An NFL fashion statement
The Karl Lagerfeld of gridiron fashion, the Cold, Hard Football Facts, say that it's time for the fashion-starved, lazy, lapdog media to clean out the pigskin closet and replace last year's attention-getting styles with more subdued, all-purpose designs.
More specifically, it's time NFL fans and the media end their obsession with the neon orange pinstripes of Randy Moss and the bumblebee-striped zoot suit of Terrell Owens.
Moss and Owens prove that attention-getting style does not equal substance and won't necessarily help you win football games. The Vikings finally learned this lesson last season and have dumped Moss. The Eagles also learned this lesson last season. And, as if to drive home the point, Owens is taking the opportunity of the 2005 offseason to smack around the organization that was stupid enough to sign him last year.
Fortunately, there are quite a few dark blue suits hanging in the back of the pigskin closet – players like Muhsin Muhammad and Torry Holt. These fashions are quieter and more subdued, but they provide just as much production as their more self-aggrandizing counterparts. And even when they are less productive, these players don't suffocate unity, piss off teammates and sacrifice team performance in an all-encompassing effort to call attention to themselves.
With that said, here's our fashion advice for 2005.
Randy Moss – There's no doubting Moss's prodigious talent. But that talent comes with some Fendi baggage and a bad attitude – a player so egomaniacal that he fails to comprehend the concept of team and admittedly takes plays off in the middle of games. Are you going to bust your fat, lineman ass for this guy? Of course not. That's the problem with a neon orange pinstripe suit. It clashes with everything but itself.
Moss has admitted as much. "I can't really have any friends," he said recently in a Sports Illustrated cover story. "It's sad, really. It's lonely. But that's how I am."
Maybe Moss is just a jerk who repels people with his piss-poor attitude.
Moss's ego-centric ensemble struck a particularly hideous hue in 2004: He put his own string of consecutive starts ahead of the team's onfield performance by twice dressing when he wasn't able to play because of an injury. Minnesota's coaching staff stuck a lime-green boutoniere in his bonnet by agreeing to give Moss those two token starts before he was finally sidelined for three games. It was the worst coaching decision of the 2004 season. Clearly, any team in any sport is better served by filling a valuable gametime roster spot with a player who can actually contribute that day. Any coach who decides otherwise does not belong on NFL sidelines.
Moss's onfield play suffered accordingly last season. In fact, 2004 was the most unproductive season of his seven-year career: in 11 games, Moss caught 49 passes for 767 yards, though he did produce an impressive 13 touchdowns. (Projected over the course of a 16-game season, those numbers would have given him 71 receptions, 1,116 yards and 19 TDs.) Solid numbers, for sure, and his TD pace was spectacular (Jerry Rice holds the single-season record for TD receptions with 22).
Moss, of course, has put up some historic numbers, specifically with his ability to get into the end zone (he has 90 TDs in seven years). But the true indictment of Moss, and the difference between him and a primetime player like Rice, is that Moss's onfield skill has never translated into a winning program for Minnesota. Over the past four seasons, the Vikings have had just one winning season: a 9-7 campaign in which they failed to make the playoffs.
Minnesota did manage to make the playoffs with an 8-8 record in 2004. But in a divisional round loss to Philly last season, Moss failed to show up. He caught just three passes for 51 yards.
Minnesota fans should be familiar with Moss's postseason implosions. Sure, he played brilliantly (nine catches, 188 yards, 2 TDs) in a 1999 loss to St. Louis. But in 1998, Moss's rookie year, the Vikings boasted a 15-1 record and the highest scoring offense in NFL history (556 points). In a 30-27 overtime loss at home to Atlanta in the NFC title game, Moss caught six passes for a mere 75 yards and one TD.
In 2000, the Vikings went 11-5 and won the NFC Central. In a 41-0 loss to the N.Y. Giants in the NFC title game, Moss caught just two passes for 18 yards.
In fact, in his last three postseason appearances, Moss has put up a combined nine catches for 139 yards and two TDs – or just three catches and 46 yards per postseason performance.
Minnesota finally got fed up with the act and dealt Moss to the one team stupid enough to take him: Oakland. Of course, the Raiders have a sense of fashion worse than Moss's. They think silver and black goes with everything.
REPLACE HIM WITH...
Muhsin Muhammad – While Moss recently appeared on the cover of SI telling the world he has no friends, Muhammad most recently appeared on the cover of SI following the 2003-04 NFC title game. The rangy Carolina receiver had just scored on a 24-yard reception that stuck a dagger in the heart of the Philly faithful and provided the winning score. The cover shot showed Muhammad kneeling with the ball in the end zone, his finger to his lips shushing the Eagles crowd. It was a fitting symbol of Muhammad's NFL career.
You might not know it from the lack of noise he makes off the field, but the newest addition to Chicago's receiving corps has led the NFC in receptions three times in the past six seasons (1999, 2000, 2004) and the NFL once (2000).
The 10-year veteran just turned 32, but shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he had the best year of his career in 2004: 93 catches, 1,405 yards and 16 TDs. He led the league in numerous categories last season: yards, TDs, and receptions of 20+ yards (24). He also finished sixth in total receptions.
Muhammad has made just one playoff appearance, with Carolina in 2003, but he proved to be a primetime player. He sparked the Panthers offense with 15 catches, 352 receiving yards and two touchdowns – including the one that put him on the cover of Sports Illustrated – as Carolina went from unheralded wildcard team to the Super Bowl and nearly pulled off an improbable upset of a New England team that sported a 16-2 record and was in the midst of a record-setting 21-game win streak.
Muhammad fueled an offense that picked apart the league's No. 1 scoring defense and that scored 19 fourth-quarter points in the Super Bowl. He caught four balls for 140 yards and set a Super Bowl record for longest play from scrimmage with an 85-yard touchdown reception.
That score lifted Carolina to a 22-21 lead over New England with 6:53 to play in the fourth quarter. It marked the first time the Patriots trailed in a football game dating back to Nov. 23 – a period of more than two months and eight full games.
In 2005, Muhammad, a cap casualty in Carolina, will be expected to reinvigorate a moribund passing game in Chicago. Said Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake: "He just brings a lot of experience and savvy and a lot of intangibles to the organization that you just can't coach."
It sounds, in other words, like he's tailored to fit nicely around the City of Broad Shoulders.
Terrell Owens – From 2000 to 2003, while playing for San Francisco, Terrell Owens wore one of the snazziest ensembles on the fields of the NFL. He averaged 92.6 receptions, 1,316 yards and 12.7 TDs per season over those three years.
In fact, he and quarterback Jeff Garcia made for one of football's sharpest looking passing tandems. In four full seasons as the 49ers quarterback (2000-03), Garcia passed for 3,466 yards and 25.5 TDs per year and made three Pro Bowls. Owens, meanwhile, made the Pro Bowl every year that Garcia was San Francisco's top starter.
But you wouldn't have known it from listening to Owens back then. He spent much of the most successful years of his career bitching about his quarterback. His biggest complaint? Garcia didn't throw him the ball enough. Of course, Owens averaged nearly 93 receptions per season with Garcia as his quarterback. He might have caught more passes, but Owens has played just one complete season (2001) since 1999.
Years of one-way animosity finally blew up last offseason, after Owens had been traded to Philly and Garcia was released and signed by Cleveland. Owens accused Garcia of being gay in an interview published by Playboy in early 2004. "If it look like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat," said Owens, in one of the most tasteless comments ever uttered by an athlete.
The irony, of course, is that Garcia dates Playboy's 2004 Playmate of the Year, Carmella DeCesare. The best part is that Garcia had to defend DeCesare in court recently, after she attempted to beat up one his ex-girlfriends in a barroom fight. In other words, Garcia's not only not gay, he's a hero to heterosexual men everywhere. Just not to Owens. We thinks Owens dost protest too much.
Owens might have picked up a new uniform when he moved to Philly last season. But he still sported the same obnoxious fashions on and off the field.
When he first arrived in Philly, he praised quarterback Donovan McNabb to no end, as if he had found a long-lost brother. Finally, he said in one interview, "I have someone who can get me the ball." His act was tolerable until Philly suffered its first loss, a 27-3 demolition at the hands of Pittsburgh in Week Nine of the 2004 season
Owens caught seven passes for just 53 yards and, by the end to the game, was jawing at McNabb so incessantly that he chased the QB, Philly's longtime team leader, up and down the sidelines. Not surprisingly, Owens's tirade began seconds after he was leveled by Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu. He took out his frustrations, as he did in San Francisco, on the quarterback.
"You could almost hear Jeff Garcia chuckling," Phil Sheridan wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer after the game.
When Owens arrived on the scene, he was treated by the Philly faithful as a savior, as the player who would finally deliver the Eagles to the Super Bowl after three years of frustration in the NFC title game. Of course, he did no such thing. Owens was injured late in a Week 15 loss to Dallas. He missed the final two games of the regular season. He also missed both Philly playoff games. The Eagles managed to win both postseason contests without him, with a 27-14 victory over Minnesota and a 27-10 victory over Atlanta.
Owens overcame his injury in time to return for Super Bowl XXXIX. He played quite heroically, catching nine passes for 122 yards. Of course, for most of the game, New England left him alone in single coverage against undrafted rookie cornerback Randall Gay. In other words, the Patriots dared Owens to beat them. He could not.
But that didn't stop Owens from celebrating his personal performance, apparently unaware that Philly lost the game.
"A lot of people in the world didn't believe I could play," said Owens after the game. "But the power of prayer and the power of faith carried me all the way." All the way to what?
McNabb was conciliatory by contrast and noble in defeat, putting the blame on himself and his three interceptions. "You take away my interceptions, then the game would have been a lot different," said McNabb. "We had opportunities. We just didn't capitalize on them."
Needless to say, Owens is the same self-centered, me-first loudmouth in Philadelphia that he was in San Francisco. After again failing to complete an entire regular season, after failing to help Philly win either of its two playoff games, and after failing to deliver victory in the Super Bowl – but then acting like he had single-handedly won a game that was lost – Owens has demanded that Philly rip up his year-old, seven-year, $49 million contract and give him a new one.
He has threatened to hold out. Philly should simply toss him out. The media's obsession machine, meanwhile, should...
• appeared in two Super Bowls
• won one of them
• helped make former supermarket stock boy Kurt Warner a two-time NFL MVP
• helped make another unknown quarterback, Marc Bulger, a Pro Bowl performer
• was the leading receiver (215 catches for 3,786 yards) on the first offense in NFL history to score 500 points three straight seasons (St. Louis, 1999-2001)
• is the first player in NFL history to surpass the 1,300-yard receiving mark in five straight seasons
• averages an NFL-record 85 receiving yards every time he puts on a uniform. In other words, he's the most productive per-game receiver in NFL history.
Along the way, Holt has averaged a gaudy 15.8 yards per reception over the course of his entire career. Compare that with future Hall of Famer Harrison, who's never averaged more than 14.5 yards per reception in a single season and whose career reception average is 13.2 yards – more than 2.5 yards less per catch than Holt. In the playoffs, Holt had the best game of his postseason career in a Super Bowl XXXIV victory over Tennessee, catching seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. The best part is that he has barely made a peep in the process.
This offseason in St. Louis was filled with rumors that Holt was on his way out of town. Instead, he quietly restructured his deal in March to free up $1.8 million in cap space for the Rams.
Holt, in other words, always looks sharp -- even when the cameras aren't flashing in front of him. Of course, maybe it's the bright lights of media obsession that have left players like Moss and Owens blind to reality.
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