce huge sack numbers or highlight hits. But he's played at a Pro Bowl level this season, which seemed no lock two months ago.
Glad to see some good press for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I've been hoping he would get more carries for a couple years but we stuck with dancing Maroney (how's he doing in Denver?). All I hear is that the Pats ONLY have Ellis for the running game and stuff like that. I think he is the real thing, tough and willing to take more carries. I think it's time for him to get the props he deserves.
A: Here's what you like about Green-Ellis: Zero fumbles in 85 carries. And unlike Maroney, this guy is a finisher -- no running back in the league with fewer than 100 carries has more TDs than Green-Ellis. He truly is the anti-Maroney, running north-south and knocking guys down. I'm still not sold on the idea that this is a No. 1 NFL back, but he's plenty good enough to give you 12-15 carries. And with Danny Woodhead and (maybe) Fred Taylor, that should be enough. Remember, the Pats haven't had a player with 200 rushing attempts since Corey Dillon in 2005, so no one is going to be THE guy.
"One of the three biggest miscarriages of justice in history, right next to Sacco and Vanzetti"
Really? From the Los Angeles Times:
"Soon Sinclair would learn something that filled him with doubt. During his research for 'Boston,' Sinclair met with Fred Moore, the men’s attorney, in a Denver motel room. Moore 'sent me into a panic,' Sinclair wrote in the typed letter that Hegness found at the auction a decade ago.
'Alone in a hotel room with Fred, I begged him to tell me the full truth,' Sinclair wrote. '… He then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had framed a set of alibis for them.'"
A: My own ombudsman. Fantastic. Fine, I'll remove Sacco and Vanzetti and add "Don't Worry, Be Happy" winning the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1989. I don't even know the other four nominated songs. If it was the only song released in 1989 it would still be a miscarriage of justice.
Enjoy the weekend. Patriots 24, Browns 17. And I think we get the full hug from Belichick and Mangini.