By Michael Felger
Four weeks ago, Bill Belichick made a football decision that 99 percent of Patriots Nation failed to understand.
To say that the overwhelming majority of Pats fans and media disagreed with the decision to trade Randy Moss is an understatement on the order of saying ESPN enjoys covering Brett Favre. You all hated it.
Maybe now you're closer to understanding what Belichick was up to.
Or maybe you still don't get it.
Either way, here are the facts (not opinions):
Since the trade, the Patriots are 3-0 and are averaging 24.7 points per game on offense.
The Vikings are 1-3 and are averaging 21.5 points per game.
How is that possible, you ask? The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, a massive offensive line and Favre. To say they have more talent than the Patriots (they of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Tate) is an understatement on the order of saying Favre isn't shy about discussing his injuries. It's not even close.
Yet that collection of Minnesota players went up against the leaky Patriots defense on Sunday and only came away with 18 points. That doesn't make any sense to you, does it?
Forget Moss' statistical output (one catch, eight yards). We all know his true value is his ability to take the top off a defense -- and he categorically did that on Sunday. I mean, safety Brandon Meriweather was lined up so far off Moss' side of the ball on most snaps that he might as well have been in Providence. And yet the Vikings reached the end zone just twice and lost going away.
Moss did his job (he stretched the defense). Favre actually played well. Harvin was a beast. Peterson was productive. The Vikings out-gained the Pats (410-362). They had more first downs (23-18) and a decided time-of-possession advantage (35:08 to 24:52).
And yet the Patriots won by double digits and are now undefeated since trading away the player most everyone said was indispensable.
Again, how is that possible?
Here's my opinion (not fact):
Moss' value isn't what you've been led to believe it is.
More importantly, winning at a high level in the NFL isn't about collecting individual talent. It's about building a team. Somewhere in the middle of the Moss era you all forgot that. Thankfully, Belichick remembered just in the nick of time.
Sure, Moss runs off safeties. Sure, he comes up with some jaw-dropping catches. But if that skill set can only get you 18 points against an unproven defense in a game you need to win to basically save your season . . . then maybe that skill set isn't as important as you think it is.
And in the meantime Moss' mere presence simply corrodes your foundation. It's hard to describe, but if you want to have a tough, clutch, resilient football team, then you're best not having Moss on it. He's just not tough, clutch or resilient. He doesn't play that way and he doesn't approach his job that way. And too many young players look up to him. Whether he's a captain (as he was in New England) or not, he's always going to be a prominent presence in any locker room he's in. And if things aren't going well (as is often the case in the NFL), he's not going to pull your team in the right direction.
Did you hear what Moss did to the Vikings after the game? His podium performance was entertaining as hell but reprehensible just the same, as he tacitly ripped his team and his coach while blowing a giant wet kiss in the direction of Belichick and the Patriots. How would you like to be a Vikings fan today hearing that? Or coach Brad Childress, who just a month ago "rescued" Moss from the Patriots? Or owner Zygi Wilf, who is paying Moss' (prorated) 6.4 million salary? Or anyone else wearing a Vikings uniform?
Again, we loved Moss' speech here in New England for obvious reasons. But it really showed who he is as a person.
When the going gets tough, Moss simply gets going. On Sunday he officially became the first Minnesota player to bail off the Vikings' sinking ship. And there are still nine games to go. Good luck the rest of the way, Brad.
That's what happens when you bring in Randy Moss. You sell your soul in exchange for a safety lined up 10 yards deeper than normal.
Thankfully, the Patriots made the right choice: A tighter safety in exchange for a stronger team.
Don't you understand yet?
Felger's report card posts Tuesday morning. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.