There is no better symbol of the Raiders’ problems than Randy Moss.
Unless it’s Jerry Porter.
When the Raiders traded for Moss in the 2005 offseason, he was supposed to be the salvation for the dormant Oakland offense. In his first seven seasons at Minnesota, Moss was virtually unstoppable because of his combination of size and speed. He could outrun and/or outjump defensive backs, and he had set an NFL record for most receiving yards in his first seven seasons, surpassing Jerry Rice. Some in the media predicted he’d eventually surpass most — if not all — of Rice’s records.
Nobody is saying that now. Throughout his career, Rice worked and worked to get better. Moss just sulks when things don’t go his way. Now, with the Raiders winless after their first three games, he said this week on a national radio broadcast that he would welcome a trade. It won’t happen this season but, after the season, the Raiders should listen to anybody who wants him, because Moss has already left mentally.
The Raiders’ passing offense has suffered because of a woeful offensive line and an injury to starting quarterback Aaron Brooks. Second-year quarterback Andrew Walter has shown poise in the face of pressure and a strong arm, but he has not been very accurate, casting doubt on whether he truly can be the quarterback of the future.
But Moss hasn’t helped much with his lackluster play. His meager totals of seven receptions for 84 yards still lead the offensively-challenged Raiders, but more significant are the catches he hasn’t made. Twice on long passes in the Cleveland loss he didn’t stretch to make the catch. One play was especially damaging. The Cleveland cornerback had lost the ball. If Moss had cut inside, he could have caught the ball and run for an easy touchdown. He didn’t and, in fact, made no serious attempt to catch the ball, which fell incomplete. And the Raiders lost the game by three points, which shows how critical Moss’ non-catch was.
This is what happens when you build a team around talented-but-temperamental stars. They have no allegiance to the team, so when the team goes south … well, Moss is at the Mexican border.
The failure of Moss to play well is especially damaging because the Raiders have no other big-play receiver, with Porter inactive.
The problems with Porter started in the offseason, when he alienated coach Art Shell in a profanity-laced meeting. Team owner Al Davis has backed Shell in his disciplining of Porter.
If Shell and Davis feel it’s necessary to keep Porter inactive to reinforce Shell’s authority, that’s understandable. But, keep him out of sight. Don’t have him laughing it up on the sideline as the Raiders lose or on the team plane for away games.
Sunday’s game at Monster Park against the 49ers is a critical one for both teams, but it’s especially important for the Raiders. If they lose this one, they could be 0-11 by the time they play the Houston Texans on Dec. 3 for what could be the right to draft No. 1.
But they’ll be playing it with one hand figuratively tied behind their backs, with their No. 1 receiver not in the game mentally and their No. 2 receiver not there physically.