As an NFL source told me earlier Wednesday, the Tennessee Titans did indeed jump at the chance to claim Randy Moss off waivers from Minnesota, and it's not all that difficult to understand why, even if many teams considered him radioactive.
Here are the three biggest reasons Tennessee was willing to become Moss's third team in the past five weeks:
With the Titans emerging star receiver Kenny Britt going down with a significant hamstring injury just last Sunday in San Diego, the need for big-play impact at receiver in Tennessee was obvious. With Britt, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound talent who was drafted out of Rutgers in 2009's first round, the Titans had just started to see him make the catches on game day that he had made in practice the past two years.
Britt caught seven passes for 225 yards and a career-best three touchdown passes just two weeks ago in a win over Philadelphia, and in some cases it looked as if he and Kerry Collins were just playing an elevated game of pitch and catch. Britt has the talent to go up in traffic and come down with the ball, out-jumping defenders, whether they're blanketing him or not.
Who does that sound like? Moss has simply been the NFL's best vertical receiving threat of his era, and maybe no one in the history of the game has ever dominated more in terms of out-jumping defenders for the ball. With Britt possibly out for an extended period, Moss gives Tennessee a replacement receiver who happens to have a very similar skill set. Moss won't be just a fill-in for Britt, he's obviously a potential upgrade.
Titans head coach Jeff Fisher is the longest-serving NFL head coach in terms of continuous service (since 1994 with the Oilers/Titans franchise), and he's very confident in his ability to control the atmosphere in his team's locker room. Fisher believes he has the right blend of players to add Moss to, with enough maturity and leadership on hand to deal with any potential Moss-created distractions.
We shall see. Starting quarterback Vince Young has certainly had his maturity issues during his Titans tenure, but has made progress on that front in the past two years. Backup quarterback Kerry Collins played with Moss in Oakland in 2005 and spoke as recently as midday Wednesday about what a great teammate and professional Moss was during their time with the Raiders.
The bottom line is Fisher wasn't afraid of the Moss factor, or perhaps just less so than some of the NFL head coaches whose teams opted to not put in a waiver claim for the 13th-year veteran. Fisher believes he's got the team structure in place that won't be easy for Moss to disturb or distract from. One player who will obviously be pivotal to how Moss is accepted in Tennessee will be Titans All-Pro running back Chris Johnson. But Johnson earlier this week tweeted his wishes for the Titans to acquire Moss, and he'll probably quickly form a bond with the future Hall of Famer, just as second-year receiver Percy Harvin did when Moss returned to Minnesota early last month.
On the Dan Patrick Show earlier Wednesday,
Maybe. Maybe not. But Fisher is about to find out. The Titans and Fisher passed on Moss in the 1998 draft, taking receiver Kevin Dyson 16th overall, five spots ahead of Moss, who went to Minnesota. More than 12 years later, Fisher and the Titans are going to try to make amends for their mistake.
With Indy's 30-17 win over Houston on Monday night vaulting it into first place in the AFC South, we can now confirm the Colts are still the Colts. And that means Tennessee needs all the help it can get in chasing down the defending AFC champions in the second half of the season.
Indianapolis takes a 5-2 record into this week's game at Philadelphia. The Titans, their three-game winning streak snapped at San Diego, are 5-3 and a half-game behind the Colts as they enter their bye week. The Titans play at Miami in Week 10 -- a foe Moss is familiar with and whom he played against in his final game with the the Patriots.
After a Week 11 home game against Washington, Tennessee then faces the bulk of its division schedule: at Houston, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Houston and at Indianapolis, all in the final six games of the regular season. That's two games against the Colts, and two more against the high-scoring Texans.
The Titans need to stay close to the Colts, then take care of business in their head-to-head games. Moss gives Tennessee another offensive weapon to challenge the Colts defense, and he could come hugely into play in those key divisional games if Britt's injury lingers.
Maybe the best news of all for the Titans? They don't play the Patriots or the Vikings from here on out, so any chance of Moss reprising one of his patented postgame press conference/monologues isn't all that good.
The good news for Moss? He finally gets a bye week, after missing both New England's and Minnesota's earlier this season.