Randy Moss, one of the most productive and highly paid wide receivers in NFL history, but also one of the most traded potential hall-of-famers in the league, was let go after just four games by Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress. Moss joined the Vikings only a month before his firing in what was viewed as a significant boost to the team’s chances of getting back on a playoff track. The Vikings didn’t get much out of Moss as they went 1-3 in those 4 games, and the firing came after a loss to the New England Patriots, the team that dealt Moss to the Vikings.
Childress didn’t specify why he fired Moss, but three incidents reportedly led to his release:
1) Each Friday after practice the Vikings have a different local restaurant cater a meal for the team. The Friday before the firing Moss apparently thought the food was beneath his class level and openly referred to it as worse than dog food accompanied by a statement that he used to eat food like that before he made money, both loudly and in front of the caterer.
2) Moss then went on to turn in what appeared to be a half-hearted performance in that Sunday’s game against his former team, and didn’t appear to be making much of an effort in the three prior games either (having watched him play with the Raiders in ’05 and ’06 I empathize with the Vikings fans).
3) After the loss against the Patriots he was openly critical of the Vikings coaching strategy and highly complimentary of the Patriots and their coaching staff.
Professional football is a business, and Childress was faced with a dilemma many managers will face in their careers: when you have an employee with the potential to be an all-star performer but you can’t count on the employee to put in an all-star effort day in and day out, at what point do you cut bait and move on? If the employee’s spotty effort overall turns out above average results do you keep that employee in place and hope for some big wins every now and then while continuing the search for an employee more like the legendary receiver Jerry Rice who combined a consistent effort with being a great teammate? Simple math would say that you do, but when you add in the potential negative impact on the team of having a spotty producer who only turns it on when he/she feels like it, you may have to subtract a few points from that performance which may make that person a net negative for your company.
In Moss’s case he made it easier on Childress than most of us will have it by openly airing his disregard for others on the team (whether directly in the case of Moss’s post-game comments about his coaches or indirectly in the case of the Vikings caterer), which will quickly erode the core of what holds teams together – trust, respect and accountability. I’m looking forward to seeing if Moss’s firing can do what his hiring couldn’t – inspire an underperforming team to get back to winning.