- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
The last two times Tom Brady was intercepted in the postseason were on throws that, by the standards of the New England Patriots, were total oddities: Jimmy Smith picked off Brady in the AFC Championship Game after a deflection on a bomb that would have served as a late dagger; Chase Blackburn picked off Brady on a deep heave during the Super Bowl, a ball Brady hung up, allowing the former teacher to attack it like a punt.
While we question the throws, people also rightfully pointed out the players targeted. The first was Matthew Slater, who has 58 career tackles and one career catch. The second was Rob Gronkowski, the gifted young tight end who, on a gimpy ankle and 40-plus yards downfield, looked like Jason Varitek suddenly consigned to center-field duty.
The passes were oddities because, for one, Brady doesn't even throw those kinds of passes anymore. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his 9.1 yards per air attempt to wide receivers -- the targets for the great majority of his bombs -- was 32nd in the NFL in 2011. This continues a trend from 2010, when no QB threw short more often. The passes were also odd because New England no longer has that guy to catch them. It's been all about the short pass since Randy Moss as we knew him disappeared from New England, right? At least that's the story. Since Moss was no longer a serious deep threat at the outset of 2010, the Patriots nimbly shifted away from him to the highly efficient combination of Wes Welker and a dynamic duo of young tight ends, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
A narrative formed. Moss and his combination of diminishing speed and outsized need to be involved was better served elsewhere. And really, if coach Bill Belichick can't use him, who can? A man who picks up miscast veterans and plugs them in the way Thomas Edison scoured his shelves for spare parts for a new invention didn't need Randy? The Moss we knew was gone, and New England survived because it always does.
At least that's the story. But reality might have been something else. Even if you don't believe Moss can still run a 4.3, he may yet have something left, and teams should be willing to find out.
ESPN Insider Chris Sprow breaks down Randy Moss' final days with the New England Patriots and writes that the Pats discarded Moss because he no longer fit their system, not because his football skills evaporated.