Jim Souhan: Moss, Owens missed, but then again ...

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2007 - 12:54 PM

The Vikings and Eagles offenses aren't as potent without their star receivers; the biggest problem is not that they left, but that they weren't replaced.

The teams playing in the Metrodome on Sunday are like average Joes recovering from whirlwind flings with high-maintenance starlets: relieved, yet wistful.

The Eagles probably wouldn't take Terrell Owens back if he were hollowed out and stuffed with gold bullion, but it was Owens who buoyed them to their only Super Bowl appearance since Dick Vermeil stopped shedding tears at the old Vet.

The Vikings' brain trust winces every time Randy Moss catches another touchdown for the Patriots -- leaving them looking like survivors of shock therapy. With Moss around, they never felt comfortable picking up the newspaper, but they never had to worry about blackouts, either.

Every rose has its thorns, and every Moss has a squirt bottle aimed at a sideline official.

Owens, Moss and their ilk -- prima donna athletes who command attention and soil locker rooms -- are central to the modern sporting conundrum: Are productive, pain-in-the-butt players worth the headaches?

As a comedian once said of the opposite sex, "Can't live with 'em ... can't shoot 'em."

The Vikings locker room has become a much more pleasant place since Moss was traded. This just in, though: The offense stinks.

The Vikings have gone 4-12 in their past 16 games because they throw the ball like a latter-day Chuck Knoblauch. A receiver like Moss might transform the offense ... or send Tarvaris Jackson to therapy.

Owens, unlike Moss, doesn't quit on plays or his teammates -- just drives them to distraction. Owens has played on playoff teams in all three of his stops -- San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas -- and his presence enabled Philadelphia's boring, short passing game to make the big plays that finally got the Eagles past the NFC title game. Then he played on a bum ankle in the Super Bowl.

Owens is an attention seeker who plays hard. Moss is more talented and problematic. He's already gone through four phases: Phenom, Vikings malcontent, Raiders malcontent, Patriots superstar.

Moss dogged it in Oakland, but his reticence paid off when he forced a trade to New England, where he has once again proved the most talented receiver in NFL history.

What do people who have dealt with these guys think of them? Vikings center Matt Birk: "You look at most teams that win the Super Bowl -- most -- and you look at the Patriots, they've done it by having everybody buy into the team concept. No matter how good they are, nobody acts like a superstar.

"Football really is the ultimate team game. Even if you have the best player in the league, it's not like that's going to take you to a championship. Me, personally, I'm a believer in just having a bunch of team guys. I'm not referring to anyone in particular, but if you have someone who thinks he's bigger than the team, it's like a time bomb."

Is Birk surprised Moss has reemerged in New England?

"No," he said. "You put a receiver like that with a quarterback like that? The numbers they're putting up are amazing -- but they're not surprising."

Eagles coach Andy Reid was asked if employing Owens was worth the trouble.

"I sure enjoyed having him here when he was here," Reid said. "There were a few bumps in the road, but things happen and you move on."

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb: "We went to the Super Bowl, we had a lot of success, the next year was a different year and we've moved on from it."

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