Randy Moss was a New England Patriot for more than three seasons. He helped set offensive records, was the focal point of the most potent offense of all time and scored a touchdown late in Super Bowl XLII that would have made the Patriots the first 19-0 team in history.
He seemed to be enjoying much of his time in New England, as well, and he seemed to get along swimmingly with quarterback Tom Brady.
So when Moss was unexpectedly traded early in the 2010 season, many assumed that Brady must have signed off on the deal, as Bill Belichick would never trade away his Hall of Fame quarterback's favorite target.
While Brady's never come out and directly addressed what was behind the Moss trade, he did not-so-subtly leave Moss off his list of past teammates when speaking with the NFL Network over the weekend.
"To me, I play with the best guys," Brady said after being named by his peers as the best player in the league in 2011. "That's what I think. Deion Branch and Wes Welker, there's no two better receivers. Those are the two guys I want to play with every single game. David Givens and Troy Brown and David Patten and these incredible players that we've had over the years that have led to the success of our organization at the skill position. And Corey Dillon and Antowain Smith. I've plyaed with phenomenal players — Christian Fauria at tight end. … Each of these guys leaves a lasting impact on our team."
Branch. Welker. Givens. Brown. Patten. Dillon. Smith. Fauria. All but Welker contributed to Super Bowl victories, but none would ever be considered among the greatest of all time. Moss is certainly in that discussion at the wide receiver position, but he didn't make Brady's list.
Perhaps it's reading too far into Brady's comments, but his next statement appeared to explain why Moss was shipped out of town after putting up zeros in a Week 4 game in Miami.
"Really, the guys that make it on our team, the guys that last, the guys that play significant roles on our team, are guys that are professional, that want to work, that love the game and ultimately want to be champions," Brady said.
Of course, Tom Brady would never use an interview about being voted the best player in the league as an opportunity to take digs at Moss — or any other teammate, for that matter. That's not what Brady does. In fact, that's not what anyone does.
But Brady's naming Givens and Patten, two guys who combined have less than half of Moss' career receiving yards and have 36 combined touchdowns to Moss' 153, and omitting Moss makes a statement. For starters, it says that Brady, when reflecting on his career, looks only to championship seasons as successes. That's why he speaks so fondly of the Christian Fauria types — those guys won together, and that's why Brady plays the game. The statistical records set in 2007 just don't appear to be all that important to Brady.
It also says that, by the start of his fourth season in Foxboro, Moss was no longer one of the guys. His unforgettable Week 1 rant was indeed a sign of a bigger issue, and as we all know by now, Moss was not the same player that he was for his first three seasons playing for Belichick.
Above all, though, it says that, in all likelihood, when the Patriots were looking to trade Moss back in early October, Brady — whether directly or tacitly — gave his stamp of approval.