THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

Strategy in these situations is to evade the coverage

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By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / October 8, 2010

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What? You really didn’t expect anyone to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in L’Affaire Moss, did you?

Professional sports people aren’t in the habit of telling us the truth in most important policy matters. In their view, telling the truth is not in their best interests, so they don’t. Sometimes they flat-out lie and sometimes they simply leave rather important details out. Very often, they blatantly insult our intelligence. It all comes with the territory.

Rex Ryan might have leveled with us. That guy is wired a little differently than the standard-variety NFL coach. But when Bill Belichick explained away the Randy Moss trade by saying a whole lot of nothing yesterday, he was only doing what most every NFL coach would do, only better.

Gone was the big fat smile we saw following Monday night’s game. Back was the thin-lipped, teeth-grinding, fact-evading robotic delivery we’ve all come to know so well.

Let’s start with this: You know and I know there had to be a big, fat, juicy reason or two for Belichick to trade Moss for a third-round draft choice in between Games 4 and 5 of a season in which his team is off to a 3-1 start. Either Coach Bill thought there was a talent drop-off, an attitude problem, or an impending contract situation (i.e. Randy becoming a free agent with a les ser compensatory draft pick than Belichick could get in a trade). But there had to be something.

If it was something technical, Coach Bill wouldn’t say. And asked if the Patriots are better or worse without Moss, Coach Bill replied, “I have confidence with our players. I think if they continue to work hard and improve, they’ll be competitive, we’ll be able to win games.’’

I take that as a definite maybe.

As for the contract issue, Coach Bill said nope, nothing to do with anything. “It certainly wasn’t about contracts or money.’’

One topic he addressed with some conviction was the attitude business. That one has always been the obvious leader in the clubhouse, as far as most of us are concerned. Wouldn’t you agree?

Said Coach Bill, “I will say this: There was never any incident or discipline problem with Randy. There never has been one in four years.’’

No dust-up with you, Coach Bill, in the aftermath of the Miami game?

“Absolutely not,’’ he insisted. “Not true. Total fabrication. I didn’t even talk to Randy on the plane.’’

But note the answer to a follow-up question as to whether there had been some kind of a confrontation with quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien, or perhaps another assistant.

“I told you how I felt about Randy,’’ he said.

Now there’s a non-sequitur if we’ve ever heard one.

So why was Moss traded?

There wasn’t a single reason, Belichick said. He informed us no fewer than five times that it was “a combination of things/factors.’’ But don’t ask what any of those factors were, because Coach Bill is not dishing. All he keeps saying is that the trade was “in the best interests of the team.’’

Don’t expect any straight answers from Moss, either, aside from claiming his approval of the trade. I think we can take him at face value when he said yesterday that he was very happy to be back in Minnesota, where his career began with a bang in 1998. As for what might have gone down back here in Foxborough, he said, “Some things in New England didn’t go according to plan, and that’s why I’m here now. What me and Coach talked about, I don’t really want to make public.’’

Coach Bill’s critics have decided that hubris has overtaken him again. They cite previous examples of talented players who have been allowed to leave when Belichick decided he could live without them — Ty Law, Asante Samuel, Richard Seymour — and say that this is another example of Belichick undervaluing raw talent while overrating his own coaching expertise.

I must say I am somewhat amused by the Chicken Little approach so many are taking to the removal of Moss from the lineup. In their view, Moss’s very presence on the field changed everything. If these people are correct, Tom Brady will never complete another pass, not one. If I understand them correctly, Wes Welker owes everything to Moss attracting double teams. Likewise, you can forget about Aaron Hernandez ever catching another pass in a Patriots uniform.

Really? Is it that simple? Gee, why doesn’t someone tell Coach Bill? Perhaps he can get the trade rescinded.

Yes, I understand the cause and effect, the linkage, the value of Moss, and how it affects other aspects of the offense, including the running game. But I don’t think Coach Bill has OD’d on stupid pills. And while Welker paid full homage to Moss’s talents yesterday, he also said, “At the same time, it’s about beating man coverage and getting open, and that’s the way it is.’’

So Randy’s gone, and we really don’t know why. That, too, is just the way it is.

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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