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Passing on Moss

Staring down the barrel of one of the most speculation-filled bye weeks in recent memory, the Washington Redskins elected not to place a claim on Randy Moss. But why? Moss is arguably one of the best wide receivers of all time. His off-the-charts talent, athleticism, size, and speed should have made him a prime target for teams in need of offensive weapons. The Redskins’ offense certainly fits that description and has sputtered in recent weeks, making it the weakest dimension of the team’s game. Mike Shanahan’s controversial benching of Donovan McNabb in the last 2 minutes of the loss to the Lions drew more negative attention to Washington’s struggles than ever before. Wouldn’t a shot of Randy do our anemic offense some good? Some would argue yes; however, the Redskins declined to place a claim on Moss and he fell to the Tennessee Titans, the only team to go after him. So why didn’t Washington snag him when they could have? Here are the top 5 reasons the Redskins passed on Moss.

5. We’ve been down this road before . . .

Even though 2010 is Mike Shanahan’s first year as Washington’s head coach, anyone who paid even remote attention to the Redskins in the past decade remembers the string of high-profile talent that came here and failed. The new regime is still grappling with problems caused by the acquisition of star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Though the team wouldn’t have had to commit nearly as much money or time to Moss as they committed to Haynesworth, Moss had the potential to be another embarrassing big-name bust for the franchise. Deion Sanders anyone?

4. Moss might not want to be a Redskin.

Someone wouldn’t want to be a Redskin? Blasphemy! But seriously, Moss vowed not to report if he was claimed by a franchise he wasn’t interested in joining. He reportedly wanted to play for a team with a winning record or a serious chance to make the playoffs. The Redskins don’t have a losing record, but at 4-4, we don’t have a winning record either. Our playoff hopes are also in doubt. The Washington Redskins — a team with a losing reputation, new head coach, and fresh quarterback controversy — were probably not high on the list of desirable destinations for a player who thrived on the success and stability of Bill Belichick’s Patriots system.

3. There is no one-man solution to the Redskins’ problems.

Claiming Randy Moss off waivers benefited most a team that could capitalize on his talent in the near-term. A franchise could pay the $3.388 million (the remaining balance of his 1-year contract with the Vikings) in return for Moss’ services for the rest of the year, but would not be bound to him beyond that time if the relationship soured. Because the contract expires at the end of the season, the team that claimed him had to be confident that Moss could take them places, namely the postseason, in the next 8 games. The Titans are that team; the Redskins are not. Why? Coach Mike Shanahan demonstrated his dissatisfaction with our quarterback play by benching McNabb on Sunday and Kyle Shanahan said the entire offense deserved to share the blame for poor production. The addition of one wide-receiver, no matter how talented he is, couldn’t right the entire ship. Randy Moss is not the solution to our quarterback, offensive line, and running back problems. If he wouldn’t make the difference between missing and reaching the postseason this year, then Washington had no reason to claim him in the first place.

2. Attitude is everything in Washington.

Mike Shanahan may be the new head coach, but he has wasted no time establishing who is in charge of the Redskins franchise. He will not tolerate insubordination from his players, regardless of how large their talents or contracts are. Exhibit A: Albert Haynesworth. He demands excellent conditioning, total commitment to the team, complete cooperation with the game plan, and unquestioning submission to his directions (which makes JaMarcus Russell’s workout for the Redskins so hilariously ironic). Whether Shanahan admits it or not, he dislikes players who draw attention to themselves for any reason other than stellar performance on the football field. Exhibit B: Devin Thomas. His favorite players are those hard-working, team-first guys whom he coached from nobody to somebody. Exhibit C: Brandon Banks, Lorenzo Alexander, Ryan Torain, Anthony Armstrong. And if the recent benching of Donovan McNabb tells us anything, it’s that the players are supporting cast of The Mike Shanahan Show, not the other way around. Randy Moss, however, is the consummate pro-football diva. He got along with his teammates, but his ego often strained his relationships with his coaches. Randy earned a reputation of being a “play-when-he-feels-like-it” type guy, which contributed to his release from the Vikings after only 4 weeks. He also developed problems with the media and refused to cooperate with journalists even after being fined by the NFL. Perhaps the most immediate contributor to Moss’ release from the Vikings was his tirade insulting a post-practice team meal in front of the local caterers. That kind of behavior and the media attention it drew would infuriate Mike Shanahan and, for that matter Donovan McNabb, whose mother often cooks for the team. Even if Randy gave the Redskins the best chance to win a game, I wouldn’t put it past Shanahan to bench or demote him out of sheer dislike.

1. We already have enough chaos to handle.

The single most important factor that kept Washington from claiming Randy Moss was the recent instability within the Redskins franchise. When Mike Shanahan came to town last offseason, analysts and fans expected him to have a steadying influence. Shanahan’s reputation for running disciplined operations sounded like the perfect solution to the weak leadership that had plagued the Redskins since Joe Gibbs’ departure. Halfway through his first season as head coach, however, Mike Shanahan has not been free of personnel problems and controversial coaching decisions as fans had hoped. Among the issues that have drawn scrutiny this season were the handling of disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the release of wide receiver Devin Thomas, and by far the most serious, the benching of starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. I know the McNabb topic has been analyzed to death, so I will be brief. Shanahan benching McNabb caused a domino effect of problems. It showed lack of confidence in McNabb’s abilities, which undermined his leadership, which cast doubt on his future with the franchise, which elicited polarized opinions among teammates and fans, which caused confusion about the direction of the franchise, which made Mike Shanahan and company look bad. The coaching staff worsened their problems by giving conflicting and insulting explanations for pulling the popular quarterback and then by working out former Raiders’ quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who is possibly the most overweight, lazy, entitled, waste of first-round talent to enter the NFL in years. Now experts predict that McNabb will not sign a contract extension with the franchise and will leave Washington after one season. Speculation already has taken off about McNabb’s possible destination and whom the Redskins will bring in to replace him (I’m hearing there’s interest in Mike Vick). For a man who finds media scrutiny highly disruptive, Mike Shanahan sure has done a poor job of avoiding it. His visible discomfort handling the aftermath of McNabb-gate made him highly unlikely to bring in another potential source of upheaval. And Randy Moss is nothing if not a source of upheaval. If circumstances with McNabb and the offense had run smoothly, Shanahan might have taken the chance on the future hall-of-fame receiver, but the Redskins have proved themselves more than capable of creating havoc without the help of Randy Moss.

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