Some of the Moss fanatics will enjoy this article.

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The Joke is on the Vikings
By Skip Bayless
Page 2
7 March 2005

Go ahead, crack your near-sighted jokes.

Tell me that the motorcycle cops who escorted the limo carrying Randy Moss from the airport to the Raiders' offices on Wednesday were just practicing for his first Oakland arrest.

Tell me the team that always plays under a full moon deserves the Moon King.

Tell me Moss will turn the Raiders' slogan, "Commitment to Excellence," into Commitment to Ex-Lax.

That's right: Just quit, baby.

Go ahead. Cackle at Raiders owner and operator Al Davis, who's called the Cryptkeeper by some fans who consider him even older than the creature who introduced episodes for "Tales from the Crypt."

The last laugh will be Al's.

No, make that the first laugh. Davis just turned a team without much of a defense into an instant contender for the AFC West title.

And Davis, like former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, can thank the Minnesota Vikings. Moments after trading Herschel Walker to Minnesota in 1989 for enough draft choices to build a dynasty, Johnson said: "This is the Great Train Robbery."

Davis' trade with Minnesota was the Reverse Herschel. Moss will do for the Raiders what the Vikings thought a fading Herschel would do for them. And Davis stole Moss for no more than the seventh pick in the draft, along with a late-rounder and a linebacker who hasn't made the Pro Bowl and won't -- Napoleon Harris.

Call this the Greater Train Robbery -- the steal of this young century.

So go ahead, tell me how much trouble Moss will cause -- for opposing defenses. Moss is simply the most talented receiver who ever set foot in an end zone. He always occupies at least two defenders. Heave it deep in his direction, and he'll probably come down with it. The NFL has never seen a better blend of top speed, leaping ability, agility and hands.

I'd rather have Moss going up for my last-second, playoff-game-winning catch than any other receiver, ever.

I spoke Thursday to an AFC defensive coordinator whose team plays the Vikings next season. He asked not to be quoted by name, but said: "Our coaches breathed a sigh of relief because we were already discussing how to stop Randy Moss. He makes the entire team better -- the other receivers, the running game, even the defense. That Raider defense won't be playing from behind so much next season. I don't care if the Vikings draft Mike Williams or Braylon Edwards. They just won't be as dangerous. I cannot believe they gave away Randy Moss."

Congratulations, Red (Faced) McCombs. You agreed to sell your Vikings to a group headed by Reggie Fowler, pending league approval. Fowler said he would not trade Moss. But you gave Moss away. Then you told reporters on Thursday that you considered firing your coach, Mike Tice, near the end of last season to help motivate Moss and jump-start your team.

Now you tell us. What a lame attempt to reduce your blame. What a low blow for the team you're selling. Now you've wrecked what little authority Tice has left.

McCombs should have fired Tice and kept Moss. Tice tried to buddy up to Moss instead of commanding his respect. Moss surely knew that Tice is your basic offensive lineman coach masquerading as a head coach.

Moss is the classic child crying out for discipline. Moss wants to do right. Moss usually does right. But for seven seasons, he was stuck in a conservative NFL city that overreacted to his childish antics -- which often prompted Moss to overreact in turn to media and fan criticism.

The irony: Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves is one of the NBA's most popular and marketable players. Yet Garnett, last year's MVP, also is pro basketball's most overhyped and overpaid player. Garnett does not make his teammates better. Garnett does not change the game the way Moss does.

Yet Garnett is generally good to the media, and vice versa. Moss lashes out at reporters. Moss pouts when he believes his coaches and/or the media aren't treating him with the respect a game-changing player deserves. At his worst, Moss sometimes says no mas during games.

I criticized Moss for pretending to moon the Lambeau Field crowd after he scored -- until I heard Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy say the next day that he found Moss' demonstration amusing. Dungy explained that it's a Green Bay tradition for fans to moon the visiting team's buses as they leave after a game.

Moss isn't stupid. And, according to several members of the Vikings, Moss isn't a bad teammate. After all, he attempted to return too early last season from a torn hamstring and wound up dragging that leg through two playoff games.

ESPN's Andrea Kremer reports that former Raider team leader Greg Biekert -- who played with Moss for the last three seasons -- called Raiders officials to vouch for Moss. Current Raiders Denard Walker and Brad Badger, who played with Moss, also gave him a thumbs-up to coaches.

Even Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper is backpedaling.

At the Pro Bowl, Culpepper said of Moss: "He's a good friend, but you almost get to thinking that enough is enough, and maybe the Vikings organization has had enough."

Yet, no way does Culpepper want anyone thinking he encouraged or even forced the trade. He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Maybe the organization was ready to move on, but that wasn't what I was saying. He's a once-in-a-lifetime player ... He rubbed everybody in different ways, but he isn't that bad a guy."

Culpepper will miss him dearly. Big-armed Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins won't be able to miss Moss.

That's why Raiders fans will line up to see Moss wearing his new No. 18. Raiders fans aren't like, say, Giants or Redskins fans, who keep renewing season tickets no matter how bad their team might get. Raiders fans demand excellence or they leave Davis with 30,000 unsold seats.

Acquiring Moss will put Davis back in the (silver and) black.

Moss was born to be a Raider -- but not for the obvious reason. Not because he's a renegade, but because he's a great player who just wants to play great. Moss is finally with an organization -- and a fandom -- that doesn't sweat the small stuff. Davis demands only that a player show up on time and make plays. To Davis, everything else is talk-show earwax.

Davis sent two assistant coaches -- two former great Raiders -- down to Boca Raton to talk Moss into coming to Oakland. Moss needed to feel wanted for the first time in a long time. Yes, he laid it on a little thick as he met the Bay Area media, saying, "I'm in love."

But I believe him.

He'll have a soul mate across the Bay in San Francisco. Barry Bonds isn't nearly as bad a teammate as has been portrayed. Like Moss, Bonds' greatness sometimes is overshadowed by his battles with the media. Incredibly, after Bonds hit his record 73 home runs in 2001, he received no free-agent offers and re-signed with the Giants.

In fairness to the Vikings, teams weren't exactly fighting over Moss, either. Atlanta said no. Baltimore said no to a trade in which Minnesota wanted safety Ed Reed and the Ravens' first-round pick (No. 22). Then Baltimore said no to defensive end Terrell Suggs and the same pick.

The Ravens should have pulled that trigger. This is Randy Moss.

And this is why you do not trade him: No one will give you equal value.

Davis stole a rare player who will be highly motivated by a trade Moss called "a slap in the face."

Pretty funny, huh?

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice weekly on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.

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