NFL Nation: MossWatch

MossWatch: Time to say goodbye?

March, 3, 2013
3/03/13
10:28
AM ET
NFL players' March musings on Twitter aren't necessarily the gold standard for information, but Randy Moss' comments Saturday line up with expectations the team will go with younger players at the position in 2013.

"Wished we could've finished the job!!thanks for the opportunity an good luck in the future 9ers," Moss' Twitter account said.

Moss is 36 years old. He provided value to the 49ers during a transitional season at wide receiver. The team needed him more than anticipated once an injury felled Mario Manningham. Whatever mentoring and veteran leadership Moss provided in 2012 carried value. The 49ers seemed to appreciate it genuinely.

Moss finished the regular season with 28 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns. His 15.5-yard average per reception was near the 15.6-yard average for his career. He was a positive factor. He also was willing to block.

But in the longer term, there's something wrong if the 49ers cannot develop younger alternatives at the position, particularly after using the 31st pick of the 2012 draft for receiver A.J. Jenkins. Moss is not the future.

If Moss were to re-sign with San Francisco, the 49ers ideally wouldn't be counting on him. They would be looking at him as a potential insurance policy. But if Moss' tweet is any indication, that policy is about to expire.
The San Francisco 49ers attempted one pass to Randy Moss during their 34-0 victory against the New York Jets.

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Alex Smith wasn't even the quarterback of record for the play.

Moss, 35, has only eight receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown in his first four games with the team. That puts him on pace to finish the 2012 season with 32 receptions for 352 yards and four scores. That type of production would nearly match his 16-game total for 2010, Moss' most recent season in the NFL. Moss played 16 games for three teams that season, finishing with 28 receptions for 393 yards and two touchdowns.

In that context, then, Moss has picked up where he left off. I see a couple potential reasons for the modest production:
  • Age factor: Moss simply isn't good enough at this stage of his career to command additional playing time and a larger role in the offense. He would be playing nearly every snap if the 49ers thought he could play the way he played as a younger man. Of course, if Moss could perform at that level, the New England Patriots probably would have held onto him. Moss has played between 26 percent and 36 percent of the offensive snaps in each game so far. That includes games with 21, 16, 21 and 22 snaps.
  • Offensive philosophy: Coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman brought a power-oriented scheme to the 49ers. San Francisco has used two running backs and two tight ends on a league-high 53 plays this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The team's base offense features one back and two tight ends. Those groupings leave room for only one or two wide receivers. The team has better depth at receiver this season. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are younger than Moss. They're going to play. Crabtree is also a tremendous blocker. That adds to his value.

The chart shows the 49ers' pass targets by week. The games against Green Bay (Week 1) and Minnesota (Week 3) show the 49ers are willing to target Moss regularly in some games, but probably not every game.

Smith missed an open Moss on couple throws against Minnesota in Week 3. The two might have a harder time developing a strong rapport while Moss continues to see limited snaps in a run-oriented offense. Keeping Moss fresh could allow him to become more of a factor in specific game plans, including during postseason.

The fourth installment in a series tracking the feel as wide receiver Randy Moss continues his career revival with the San Francisco 49ers.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Watching Randy Moss interact so playfully with Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree following practice Monday was a good sign for the 49ers.

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Moss, 35, was an emerging NFL superstar before Davis and Crabtree were in high school. By the looks of things at 49ers camp, bridging the generation gap isn't going to be a problem. The banter and interaction between Moss and his younger teammates couldn't have appeared more natural while Moss and Davis stayed after practice to catch passes. And when Crabtree passed by, Moss engaged him in some banter, too.

"Randy is a great guy," Davis said afterward. "I love him. I love him. He has great character. The person that he is, he has a good heart. And he loves the game of football. Even though he’s been around for a while, he still loves the game of football. That’s what you need around here."

This is where the obligatory Moss disclaimers tend to pop up, the ones suggesting it's only a matter of time before this relationship goes bad. There are only positive signs for the 49ers right now. There have only been positive signs to this point, by all accounts. Coach Jim Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Davis and others have provided glowing reviews, not just positive ones.

"You would never know that's Randy Moss if you didn’t know what he looked like," Davis said. "That is what I admire about him. He fits right in. He is a great guy, man, he's a great guy. He comes from different cloth. He is just one of those guys that is exceptional."
The third installment in a series tracking the feel as Randy Moss continues his career revival with the San Francisco 49ers.

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We left off June 15 with 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio saluting Moss for the receiver's commitment, for being "down to earth" in his approach and for being a "throwback" in terms of his love for the game.

The veteran wide receiver's news conference Friday, available for viewing here, provided supporting evidence for the overwhelmingly positive reviews this offseason from Fangio and others in the organization.

Moss came off as a player humbled by the opportunity to join a playoff-caliber team. He never once sounded defensive or annoyed by the line of questioning. Moss even channeled JFK when saying he was more concerned with what he could do for the game than for what the game could do for him. A sampling of what he said:
"Well, when I first came into this league, it was more of I didn't really understand really everything that goes on with the NFL. And now that I'm matured physically and mentally, my philosophy is, I do not like what the NFL does for me, I want to know what I can do to make the NFL better. And if that's coming out here teaching the young guys and showing my professionalism and being a leader on and off the field, that's what I want to do because I think that if we get that type of mind-set it'll make it a better league.

"The league has blessed me and my family and I'm very fortunate to be in a position that I'm in, but like I said, I like what I can do for the league, not what the league can do for me. Money comes and goes, but as far as trying to make this a better league, we're having young players come in, just being able to teach the game and understand how to take care of your body, how to approach the game day to day, week to week."

There's still a chance Moss' tenure with the 49ers will end the way his previous tenures with Minnesota, Oakland and New England ended -- prematurely and with questions about Moss' willingness to put the team first amid difficult circumstances. A blowup with an assistant coach precipitated his departure from New England.

The first day of training camp isn't the time to pass final judgment. But in listening carefully for signs of insincerity in Moss' comments Friday, there were no red flags to see. It's as though Moss is embracing one final chance to recast his Hall of Fame legacy. Moss has impressed wherever he's gone. So far, so good in San Francisco.

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