It’s like the kids who get their first good job, their first chance to really prove themselves, and spend it running their bosses and co-workers ragged. We could do this. We could that. Why don’t we try this? Why isn’t this done this way? Let’s make it more perfect. Let’s make me be what I could be.
The boss is patient, and kind, and tells them that one day, when they’ve gone and grown up a little bit, they’ll realize why it can’t all be that way.
Sometimes the kids mellow out. Sometimes they figure out on their own when to push, and when to let something broken stay less than perfect.
Other times, they’re traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
We are talking, of course, about Randy Moss, and what came of the pinnacle of his career in New England. Washed up after misbehaving across the NFL, he was welcomed to the Patriots by a coach who could make the most of him. At first, the most was made. Moss paired with Tom Brady for a record 23 touchdowns as the team broke many offensive records and reached the Super Bowl.
But then the chirping started, and the discontent seeped in. Moss was no longer happy to just have the job but instead wanted to know why things couldn’t always be a certain way, or his way. He talked and grinded and pushed.
Soon Moss was a liability, not an asset. At that point, all the talent in the world couldn’t keep his trusting boss from deciding that the situation couldn’t remain, and that Moss had to go.
Moss has spoken many times of how he regrets how his time in New England ended, and how he didn’t realize the good thing he had until he left. There’s no question that he would want to come back. Instead, he has bounced around several NFL teams, going stretches without even being given a chance to suit up. Older now, his age has become as much of a liability as his tendency to be a distraction.
But finally, in San Francisco, he has been given one last second chance — and one that could be even better than what happened in New England. Rather than being a centerpiece in an offense that could showcase his incredible ability once and for all, he’s become a cog in a true team that wants him to take his talent and multiply it into much more than he could be on his own.
In this way, Moss has a chance to this year be the most valuable he has ever been.
Moss has quietly been a key piece in San Francisco’s offense this year. He was on the field quite a bit in last week’s playoff win, but that’s a change from his role for most of the season, where he was a low-ranking option and gathered just 28 catches for 434 yards.
Where Moss has been contributing the most is as a quasi-coach — the player who knows how to play so well that he can go and make disciples, making younger legs do with his experience what was once like breathing to him.
Moss’s 49ers teammates have been talking all year about the calm, disciplined approach the wide receiver brings. He was making tough blocks and showing great effort earlier in the season. Now he’s being given credit for Michael Crabtree exploding as a playmaker for San Francisco, with 85 catches for 1,105 yards this season.
Where Moss’s legs have slowed down, his brain has picked up. The 49ers have a strong attack with several receivers who can carry the weight thanks to Moss, plus Moss himself as a bonus option. Even having lost a step, Moss can still outsmart defenders, and he’ll be getting reps Sunday as San Francisco plays for a Super Bowl berth.
It was a role Moss could have never really had in New England. Sure, he appreciated playing for a good team, and he loved being able to work with Brady. But, because of his talent, and because he thought he could still play with the fire of bad behavior as long as he performed, he never forced himself to be more than a good player. He was praised for his smarts and being a good teammate, but he never took it to the next, deeper level, where that was his focus, beyond his personal aims.
Now, with the 49ers, he is again on a talented team, and he has learned from that first job where he pushed his trusting boss too far. He knows why chirping doesn’t help, and why supporting his teammates rather than calling them out helps. He sees how a team can become so much more if, instead of one great receiver, he makes a handful of receivers great by learning to teach his talent.
Moss fell short in his one try at the Super Bowl, with the Patriots just a few years ago. If he and the 49ers can beat the Falcons, he will have another chance.
He didn’t need to score 23 breathtaking touchdowns this year to be the best he’s ever been, and he doesn’t have to have anyone know what good he has done.
If the 49ers can win the big one now that he’s found that elusive final tool that so many kids fail to grasp — well, that will be Moss’s most valuable moment, and the most astonishing sight of all.
Photo via Facebook/Randy Moss