THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

Giving it his lull

Moss simply doing what comes natural

Patriot Randy Moss, a great catch in 2007, is giving new meaning to the word “game-breaker.’’ Patriot Randy Moss, a great catch in 2007, is giving new meaning to the word “game-breaker.’’ (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / December 16, 2009

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Fifty-two teammates, 12 coaches, a vast support staff, one owner, and fans numbering in the seven figures are currently being held hostage to the whims of one gifted, but eternally conflicted, 32-year-old wide receiver.

Randy Moss is a Talented Contrarian, and they have always been a part of organized sport. Wish I had the proverbial dollar for every time I have said, or heard someone say, “Oh if we could only put his head on (fill-in-the-blank’s) shoulders.’’

There is nothing shocking about what’s going on. Randy Moss is simply being Randy Moss. He is doing what comes naturally. Does anyone recall Al Wilson’s song, “The Snake?’’ When the reptile winds up biting the kind woman who has befriended him, the snake says, “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.’’

Sound like any wideout we know?

The Randy Mosses of the sports world have no conscience and little sense of shame. It is about them first, last, and always. They may embrace team values and team concepts for a while, but once something happens to upset their equilibrium, or when everything doesn’t go their way, they revert to their natural instinct, which is to brood about the alleged injustices being perpetrated upon them.

We have seen two splendid examples in the past month. First there was Allen Iverson, refusing to help a gloriously talented, young Memphis team - did you see that game with the Celtics Monday evening? - by becoming their spark off the bench. And now we have Randy Moss, arrogantly withholding his needed athletic services because, well, we really don’t know why since Randy isn’t talking.

Do you know what the worst part of this Moss episode has been? It wasn’t, fortunately, the loss of a game, although if this de facto work stoppage of his continues that will be an inevitable consequence. No, it’s the fact that a coach and some well-respected players demeaned themselves in attempts to defend him.

Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Kevin Faulk, and others have hit 11s and beyond on the Disingenuous Scale as they have tried, vainly, to explain away Moss’s disgraceful performance against the Panthers at Gillette Stadium Sunday. We have heard how Randy is a guaranteed Hall of Famer, how Randy ranks high among NFL receivers in catches, yardage, and touchdowns this season, how Randy has been a hard worker ever since he got here and how other teams are building every game plan around the idea of stopping Randy Moss.

Randy, we are told, is frustrated. Randy is misunderstood. Randy is this. Randy is that. We should stop picking on Randy. It’s a team game.

But we all know they saw what we saw, and we also know they know far better than us just how unprofessional his actions were, since they know precisely what his assignments and responsibilities are on every play, even ones on which he is not a primary receiving target and whose success depends on him being a proper decoy. You can bet it’s all worse than we think.

Yet here they all were, attempting to explain the fact that the same player who torched the Colts for nine catches, good for 179 yards and two touchdowns, on the 9th of November was reduced to one catch/fumble and 16 yards against Carolina. In between, he caught 10 passes total against the Jets, Saints, and Dolphins. Worse yet, he has taken to running lackadaisical routes, resulting in an alarming rise in Brady’s interception rate. And that’s before we even get to the apparently unthinkable concept of Randy Moss battling a defensive back for the football.

There is no need for anyone to recite the record. We know how good he has been and can be. We also know he is a multiple recidivist, that he has a history of giving up when things get rough, either physically or mentally. It’s why he was made available by the Oakland Raiders, for whom he was notoriously selective about showcasing his immense talent.

The immediate problem for the Patriots is that there is no viable Plan B. He is the game-breaking threat who makes it possible for them to have a truly high-powered offense. They have no other deep, stretch-the-field threat. Lacking a potent, championship-caliber defense, the only hope they have of defeating a San Diego or Indianapolis (perhaps even a Cincinnati or Denver) in January is to score 30-plus points, and the only way of doing that is if Randy Moss gives them the big plays only he on this roster can produce.

Randy is disturbed, and we can be sure something had to be going on long before the day he and three others were sent home by the teacher for being tardy. A disturbed Randy lacks the professionalism to look beyond himself and focus instead on the good of the team. He made that clear Sunday. The desperate hope now is that the Bradys, Faulks, Wilforks, Seaus, Greens, Morrises, Lights, Koppens, Mayos, and, of course, Welkers can now implore him to think of someone other than himself for whatever is left of this season.

Randy has a rather complicated history, dating to his escapades in his hometown of Rand, W.Va., and continuing through college and into adulthood, where he always seems to have personal issues. If there is something going on in his life that prevents him from concentrating on his job, he should voluntarily deactivate himself, rather than raise the hopes of his coaches and teammates before letting them down as he did Sunday. The same holds true if he’s injured. No Randy Moss would be far preferable to the man who made a mockery of his profession against the Panthers.

Bringing Randy Moss here was a good idea, and the Patriots came within seconds of maximizing the benefits of their partnership two seasons ago. Randy had a historic season, and he would have been hailed as the man who’d caught the winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLII if Eli Manning, David Tyree, and Plaxico Burress hadn’t trumped him and his mates with their own clutch performances.

But if you choose to take Randy Moss, you must live with the whole package. Randy has done enough good things in his two-plus years here to earn a captaincy. Now we’re stuck with the Evil Twin and we can’t honestly say we were unaware he was a snake when we took him in, can we?

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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