Nashville restaurant owner wonders whether he can please Moss
AP Sports Columnist
Jack Cawthon knows a little something about ribs. He’s been serving them up for 35 years now, long enough to back up his claim that he is the barbecue king of Nashville.
“Hickory wood and smoke them for five hours,” Cawthon said of his recipe for success. “They’re delicious.”
Cawthon is also a Tennessee Titans season ticket holder. Has been from the first day the Titans moved to town.
His Trinity Lane restaurant is a favorite of Titans players and executives alike. But the real test for the restaurateur may come from a new arrival by way of Minneapolis.
Can he please the picky palate of Randy Moss?
“We’d like to get Moss in there,” the founder of Jack’s Bar-B-Que said. “It looks like he could take care of a couple of racks of ribs.”
Hopefully, Moss will like what he eats. He didn’t in the Vikings locker room last week, where his vocal trashing of the ribs and chicken offered by a local caterer was part of a string of events that finally convinced embattled Minnesota coach Brad Childress that the Vikings and Moss weren’t such a good fit after all.
Now the Titans have the moody wide receiver, and the question becomes this: Will Moss try to please the Titans as much as his third employer in little more than a month wants to please him?
He didn’t in Minnesota, where he complained about both the coach and the ribs in a stay with the Vikings that was so brief they barely had time to sell more of those No. 84 jerseys bearing his name. He was supposed to be the receiver Brett Favre desperately needed, but in the end Childress was so desperate to get Moss out of town that the Vikings cut him rather than wasting time trying to trade him.
He led the team in giving up on plays. Somehow, the Titans think he can lead them to the Super Bowl.
Talent can be seductive, and there’s no greater talent at wide receiver than Moss.
“Thank you Jesus,” Tennessee tight end Bo Scaife said when Moss was picked up. “I hope he’s mad at those other teams passing him up, and he comes in and gives us the best eight games of his career.”
The odds that Moss may do just that are surprisingly good, considering he was run out of Minneapolis before the snow even began falling. Properly motivated, he’s the best receiver in the league, a player who can give quarterback Vince Young a deep target and add a new dimension to an already efficient offense led by running back Chris Johnson.
Of course, that’s what he was supposed to give the Vikings when they acquired him from New England and it didn’t exactly turn out according to plan. Moss caught just 13 passes, two for touchdowns, in four games with the Vikings, and often seemed to be just going through the motions on many of his routes.
“So, did he hustle on every play? I don’t know if Randy has ever hustled on every play. That’s just Randy,” said Favre, who for years begged the Green Bay Packers to get Moss. “But he knows what his value is. He figures, ‘Heck, two guys follow me everywhere I go.’ … They may watch and say, ‘He’s jogging, jogging, jogging.’ Boom! 70-yard touchdown.”
Those touchdowns didn’t come in bunches in Minnesota, frustrating both the quarterback and the star receiver who was supposed to be the last piece of the puzzle for a veteran team that bet all its marbles on winning this year. Favre and Moss never seemed to really click, and when Favre threw to Moss for the 500th touchdown pass of his career, Moss acted as though he wanted no part of the celebration.
That things aren’t going well on his old team can’t all be blamed on Moss. Childress will be the one getting booed at the Metrodome on Sunday, and deservedly so. He’s the one who bet everything on a quarterback well past his prime, and he’s the one who made the decisions both to hire and fire Moss.
He’s also the one who likely will be out of a job before Moss if the Vikings can’t somehow turn around a season gone bad.
While drama flared in Minnesota, Tennessee offers relative stability for the petulant Moss – as well as a quarterback with the arm strength to go deep. In return, he offers the Titans a relatively inexpensive way to upgrade their offense and go deep into the playoffs.
Not a bad trade-off, and relatively risk free for Tennessee, which hasn’t won a playoff game in seven years. For all the trouble Moss caused in Minnesota, he’s been a popular figure in every locker room he’s been in, and coach Jeff Fisher has been in charge long enough to make sure he won’t become a distraction.
Tennessee owner Bud Adams left a note and T-shirt for each of the Titans before the season opener imploring them to finish the season in the Super Bowl. At the age of 88 he may not have that many chances left, and a productive Moss could move his 5-3 team into the group of elite contenders in the AFC.
Yes, Moss should find the food to his liking in Nashville. But the Titans should find a lot to like about their new acquisition, too.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org