This post concerns the Vikings' strategy now that the prodigal son has returned, as Randy Moss will once again don the purple and gold for Minnesota. This superstar athlete is one of the most controversial in sports. A few things need to be said first to establish a baseline, so we know who Randy Moss is. Then the topic becomes, "What can be done to help the Vikings?"
First, we need to discuss who Randy Moss is.
Randy Moss is a unique athlete. Among the great athletes of the NFL, Moss stands out with only a few true peers. What really sets Randy Moss apart, though, is not his competitive fire, his remarkable intelligence, his football IQ, or the combination of those intangibles with his elite athletic ability. What sets him apart is his playmaking ability. He can make impossible plays look easy. He has scored a lot of touchdowns. He's done it through his whole career. Nobody but the elite athletes can truly understand Randy Moss, because only they can truly walk in his shoes.
There are limitations, however, as with every human being. First, Moss has been criticized for various infractions. While he hasn't been an angel for his whole life, he has never done anything that indicated he was a bad person. He has had his own personal struggles, and he has begun to overcome them as he matured past being a young adult in his now early 30s. Other teams and the media often bring up various events in his life as a way to pass judgement on him. Rarely do they talk about him fighting for his own dignity while growing up in West Virginia against racism. Rarely do they give credit to Moss when credit is due. Many other NFL players, media members, and teams are wildly jealous of Moss. He can make really good defenses look silly. He has been "ripping up" the NFL by playing in a non-standard way that works in spite of it not being orthodox football. That upsets people, and they go off on Moss as a person. This isn't fair. Fortunately, Moss has shown that he is bigger than all that now. I hope we Vikings' fans can be, too, and just start laughing in the faces of his venomous critics.
I'm sure there are still some Vikings' fans who think it was a good move to trade Randy Moss back in 2005. On this topic, I only want to say two things. First, I believe it was a horrible decision. For those who think that made the team better, or improved team character, they only had to look at the offensive output in 2005 or read the headlines from the love boat scandal, all of which occurred after Moss was traded. Second, Zygi Wilf was in the process of buying the Vikings when the trade occurred, but Red McCombs still owned the team. Despite Wilf's request to not trade Moss, McCombs did so. Why is anyone's guess, but it appeared to be out of a sense of PR manipulation or perhaps even a sense of spite. While McCombs did many fine things as a Vikings owner, not least of which included allowing Moss to be drafted, and signed, he made a mistake when he traded Moss. On the other hand, that painful trade was turned into a positive, as the Vikings capitalized on a high draft pick by drafting Adrian Peterson, and Randy Moss gained a more mature perspective by leaving the Minnesota bubble, and playing on the coasts.
When I called for the Vikings to get Moss this season, somehow, some way, I thought they would have to trade a good young player like Toby Gerhart. The fact that the Vikings got Moss, and a 2012 7th round pick, and only give up a 2011 3rd round pick makes this trade appear to be a sweetheart deal for the Vikings.
While I am surprised the Vikings made the move, I am not surprised that the Vikings could get Moss from the Patriots. As we see from their many draft picks lately, Belichick has decided to build a new, younger team around Tom Brady. He knows the Pats really can't go deep into the playoffs this year. Belichick wants himself and Tom Brady to form the leadership core of the new Patriots. With Moss's electric and charismatic personality, he would end up being a rival leader. The direction of the Patriots dictated that they had to part ways with Moss. Fortunately, the Vikings saw this, and agreed to part with the third-rounder to bring Randy Moss home.
In terms of contracts, the Vikings' front office has to re-sign a bunch of players, including Peterson, Jackson, Rice, Edwards, Robison, Greenway, and Leber. Brett Favre and Pat Williams will surely retire after this season. Childress stated that a number of the veterans on this team will not be back after this year. Now the Vikings also need to re-sign Randy Moss. It appears that the salary cap will return for next season. This sounds like a complex situation, and it will be interesting to see what the front office does.
Now onto the game of football. This is the game played by real people on the gridiron. It is not fantasy football, where you just find a list of stars and put them on a team, and count your points. Championship teams in real football win because they were the best teams, not because they had more talent. Just because the Vikings have added Moss does not mean anything. The Vikings still have to play each game as a team. The best teams are greater than the sum of their parts.
Moss has been at his best when he wasn't the main star on the team. This is naturally the case with the wide receiver position. Being on the perimeter means it is difficult for anyone, even Jerry Rice, or Randy Moss, to take over a game. It can happen, as when Moss took over the Green Bay Monday night game in '98, or the game against Dallas in '98. It is just not something that can happen very much, because most of the action on a football field occurs in the middle of the line of scrimmage. Moss has been excellent at taking a good team and making it better. We saw it in '98, and the Patriots saw it in '07. Moss is great at enhancing the play of his teammates, while adding production of his own.
The Vikings' offense of 2010 is different than when Moss played. These days the Vikings have returned to their roots, with the "West Coast Offense" as developed by Bill Walsh, Jerry Burns, and others. Moss played in the Green/Tice "chuck it deep" offense with the Vikings. Moss played in the WCO with the Raiders, and the terminology (or "verbiage") will be vaguely familiar. He will probably pick up enough of the terminology in time to get the job done.
The main thing for Childress and Bevell will be to walk the fine balance between not over-relying on Moss (as in "the Randy Ratio"), and not under-relying on Moss (which can hurt the team). This comes down to distribution of the ball, which Brett Favre manages superbly.
My hope is that the Vikings will pretty much keep their offense as it is, and just add Moss. We will have Moss and Berrian start the game, I hope, as the #1 and #2 receivers. Moss is the deep threat. Berrian is also the deep threat, but he can also run routes and move the chains, especially as he will draw single coverage now. Moss can also move the chains. Then Harvin comes on the field in the slot and does damage like he did in '09. Greg Lewis and Baskett can play some downs to throw in some spice. Shiancoe will find a seam. Peterson and the running backs come out of the backfield. Maybe Sidney Rice can return later this year. Finally, if they somehow cover everybody else, there's Jim Kleinsasser who will still be open. The passing attack looks great.
What the Vikings must do is remain true to who they are. The Childress offense has a West Coast passing attack, a zone-blocking scheme, and a power but versatile running game. The Vikings' offensive line is at its best in run-blocking. With Peterson and the other running backs, this team is set to run. The running game has been and should remain the bread and butter of the Vikings' offense in 2010. Just as soon as the opposing defense overcommits to the run, however, they will now have to face one new but familiar Vikings receiver downfield, a certain superstar who we know and love as Randy Moss.