Why did the Patriots ship Randy Moss to Minnesota for the seeming bargain-basement price of a third-round draft pick?
The rumors of off-field trouble continue to swirl. But things weren't so rosy on the field, either. Maybe Bill Belichick and the New England brain trust knew what we're about to reveal to you here.
Maybe they knew that the Brady-to-Moss connection was in a statistical death spiral.
Cold, Hard Football Facts reader Kenny West (a.k.a, Deep Threat) is  finally back on the job 36 years after taking down the Nixon Administration. He compiled some interesting data about the Tom Brady to Moss connection last week. You might remember: Brady-to-Moss was the least production combo on New England's roster this year.
But Moss's productivity – as measured by passer rating – had declined in production each year since 2007, according to the data compiled by Deep Threat. Here's a look at the Brady-to-Moss connection over the years (including Matt Cassel-to-Moss in 2008):
2007: 98 of 160, 61.3%, 1,493 yards, 9.3 YPA, 23 TD, 4 INT, 121.2 passer rating
2008: 69 of 125, 55.2%, 1,008 yards, 8.1 YPA, 11 TD, 4 INT, 97.7 passer rating
2009: 83 of 137, 60.6%, 1,264 yards, 9.2 YPA, 13 TD, 8 INT, 98.3 passer rating
2010: 9 of 22, 40.9%, 139 yards, 6.3 YPA, 3 TD, 2 INT, 64.2 rating
The trend is fairly dramatic and obvious. You wonder if the Patriots, with their reputation for advanced internal controls and self-assessment, had been looking at this same data.
Brady and Moss lit the world on fire in 2007, as we all knew. But ven then, half of Brady's 8 picks that year came when targeting Moss.
In 2008, Cassel ran the Patriots offense. The production when targeting Moss was quite good, but an obvious drop-off from Brady-Moss in 2007.
However, when Brady returned in 2009, the production was fairly static: Brady's passer rating when targeting Moss was about the same as Cassel's the year before.
And then, early in 2010, the trends weren't good, as we noted last week.
The most damning evidence are the INTs:
  • In 2007, half of Brady's picks (4 of 8) came when targeting Moss.
  • In 2008, Cassel threw 4 of his 11 picks when targeting Moss.
  • In 2009, more than half of Brady's picks (8 of 13) came when targeting Moss.
  • In 2010, both of Brady's picks (2 of 2) came when targeting Moss.
In other words, the numbers confirm what you might have expected: targeting a deep threat, even a rare and elite performer like Moss, is a high-risk, high-reward venture. And, over time, the risks rose and the rewards declined.
It's hard to imagine the Patriots will field a more prolific offense in the wake of the Moss trade. It's no coincidence, for example, that Moss was a part of the two highest-scoring offenses in NFL history: the 1998 Vikings (541 points) and the 2007 Patriots (589 points).
It's also no coincidence that Moss was on the receiving end of two of the five highest-rated seasons by a quarterback in NFL history: Brady's 117.2 in 2007 (second) and Daunte Culpepper's 110.9 in 2004 (fifth).
Moss, put most simply, makes offenses more prolific.
But as we stated, and as everybody knows, New England's "death by a 1,000 paper cuts offense" of the early 2000s helped produce three Super Bowl titles. The daring big-play attack of the later 2000s yielded plenty of records, but no titles. And as the Cold, Hard Football Facts show, targeting Moss grew increasingly less productive and more dangerous over the years.
We don't know if Brady can re-capture any of the pre-Moss magic. But we know we'll get a good barometer when Baltimore rolls into town Sunday.