It's always interesting to me the way that people often look at decisions through such a narrow lens. Randy Moss is a great player. He would make the Chiefs' offense better. He is much better than anyone the Chiefs have. What do the Chiefs have to lose by bringing him in?
I don't deny that he makes the Chiefs a lot better on offense. What is head-scratching to me is how many people seem to think that the Chiefs have nothing to lose by bringing the guy in for the remainder of the season. And so, you'll hear a lot of talk about the benefits. You'll hear talk about how he opens up the running game by pulling the safeties back, how he opens up the underneath game for guys like Dexter McCluster, how he gives the Chiefs a legit vertical threat that they haven't had since Taft was President (you're welcome, voters, for the election reference). All of those points are completely true.
But on election week, what better time than now is there to spin the parts that we don't like. You'll hear a lot of talk about how Moss just didn't respect Brad Childress, but that's okay because he's not a good coach. Forget that just a few weeks earlier, Moss was cut by Bill Bellichick, a guy who knows a thing or two about coaching. You'll hear people talk about how the Chiefs and Haley will get him under control, as if Bellichick and the Pats run some kind of second-rate organization that has no history of dealing with players. You'll hear a lot of talk about how Moss only cares about winning. Forget that he lobbied his way out of New England, currently the league's most winningest team, because he wanted to get a bigger paycheck. Forget that he is being accused this year more than ever of taking important plays off (for the record, I don't buy the argument that young Randy Moss took a lot of plays off; 2010 Randy Moss is a totally different story). You'll hear about how his character issues are overblown, nevermind that we keep hearing rumors about internal fights with coaches, prima donna locker room behaviors, and inconsistent effort on the field.
To justify those points above, you'll hear comments about how the Patriots' ordeal was all about money and that the players and teammates spoke very highly of Moss to the media. As if Brady has much history using the podium to call his teammates. As if Bellichick wasn't speaking in coachspeak and, while we're at it, as if Bellichick is the type of guy that wants to admit to the public that he couldn't control one of his players. And sorry, the fact that the Patriots got a third round pick out of the deal, even though they got a second for Cassel and a first for Seymour, does not justify that this was a move purely about picks.
Yes, I am leaning toward one side of this argument ,clearly. You have a talented player who was cut by two teams after only 7 games amid numerous stories of character issues, some based on public knowledge and some based on "sources," And the justification that these stories are untrue are based on some nice things two leaders said to him in the media and a third round pick? Sorry, I don't buy it.
Any person who asks "what could possibly go wrong" is in denial. If you believe the benefit he brings to the team is worth the risk, I understand your argument. But please acknowledge the risk exists.
Have we not learned anything the past 7 games? While the Cowboys were celebrating a Super Bowl win before the season even started and while T.O. and Ochocinco were busy tweeting about their Bengalian experience, the Chiefs have been winning more games with a fraction of the amount of talent of those two teams. You can attribute some of that to a softer schedule, but anyone who watches these three teams side-by-side will tell you that the Chiefs play with a lot more heart than the other two teams.
Maybe I'm biased toward building a team culture and emphasizing leadership because I know it works in the real world. I've also been on enough teams in general to know the influence a bad seed can have. Bad habits are contagious. When one person talks smack about a coach, it doesn't take along for a second person to chime in. And when one person doesn't do his or her job, the team becomes frustrated and distracted. We've all seen it before. We've seen the lazy person. The boss-basher. The Negative Nancy. We've all been on teams before where there were 1 or 2 people who just made everyone feel uncomfortable.
In the business world, while some would argue that the best-in-class businesses hire great managers to manage up talent, I would argue that most businesses set high standards for employee hiring from the ground up. They set tough standards not only for hiring the Chief Financial Officer, but also for the guy who works behind the counter. So rather deal with the risk and problem of an employee who spoils the organizational culture, great organizations ask: "why hire them at all?"
I am a strong believer in building teams instead of a collective group of talented individuals. The Chiefs have done that. The players all buy in to Todd Haley, to Scott Pioli, and they are playing like an army of players who will put their bodies on the line for them. Haley didn't have to tell his players to stay conditioned. They just showed up to camp that way. Many have also pointed out that Haley has become significantly less intense this season. Some would say that's a sign of maturity. I only somewhat agree. I think a major reason for Haley's transformation is that he is willing to buy into his players as long as they buy into him. It's not like his softened act has led to more mistakes. If you bring in a guy like Randy Moss, you force Haley to become the coach he wanted to get away from being.
So let's consider how Randy Moss could be potentially destructive to the Chiefs. How does that affect team chemistry when Moss is suddenly calling out Charlie Weis or Haley because they're running the ball too much? How does that affect the good feeling in the locker room when Weis and Haley have to resort again to yelling at one of their players to behave? Do you really think there weren't players in the locker room a year ago that heard LJ's comment about Haley not ever being a coach of anything who started thinking to themselves... "hmm... maybe there's some truth to that comment?" Do you think players don't notice when a player is slacking off at practice? Do you think Randy Moss could rub off the wrong way on a young, impressionable player? That these young players might start to think to themselves that if they're talented enough, they can afford to cut a few corners too? Maybe Randy Moss comes in and doesn't do any of that stuff. Maybe he comes in and practices and plays with a chip on his shoulder and a competitive edge, as he has done most of his career. But then again, maybe he doesn't. Maybe we get the Oakland version of Moss or the 2010 version of Moss. Maybe.
Maybe. If maybe, then why hire the guy at all?
What if we get the entitled version of Randy Moss who rudely acts like a little child over a catered meal? What if we get the Randy Moss who implies to the public he would rather be on a different team? What if we get the me-first version of Randy Moss, who complains after a win. What if we get the outspoken version of Moss, who publicly calls out his coaches because he doesn't like the gameplan? These are team-wreckers and they are behaviors that I hope will never be infused on a team that I believe is made up of good character guys.
And assuming Randy Moss does act up, how do you deal with him? Do you let him get away with being vocal to the media, even though the rest of the organization has focused on keeping locker room matters private? Do you punish him for misconduct, even though we've seen that punishment only aggravates him more? How do you coach a spontaneous player who does what he wants when he wants, and doesn't particularly care about the consequences?
And for what benefit? So the Chiefs can win a few more games in one season? If Moss takes even a shred of fire away from these young kids, it's a gamble. If he makes even one player a little less productive in the long-term because he taught them ways to skirt the system, it's a gamble. If he causes even one shred of doubt in a player as to the credibility of the coaching staff, it's a gamble. And, of course, there is always the risk that he can single-handedly derail a culture that is otherwise clicking on all cylinders.
Is that a tough standard to set? You bet it is. Do I regret setting that standard? Absolutely not. The goal is to win a Super Bowl eventually and I feel the Chiefs' best chance at doing that is 2-3 years down the road, not today. So to me, if you bring Randy Moss in and he doesn't win you a Super Bowl today but you make your young players even slightly less productive in the long-term as a result, then the Chiefs lose out.
I still look at it like this: Randy Moss is a talented player who Bill Bellichick, arguably the best coach in the league, believed was enough of a risk that they were willing to ship him off in the heat of a playoff hunt in exchange for a third round pick.