Don't crown Moss top receiver yet

Don't crown Moss top receiver yet
July 11, 2012, 7:35 pm
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Programming note: Ann Killion appears on the Chronicle Live Blitz at 5 & 11 p.m. with KNBR Morning show host Brian Murphy and columnist Lowell Cohn -- tonight at 5 & 11 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!
Tonight on the Chronicle Live Blitz, one of the topics I will be discussing with my esteemed panel members is the validity of this statement:Randy Moss is the 49ers' best wide receiver.This topic popped into the early July conversation because Rich Gannon said on SiriusXM that Jim Harbaugh had told him, Gannon, that Moss is our best receiver right now.RELATED: Gannon: Harbaugh says Randy Moss 'our best receiver'
Harbaugh says a lot of preposterous, over-the-top things, from describing himself as having a humble heart to insisting that he never was flirting with Peyton Manning. Anointing Randy Moss the teams best receiver in July is one more to add to the list.Not to give away the content of the fabulous Chronicle Live show, but Ill give you a preview of my answer: Are you kidding me?Of course, on paper Moss is the 49ers best receiver. He has Hall of Fame credentials. But to say that hes the best receiver on the team right now is an insult to players like Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Everyone is fabulous in June and July. But Moss has not played a meaningful down of NFL football since January 2, 2011. He has not scored a touchdown since a week before the Giants won the World Series.Moss hasnt played since the 2010 season. And in that he played sparingly, bouncing between three NFL teams. He was both a weird pain-in-the-butt (ripping the caterers in Minnesota) and a malcontent (demanding a trade in New England and stabbing Brad Childress in the back). But mostly he was agonizingly unproductive. The word in Tennessee was that Jeff Fisher didnt mind having him around except that Moss couldnt get any separation. That was 18 months ago.The Moss saga reminds me of the Manny Ramirez story we just witnessed with the As. It was a no-risk signing if you dont care about credibility. On paper, Ramirez was by far the most accomplished player at spring training. Of course there were great expectations.But they never materialized. The expectations fizzled. The legend basically couldnt play any more. And the risk would become high-risk if the team tried to force him onto the roster.Moss is great when everything is going well. When hes the star and catching tons of balls and the team is winning. Thats what happened in New England in 2007. He was Mr. Everything. But would Bill Belichick really get rid of a player that he thought could still play, just a few games into the 2010 season?When things arent going well, Moss is terrible. He complains. He quits. He makes life for coaches and coordinators miserable. We witnessed it first hand here in the Bay Area when Moss was with the Raiders.Who knows what its going to be like with the 49ers and their aging, mercurial receiver. Will Alex Smith be able to feed Moss enough passes to keep him happy? What about the other receivers? What about the fact that the 49ers are really a run-first, defense-reliant team? How long might it take before the malcontent Moss appears? And, more importantly, can the 35-year old actually still be productive on the field, after a prolonged absence?Is Moss the 49ers best receiver? Sure. On paper. In early July.Thats not where the NFL is played.

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