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Where have you gone, Randy Moss?

Raiders receiver will likely never be a factor again

Posted: Wednesday November 8, 2006 2:30PM; Updated: Wednesday November 8, 2006 9:16PM
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Randy Moss has 32 catches for 447 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Randy Moss has 32 catches for 447 yards and three touchdowns this season.
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Back when Randy Moss was a great receiver (remember those days?), he was also a colossal pain in the posterior a great deal of the time. If he wasn't trying to run over traffic cops in the street, he was pretending to pull down his pants and rub up against a goalpost in Green Bay. He was childish, irresponsible and crude, the embodiment of the modern-day spoiled athlete.

And we miss him.

OK, maybe we don't miss the flawed personality, but we miss the brilliant athleticism that seemed to come along with it. Moss doesn't make as much trouble these days, but he doesn't make nearly as many big plays, either, much to the dismay of his employers, the Oakland Raiders, and fans who appreciated his remarkable talent.

He's made a few minor off-the-field headlines in recent years, including his admission that he smokes marijuana "once in a blue moon," but for the most part it seems Moss can't be bothered to stir up much excitement on or off the field anymore. He is still an obscenely gifted receiver, but he no longer seems interested in showing off those gifts. Instead he drifts through Raiders games, running passionless pass patterns, making half-hearted efforts at tough catches, and often dropping easy ones.

It's sad, really, watching a great athlete who no longer plays like one. But this isn't Willie Mays with the Mets or some over-the-hill fighter still climbing into the ring. Moss is only 29, as capable of great things as he ever was. He is a has-been by choice.

Make no mistake about it, Moss is finished as a great receiver. His passion isn't coming back. Pedestrian performances like last Monday night against Seattle, when he caught caught six passes for 76 yards and dropped several others, are the norm for him now. It's hard to believe that he's the same receiver who effortlessly outran and outjumped defensive backs when he was with the Minnesota Vikings, racking up six straight seasons of 1,200 yards or more. Moss has had only one game this season that measured up to his previous standards, a seven-catch, 129-yard day against the Arizona Cardinals. Other than that, he's produced nothing but mediocrity -- four catches, 47 yards against San Diego, two for 20 against Pittsburgh, five for 52 against the 49ers.

Raiders fans were thrilled by Moss' arrival in a trade before last season, but he has given them little to be excited about since. The No. 18 Moss jerseys that were so popular in the Bay Area a year ago are slowly disappearing as fans realize that the new Moss is not the same as the old Moss. The Raiders, meanwhile, sink deeper and deeper into the abyss, with an outdated, overmatched offense that could desperately use the kind of big-play threat Moss used to bring.

The most discouraging part is that Moss doesn't seem to care about his obvious decline. He doesn't seem to mind that he's no longer among the most feared players at his position, surpassed by players like Steve Smith and Chad Johnson. Moss throws out the occasional cryptic comment about the pathetic Raiders organization, but he doesn't really complain, because that would be too much trouble.

Maybe what he needs is a wide receiver intervention. Maybe Smith and Johnson and Terrell Owens need to show up on Moss's doorstep for a round of trash-talking and end-zone boogies to restore the old arrogance, the old rebelliousness, that Moss used to display. It probably wouldn't help, though. The fire, once gone, is almost impossible to re-light. Randy Moss doesn't care that he was once a great receiver, and soon, neither will anyone else.