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Here's the catch

New England gets the player, but loses its way

Posted: Wednesday May 2, 2007 2:41PM; Updated: Wednesday May 2, 2007 3:10PM
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The Patriots expect Randy Moss to put attitude problems behind him when he gets to Foxboro.
The Patriots expect Randy Moss to put attitude problems behind him when he gets to Foxboro.
John W. McDonough/SI
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In so many ways, the New England Patriots are the NFL's model franchise, perhaps the finest organization in all of professional sports. They have the 21st Century's highest winning percentage (.690), three Lombardi Trophies and a creative management philosophy geared toward short-term and sustained success.

It's no coincidence, either. The Pats have the league's best owners, head coach, quarterback and, on paper, the most formidable roster heading into the 2007 season.

What the Patriots no longer have, as of this past weekend, is the moral high ground.

That's what happens when you trade for the league's most gutless quitter -- a move, sources in the organization say, that was driven largely by star quarterback Tom Brady's frequent communication with a player he should by all rights revile. At the ensuing press conference, coach Bill Belichick cited "competitiveness" and "professionalism" as reasons the sports world's poster child for selfishness will fit in with the Pats.

As one former Patriots player told me Tuesday, "He used Randy Moss and competitiveness in the same sentence! Could anything be more laughable? I heard that and I thought, What the f--- are you talking about?"

Of course he thought that. Didn't we all? Uh, yeah, except for Kool-Aid sipping Patriots fans -- and, to be fair, many of the people in my profession. Somehow, because Moss is in a position to help New England win another Super Bowl, those of us who considered him the lowest form of teammate are now being subjected to a new, more twisted form of fantasy football.

Randy's just a fiery guy who couldn't handle the losing in Oakland; that's why he justifiably went in the tank and acted like a six-year-old. Put him in a winning situation -- and in a locker room where they know how to handle guys like that -- and he'll be instantly and completely transformed. Why else would he take a potential $6.75 million pay cut if he wasn't all about winning?

We'll get to these half-baked (oops, bad choice of words) theories in a moment. Why the wait? Put it this way, homies: I argue when I want to argue.

In the meantime, let's take a closer look at the franchise that ruined Super Bowl introductions for the foreseeable future (as we saw in Miami last February, apparently everyone must now emulate the 2001 Pats and run onto the field as a team, lest they risk being labeled as narcissistic heathens). Don't you think it's time we remove the 'Winning With Class' emblem from the Patriots' coat of arms and replace it with another motto?

'Winning With An Ass' is more like it.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Look, as a business decision, New England's trade for the disgruntled Raiders wideout doesn't bother me. The Pats gave up relatively little (a fourth-round selection they acquired the previous day in a lopsided swap of picks with the 49ers), got Moss at a reasonable rate ($3 million base salary with $2 million in incentives and no signing bonus) and may have added a scary dimension to an already improved offense.

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