Randy Moss is a great player, but also a polarizing figure, so it’s no surprise that his acquisition by the 49ers has been hotly debated by fans and media.
Put me down on the positive side.
Two things have been known about Moss since before he even turned pro: 1. He has an often-unstoppable combination of speed and size; and 2. He turns his effort button on and off, depending on the circumstances.
When he was signed as a free agent by the Raiders in 2006, I wrote in my website column that in the Raiders’ dysfunctional system, Moss would loaf and pout, as he had in his final days with the Minnesota Vikings.
That’s exactly what happened. Moss spent two unproductive seasons with the Raiders, injured part of the time, but blatantly “short arming” passes when he was healthy.
But then he went to the New England Patriots, who were not only a much more talented team, but one with a coach, Bill Belichick, who will bench any player who doesn’t give his best. Teamed with Tom Brady, Moss set an NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions in his first year with the Pats.
Moss’ situation with the 49ers is much more like that with the Patriots than with the Raiders. Coach Jim Harbaugh is a smart man. Working with general manager Trent Baalke, he has made certain there will be plenty of competition at wide receiver. The Niners drafted wide receiver A.J. Jenkins with their first pick, and also signed Mario Manningham as a free agent. With Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams returning, there will be more competition at wide receiver than the 49ers have had in years. Michael Crabtree will no longer be able to loaf through pass patterns.
The other question about Moss is his age; at 35, there were doubts he could hold up physically, especially since he didn’t play last season. But he showed no signs of age in the 49ers’ first practices of the year last week. Players were in awe after watching Moss go deep with his effortless stride.
Practice is not a game, of course, but Moss’s efforts clearly showed he has a lot left in the tank. Of course, he spent two seasons with the Raiders conserving his energy.
The 49ers have struggled to find good wide receivers since Terrell Owens left. Brandon Lloyd is the best they’ve had in recent years but they got rid of Lloyd for his “attitude.” Translation: Because Lloyd was so well spoken and cooperative with the media, he was quoted more than the coach, Mike Nolan.
Harbaugh compensated somewhat for the lack of reliable wide receivers last season by using tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker often in pass patterns, but when Walker was hurt, quarterback Alex Smith had only one reliable target, Davis, in the NFC Championship Game.
With Moss, the 49ers should have a much more potent offense because he’ll not only make it easier for other receivers to get open, but stop defenses from putting an extra man in the box near the line of scrimmage to stop the running game.
Bring it on, Randy!
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.