Last night news broke that Randy Moss had signed with the 49ers. Randy Moss is a terror deep down the field. Moss is legitimate 4.4 speed and at 6’4 a night-mare matchup for cornerbacks and secondary. He runs faster than most of them and he’s taller than all of them, but he comes with his fair share of baggage. Even though he has had 8 years of more than 1200 yards receiving he’s also had some years that were major clunkers. There were times in Oakland where it didn’t even looked like he was trying. His final season in Oakland 553 yards and 3 touchdowns. As soon as he was traded the very next year he had 23 touchdowns and 1493 yards receiving. In 2010, the last season he played he bounced around between three different teams playing in all 16 games and totaling 29 receptions and 5 touchdowns. That is not good. He couldn’t find a home in 2011 and chose to “retire”.
Is talent is undeniable but is effort is questionable. But let’s assume that Randy Moss is even the player he was in 2007 on the field (I mean possess the same talent, not has the same production), will the 49ers benefit from having Randy Moss on their team or will it cost them?
What I mean by that is the 49ers right now have an identity on offense and defense. On defense they are tough-nosed defense that gets after the quarterback and punishes the ball carrier. On offense they are a ball control offense that limits their big shots down-field, and thus limits Smith’s decisions and chances. The 49ers had the third most rushing attempts in the league with 31.1 rushes per game last year. They also attempted the second fewest passes with 451 attempts last year. That is not who Randy Moss is. Moss is a high volume big play guy. He’s also a guy who demands the football. Loudly. If he’s not getting the football he can become a locker-room cancer and quickly. By adding Randy Moss the 49ers might do the same thing to themselves that the Jets did last year when they decided to open up their passing game with Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Buress–lose their identity. All of a sudden in 2011 with largely the same cast the Jets couldn’t run the ball as effectively as they did when they were become regulars in the AFC Championship Game. Running the football consistently in the N.F.L. is an attitude almost more than it is a special talent. There does not exist a “tough-running” switch, that can be turned on and off based on the game plan that week. It’s a week in week out effort that gets stronger as the defense gets weaker. Signing Randy Moss means already that the 49ers are looking to “get more explosive” and by extension less run reliant. It means they are looking to take more chances throwing the ball on first and second down-where Moss makes plays. Moss is not a third down conversion slot wide receiver. It means putting your offense in more 2nd and 10s and 3rd and sevens when passes to Moss go incomplete. Will that come back to haunt the 49ers?
The other question that arises from the Moss signing do they even have the kind of quarterback who can get explosive?
For example take into consideration these two thoughts from Profootballfocus.com
Alex Smith’s average depth of throw over the last 3 seasons is 7.8 (8.1 in 2011). NFL average is 8.8. #49ers
— Mike Clay (@PFF_MikeClay) March 13, 2012
Smith not greatest QB throwing deep (46.5% accuracy – 12th in league), but seemed reluctant going deep (9.7% of attempts – 4th lowest)
— ProFootballFocus.com (@ProFootbalFocus) March 13, 2012
The issue in the end might not even be whether or not Randy Moss has the talent to still be the same player he was when he was giving defensive backs nightmares. The real problem might be what if he is the same player he was? Can the 49ers maintain their identity on offense. Can they still be the same kind of ball-control risk adverse team that almost made a Superbowl appearance last year. Or will they decide to let Alex Smith air it out and watch their offense buckle under that kind of pressure, much like the Jets did in 2011. Adding an element of speed does not always just augment an already pretty good offense, it can completely alter it-and not always for the better.
For better or worse the 49ers seem willing to take that risk.
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