Near the end of what was a lost season in 2006, Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress cut his leading receiver a few days after some comments critical of the team's approach appeared in a local newspaper. Childress was so incensed, in fact, that he released receiver Marcus Robinson on Christmas Eve.
It was hard not to think of that episode Monday after the Vikings decided to waive receiver Randy Moss, less than 24 hours after he took shots at Childress and the entire team during a rant following the Vikings' 28-18 loss to the New England Patriots. To be sure, it was a decisive reaction to what had quickly become an untenable internal distraction. But it fully illustrated Childress' rigid definition of team chemistry as well as a catastrophically inadequate pre-trade assessment of Moss' history and methods.
Many of you are already asking if Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, ostensibly embarrassed and/or enraged by Moss' postgame rant Sunday, stepped in and demanded Moss' departure. The answer is I'm not completely sure. But I can tell you this: To my knowledge, Wilf has never in six seasons mandated a football decision. It would have been totally out of character and a departure from his management style to do so now.
Which brings us back to Childress, who has repeatedly hammered players over the years for expressing opinions contrary to a team-oriented message. Respected veterans from Robinson to cornerback Antoine Winfield to receiver Bobby Wade to safety Darren Sharper have absorbed his wrath after speaking their minds in media interviews.
Before news of the move hit Monday, Childress said he did not consider Moss' comments "incendiary." I didn't believe him then and I think we now know it wasn't the case. It seems pretty evident to me that Childress read Moss' comments and then watched the tape of his performance Sunday in New England -- a game marked by many of Moss' patented half-run routes and punctuated by a poor effort on what could have been a touchdown reception in the fourth quarter -- and gave up on him.
The decision compounded the original mistake the Vikings made in acquiring Moss from the Patriots last month. Nothing that happened since then should have been surprising to them. Moss' long history of being what I call pathological contrarian told you all you needed to know. What follows are documented facts, not opinions:
Despite his remarkable skills, Moss doesn't run hard on every play.
In most of his previous seasons, Moss has given up on at least a few catchable balls.
He doesn't speak often to the media. But he has no filter when he does, and frequently produces mini-dramas with truths that usually hit too close for comfort.
He has run astray of authority at every stop of his NFL career, explaining why he has now been fired on four occasions -- twice by the Vikings, once by the Oakland Raiders and once by the Patriots. If you want a quiet soldier, Randy Moss isn't your guy. No surprise there.
These issues are all prominently displayed on Moss' NFL résumé. They were obvious to anyone who cared to look, and they are the presumed tradeoff you make for a player who will go down as one of the best downfield receivers in NFL history.
Childress said last month that he did not speak with Moss until after the trade. But we can only assume that he was fully aware of the Moss Paradox and accepted it among the terms of the deal. Surely they didn't think Moss had changed in a fundamental way, not with Patriots coach Bill Belichick so eager to deal him midway through the season. And it would have been the height of hubris to believe that their organization and structure would somehow transform Moss into someone he has never been.
No, when you acquire Randy Moss for a 12-game rental, you do so with your eyes wide open. Before pulling the trigger, you accept the potential for disruption in return for the short-term benefit on the field. To waive Moss because he did what he has always done reflects an inexcusable lack of conviction in the original decision. That's no way to build a team, either in the short- or long-term.
In fact, Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported that Childress said during a team meeting Monday that Moss "wasn't type of guy they wanted" in Minnesota. Really? Moss' history is too long for Childress not to have made that determination before the trade.
This latest catastrophe robbed the Vikings of a third-round pick and could cost them an additional $3.388 million if another team does not absorb his contract by claiming him on waivers. Worse, they are back to where they were a month ago: without a legitimate downfield receiver to open the field for tailback Adrian Peterson and slot receiver Percy Harvin. Veteran Sidney Rice, who is recovering from a hip injury, appears several weeks away from a return.
But those short-term issues pale when compared to the long-term implications of this episode. If you're a Vikings fan, you're probably having a hard time mustering much faith in the team's direction and leadership. What are they doing and where are they going? I don't know -- and I'm not sure they do either.