When Randy Moss said that he thinks he is the greatest wide receiver in the history of the NFL, it caused a major uproar. Not only does the majority of the football world believe that Jerry Rice holds this title, but Moss uttered these words while in a 49er uniform. There is no question that when looking at how they approach the game, what they have accomplished on the field and body of work over a career nobody holds a candle to Jerry Rice. He was the hardest working man in the game, and while Moss revolutionized the position, Rice changed the way players approach their preparation, and Rice set the bar for the wide receiver position. However, in some aspects Moss is the best. He attempted to explain his reasoning, saying that stats are not the final measuring stick, but this is where he killed his own argument, as statistically, Moss has a decorated career that rivals the great #80. If Randy Moss thinks that he is the best wide receiver to ever lace it up, he is not only entitled to think whatever he wants, but he actually has plenty of support to back his argument. But to be clear, when taking everything into consideration, Jerry Rice is by far the greatest.
Why Moss Is Right
There will always be a debate as to the best at any position, and Calvin Johnson is quickly closing the gap, but there is no question that Randy Moss is the most physically gifted wide out ever. He exploded into the league and revolutionized the position, as there was no player with his skill set previously in the league. Coming out of college, Moss was called by scouts the “greatest individual prospect” ever seen, and his rookie season was one of a kind. He scored two touchdowns in his first NFL game, and continued his on-field exploits en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. During his first six seasons, statistically, he was the greatest. He averaged 87.5 catches per and 1395.8 yards during that stint, which happens to be higher than Rice’s 74.3 catch and 1311 yard average to start his career. What derailed Moss, after six stellar seasons, were an injury and a trade.
What the Difference An Elite Quarterback Makes
When the Minnesota Vikings traded Moss to the Oakland Raiders, it was a terrible match. While with the Raiders, the team won six games in two seasons, and the notoriously unmotivated Moss had nothing pushing him, so his stats suffered. He was eventually freed from the Raiders, and for the first time in his career had an elite quarterback. With Tom Brady getting him the ball, Moss returned to his dominant self, setting an NFL record for touchdown catches in a season with 23, while hauling in 98 catches and racking up close to 1500 yards. He had a good stay in New England, but due to a spat with the Patriots’ front office, he was forced to take his talents elsewhere, and he has seen a dramatic decline in his numbers since. Age, the teams he has played for, and his lack of fire have all explained his regression, leading up to his retirement in 2010. However, his dip in production is to be expected, and Jerry Rice went through the same thing at the end of his career, watching his stats continue to go down in his final three seasons. Moss and the team have said they want him back, but if this was his final season, he would end with more catches (28 to 25), yards (434 to 362) and would have one less touchdown (3 to 2) than Rice in his final year.
Not a Popularity Contest
The real knock on Moss is that football is a team sport, and he is not half the teammate that Jerry Rice was. Moss has a checkered past and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and as a result few want to acknowledge him as one of the best. Rice has more Super Bowls and more touchdown catches, two categories that have to come into play in the argument, but what about the on-field test? If you lined Rice and Moss up on opposite sides of the field and told the defense to double one, and leave the other guy open, with both players in their prime, Rice is getting single coverage.
Statistically They Are At Draw
If the criteria is taking a look at everything from stats to locker room presence, then Rice runs away with it. But if you are talking about one game, or season for that matter, it would not be a bad idea to go with Moss, making his comments not nearly as out of line as people think. Moss is at least in the conversation of being the greatest, so what’s wrong with him believing it? Ask the same question of Terrell Owns or Michael Irvin and both will say the same thing. It’s hard to fault Moss for speaking his mind, and based on his resume, it’s not as though he is crazy. He has the record for most touchdowns in a season, most seasons with 17 or 16 touchdown receptions, most games in a season with at least two touchdowns, one of two players (Rice is not the other) who had 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns in a single season, and is the youngest player to reach 100 receiving touchdowns 5,000 yards receiving yards. The greatest ever? Not quite, but he is a very close second, and in his eyes he is the best. Isn’t that all that really matters?
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.