Thirteen years after the Tennessee Titans passed on Randy Moss in the 1998 draft, making wide receiver Kevin Dyson the top wideout taken that year with the 16th overall pick, Moss is finally in Nashville. Over the last decade and change, the Titans' decision to pass on Moss has been a lingering point of discussion in the city. Would Moss, in a Titans uniform, have altered the often-staid offensive philosophy of head coach Jeff Fisher? As Moss racked up 948 catches, 14,778 yards, 153 touchdowns and counting, Titans fans couldn't help but watch the highlights and sigh. He could have been the Titans, if only they'd taken the risk to draft him.
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Meanwhile, Dyson, the man Tennessee did draft, is now the head coach of a suburban Nashville high school team. Dyson went on to tally 178 career catches, 2,325 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. It wasn't that Dyson was a bad player, just that he was always inextricably linked to Moss in the mind of Titans fans. When Dyson came up a yard short to end the 2000 Super Bowl, who among us didn't think during the long winter that followed, would Moss have scored there?
As Steve McNair came into his own at quarterback and began to throw the ball down the field -- eventually sharing the MVP with Peyton Manning in 2003 -- the Titans' own limitations at wideout became even more glaringly apparent. What might McNair have been capable of producing in his career with a player of Moss' stature lining up out wide? If only, Titans fans lamented, we'd taken Randy Moss back in 1998 with our 16th pick in the first round. Moss was still on the board until the 21st!
Woe is us, Tennessee fans thought, we're constrained to the dustbin of wide receiver history. Year after year, the Titans failed to have a game-breaking wideout, the curse of passing on Randy Moss. Give us your Yancey Thigpens and Carl Pickens, your David Givens and Tyrone Calicos, all of whom arrived in the city with great promise, only to be dashed on the rocks of mediocrity along the shores of downtown's Cumberland River. Where, oh where, was a wide receiver who could make the crowd stand and cheer? Alas, it seemed possible Tennessee would never have one at all.
All too often, that 1998 selection of Dyson over Moss came to symbolize the conservative offensive style employed by Fisher -- pound the ball with your running back, play solid defense, hit the tight end on a six-yard curl, try and win by a field goal down the stretch. As the Titans' top rival raced up and down the field in Indianapolis, these were the conservative narrative arcs that came to define many of the Titans' seasons. Fisher was successful, but, at times, he seemed hopelessly conservative. The TItans' offensive mantra was simple -- don't take any chances.
So when the Titans suddenly leaped at the opportunity to bring in Moss Wednesday, fans were positively gleeful. Sure, Moss is now 33, with the mileage that comes from playing in the NFL for the past 12 full seasons. Sure, the Titans are going to be his third team this season, and he's supposedly had the gall to curse a caterer -- evidently sending pictures of your private parts is far less egregious of a sin in Minnesota than displaying poor manners to food producers. Titans fans are ecstatic because Moss seems like a new direction, a new path that offers equal parts opportunity and peril, a roll of the dice from an organization that generally eschews gambles.
Let's get the preliminaries out of the way: Randy Moss still has the ability to be dominant. Especially when he's paired with the biggest game-breaking back in the NFL, Chris Johnson. Titans fans have all seen NFL defenses stack the line of scrimmage against C.J. this season.
Before his injury last week, Kenny Britt gave tantalizing hints that he might become a top receiver and alter the team's dynamic, but he's not there yet. Moss has been there for over a decade. (Want to get really giddy, Titans fans? When Britt returns from his injury, will there be any team in the league with a more explosive trio of playmakers than Johnson, Moss and Britt?) Moss may not have as many routes left in his repertoire, but he can still run, can still stretch the field like few receivers in the history of the game. And Young throws as good of a deep ball as any quarterback in the league. Just throw Randy the damn ball a few times a game, Titans fans think, and the entire offensive playbook spills open. The opportunities are endless.
So stunned by the addition of Moss was former Titans All-Pro Blaine Bishop, one of my radio show co-hosts, that Wednesday he jokingly agreed to grow a Jeff Fisher mustache if the team ended up with Moss. Let the follicular growth commence. May a Super Bowl run shortly follow. Because, suddenly, the franchise that took no risks just pulled up a chair at the blackjack table, tossed down a few hundred dollar bills, and everyone in the city of Nashville can't wait to see what happens. With Moss in the fold at long last after passing him in the draft, Titans fans are partying like it's 1998.
At long last, the Mossiah is here.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail returning for the football season, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com.
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