Evaluating Randy Moss’s Titans tenure

You may have forgotten, but Randy Moss actually played for the Titans in 2010. Yeah, I know, it still seems weird to say. They grabbed him off waivers during the bye week, when they were 5-3, and then they went 1-7 the rest of the year. And of course, Moss hardly made any big plays as a Titan and failed to make any touchdown grabs, let alone spectacular ones.

When the Titans acquired Randy Moss in November, I wrote a post looking at his targets as a member of the Patriots and Vikings as a sort of preview of what we might reasonably to expect from Randy. With the 2010 season done, I thought it would be a good time to look at his targets as a Titan.

2-7-TEN 23 (1Q 10:46) K. Collins pass incomplete deep left to R.Moss. PENALTY on MIA-V.Davis, Defensive Pass Interference, 33 yards, enforced at TEN 23 – No Play.
Titans are in base personnel, and Washington and Moss line up on the left side of a weak I. Moss gets a clean release, and it’s a good route combination, as Washington on the outside runs a deep comeback or stop while Moss runs a deeper corner route. The deep corner probably could have been completed, but the ball is underthrown and Moss draws the pass interference penalty. This 33 yard gain would be Moss’s longest play as a Titan that actually counted.

3-7-TEN 45 (2Q 7:47) K.Collins pass incomplete short middle to R.Moss (C.Clemons).
Titans are in the shotgun on third down, and Moss is lined up next to Justin Gage close to the right side. Corner Benny Sapp gives him a little shove as he comes off the line, but not enough to disrupt his rhythm. Moss runs a deep in about 12 yards downfield and sits in the middle of zone coverage. Collins hits him with the ball, and Moss fails to hang on when hit by Clemons. It’s close to a fumble, but ruled an incompletion. If you want to think of Randy Moss as soft (for an NFL player) or worthless over the middle, this play is a good example of why you might be right. Frankly, I’d expect most receivers to make this catch, and Clemons’ hit was not particularly vicious.

1-10-TEN 28 (2Q 1:20) K.Collins pass incomplete deep right to R.Moss.
Two-minute drill at the end of the first half, and Moss is wide to the left side with corner Al Harris 9 yards off him. Moss runs a deep out about 25 yards downfield, and can’t haul in Collins’ high throw. Harris had underneath position and safety Clemson was providing over the top help, but there was a space where this throw could’ve been completed. Tough to diagnose if it was the pass, the route, or a combination of both, but Moss running a horizontal path to the sideline rather than an angled one like for a corner route meant Harris was in better position that he should have been.

2-10-TEN 35 (4Q 4:42) (Shotgun) V.Young pass deep left to R.Moss to MIA 39 for 26 yards (S.Smith).
Moss is split wide to the left side with Harris playing about 7 yards off, as the Titans are in 3-wide personnel. Harris creeps up to 4 yards off at the snap, then gives Moss a minor shove as he runs by him to the inside, as what looked like man is actually a soft zone. A very soft zone, as it turns out, as Moss catches a deep out about 22 yards downfield and Smith is the only deep defender to that side. Rather than run out of bounds to save time, Moss tries to take it upfield, but is easily tackled by Smith. Harris almost certainly misplayed this badly and was supposed to sink with Moss, but kudos to VY for finding a wide open receiver for a big gain. This would be Moss’s longest catch that counted as a Titan.

3-7-WAS 7 (2Q 3:41) (Shotgun) V.Young pass incomplete short right to R.Moss [V.Holliday].
Trailing 10-7, the Titans were in goal-to-go situation. VY had looked for Moss on the second down play, but thrown a dumpoff for Chris Johnson into the stands after both 28 and 84 were covered. On third down, VY was looking for Randy again. Corner DeAngelo Hall is lined up in tight coverage, and gives Moss a fairly clean release to the inside. He runs about 15 yard in, but VY’s pass goes into the stands. Safety Kareem Moore was standing about a yard deep in the end zone, obstructing the throwing lane to Moss, and I think it was a good decision by VY to not try to force one in. The boobirds that came out after the play seemed to disagree, though.

3-3-WAS 36 (3Q 2:04) (Shotgun) R.Smith pass incomplete short right to R.Moss (D.Hall).
The Titans are in their normal 3-wide formation here, and Moss is split wide to the right side with Hall on him at the line. Moss runs an 8 yard in, as the Titans try to create space by running Gage into the flat to take away the underneath defender. His break is lazy and sloppy, though, and DeAngelo Hall easily undercuts the route and should have had an interception.

4-3-WAS 36 (3Q 1:59) (Shotgun) R.Smith pass deep left to R.Moss for 36 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty. PENALTY on TEN-R.Moss, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at WAS 36 – No Play.
No matter, as the Titans are perfectly willing to throw for Moss the next play. He’s split wide left this time, with Hall again lined up over him. Moss takes an inside release, and the play is a deep fade. To get deep outside position, Moss gives Hall a shove in the back to clear out space and easily makes the grab with no defender within 2 yards of him. It’s an easy and obvious pass interference call.

2-9-WAS 26 (4Q 9:34) R.Smith pass incomplete short right to R.Moss (D.Hall). Moss lines up wide right, with Hall again the lone receiver to that side. He runs about a 12 yard in route, and is open, but Hall, playing underneath zone coverage, has time to recover and bat the pass away. Blame for this incompletion falls on Rusty Smith, who failed to recognize Moss was open until he was already open, and by then he wasn’t open. Plays like this one are a good example of why throwing with anticipation is such a valuable skill for a quarterback, and why it’s almost impossible to win without it.

2-10-TEN 27 (2Q 12:35) R.Smith pass incomplete short middle to R.Moss (G.Quin). Moss is lined up wide to the left side, with Glover Quin playing 5 yards off. Moss takes an inside release, and Quin gives him a chuck. Rusty’s pass is at the first down marker, and perhaps because of the chuck, Moss has no separation from Quin, and the man who’d have 3 interceptions this game bats the ball away.

3-10-TEN 27 (2Q 12:29) (Shotgun) R.Smith pass short left to R.Moss ran ob at TEN 41 for 14 yards. Moss is lined up with left again with corner Jason Allen playing 5 yards off, this time with Gage in the slot to that short side. Gage runs about a 9 yard out. It looks for all the world like Smith is throwing for Gage, and Allen converges to that spot, but the ball goes past Gage and right to Moss, who leans back and makes the grab while falling out of bounds. Good fortune strikes again!

1-10-TEN 41 (2Q 2:00) (Shotgun) R.Smith pass short left to R.Moss pushed ob at TEN 49 for 8 yards (J.Allen).
Same formation as last time. Allen is playing soft in the two minute drill, and Moss grabs the 8 yard out route and steps out of bounds. This is another pass I’m not sure was intended for Moss, as it went near Gage and was short for Moss. Some credit to Randy here for not just letting Allen tackle him in-bounds. This play is close to a no-catch, as Moss had to go down and scoop the ball off the turf, but it wasn’t received and I think it would’ve stood for being inconclusive.

2-14-TEN 16 (3Q 14:19) R.Smith pass short left to R.Moss to TEN 17 for 1 yard (G.Quin).
Split wide left with Quin playing 9 yards off him, Moss grabs a quick hitch from Rusty Smith. It’s not incredibly quick, and Moss takes a half-second to survey the field after making the grab. Safety Bernard Pollard and linebacker Kevin Bentley are both coming, but Quin beats them there to make the tackle, easily taking Randy down after a 1 yard gain. Frankly, Moss’s track record this year shows he’s not a physical receiver who will avoid or break tackles. While a quick hitch against off coverage isn’t a bad playcall, this play had no chance of doing anything aside from possibly boosting Rusty’s confidence.

2-7-HST 7 (4Q 1:06) (Shotgun) R.Smith pass incomplete short left to R.Moss. Split wide left, and Jason Allen is playing off again. The Texans look like they’ll have about 6 defenders in the end zone playing zone, and that looks like the call. Moss runs 5 yards deep into the end zone. Smith throws up a high jump ball, and Jason Allen is the only one who jumps. If you think Moss is a lazy player, this play won’t disabuse you of that notion, even if it is at the end of a 20-0 lost cause.

4-7-JAX 42 (2Q 2:48) (Shotgun) K.Collins pass incomplete deep right to R.Moss.
With the Titans already down 14-0, Fisher decides to go for it. Moss and Damian Williams are in a stack near to the wide right side, and Moss runs a deep corner route about 35 yards downfield. If Collins puts the ball on target, it’s a touchdown, but it’s underthrown and Moss has to come back for the ball. He tries to adjust the route but can’t haul in a catchable ball. Half a demerit to Collins for missing the throw and costing the team 6, and half a demerit to Randy for not catching a catchable ball.

1-10-JAX 49 (3Q 2:43) K.Collins pass short right to R.Moss to JAX 36 for 13 yards (R.Mathis).
This is the first play from Moss I’ve actually liked in this breakdown. He’s split wide right with Mathis lined up tight. He fakes going to deep, gets Mathis to bite, then cuts it off at 8 yards to catch an out route. After making the catch, he then gives Mathis a little shake-and-bake and picks up 5 yards after the catch. Mathis was not very effective this year, giving up over 10 yards per play in coverage, but this was still a nice effort by Moss on the play.

2-6-JAX 18 (4Q 15:00) K.Collins pass incomplete deep left to R.Moss (D.Cox). Moss lines up with left, with Cox over him. He gets an outside release and turns upfield, but Cox does an excellent job of staying with him. The pass is a sort of jump ball at the goalline, and Cox reads his eyes and jumps up to bat the ball away. Full credit to Derek Cox here, but note again this is a play where Moss gets zero separation from his defender.

No targets. Kenny Britt was targeted 8 times in his return to the lineup.

No targets. Kenny Britt was targeted 9 times.

No targets. Kenny Britt was targeted 9 times.

1-10-IND 47 (3Q 7:09) K.Collins pass deep left to R.Moss pushed ob at IND 29 for 18 yards (J.Tryon). Indianapolis challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #1.) Moss lines up near to the left side, and runs a deep out. Corner Tryon is in off coverage, and when Moss runs upfield thinks he’s going to go deep, giving Moss plenty of room to make the grab on the out. Moss jumps up and makes the grab, and Tryon takes his feet out when he comes down. The Colts challenge the play, arguing Moss only got one foot down. I thought the play should’ve been reversed, but it was upheld.

Like pretty much every other time I write in detail about how a player played, this is a story of what directly is, and not what indirectly happened. The Titans got Randy Moss not just because of the balls thrown to Randy Moss, but because of the effect Randy Moss was supposed to have on defenses. We may have seen this a couple times, notably on a Chris Johnson touchdown run against the Dolphins when Miami was playing man-two in the red zone and on a big completion to Bo Scaife against the Redskins. That full effect is impossible to quantify, beyond the limits of what I’m comfortable doing as an analyst, and completely absent from the above description.

One thing I wrote about in my previous post was Moss did not catch the ball in traffic. I saw that again this time-any time there was a defender in physical proximity to him when the ball arrived, he did not catch it. Only twice did a defender contact him as he was making a catch: Clemons in the Dolphins game, and Tryon in the Colts game. He dropped the ball when Clemons hit him, and held on when Tryon took out his legs and he fell on his back.

He was not the least bit productive on inside routes of any kind. The Titans didn’t throw him a single slant. They threw him an in route a couple times, and he didn’t do much with those. The quick hitch was worthless. The outs and corners were the only routes where he had much of a chance of doing anything. Frankly, I’m a little surprised they didn’t throw him a single comeback. That’s a regular route for the Titans, and one you’d think great deep threat Randy Moss would run successfully.

Kerry Collins does not throw a good deep ball. Rusty Smith is not a very good quarterback. I think Moss probably would’ve had a greater role in the offense had VY stayed healthy and mentally ready, since the deep ball was the best aspect of his game. Without VY in the lineup, and given the limited scope of routes he could run productively, Moss’s value was almost nil.

Kenny Britt is a much better, more versatile receiver than Randy Moss. He has the size and physical nature to run a much wider variety of routes, and the ability to make defenders miss and to break tackles. That better route versatility wasn’t much of a surprise, but the one advantage I expected Moss to have was vertical speed making him a better deep threat, and I didn’t see that. When the Titans picked up Moss, I said Moss in, Britt out was probably a push, and was excoriated for excessive pessimism. As it turned out, I was overly optimistic.

I think the Titans’ offensive coaching staff figured out pretty quickly Moss wasn’t going to be what they hoped. I suspect this pretty early, as they sang his praises for blocking and other non-catching work after the Redskins game. I don’t know that there was an explicit bargain made that they’d talk him up, and he wouldn’t be a distraction, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was.

Overall, I’d have to rate the Randy Moss as Tennessee Titans experience as a worthwhile failure. The Titans needed help at wideout with Kenny Britt out, and clearly neither Justin Gage nor Nate Washington was going to be the answer. Had VY not gone down, Moss might’ve been the answer, but that’s a world we’ll never know. With perfect hindsight, knowing the defense would collapse and VY would go down, I’d have preferred the Titans give Damian Williams a greater role, but of course that’s absolutely 20-20 hindsight.

As for Moss’s future in the NFL, the Titans don’t seem to, and shouldn’t, have any real interest in bringing him back, so frankly I don’t really care. If he can still be an elite receiver in the NFL, I didn’t really see it in watching every pass thrown his direction this year, and given the rest of the stuff he brings with him, I don’t think he or another team will be too interested in bringing him in to be a complementary receiver. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this be the end of his NFL career, and his Titans tenure be regarded as a disconcordant footnote, sort of like Joe Namath’s time with the Rams.