Earlier this year San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss made a statement to the media in regards to himself being the greatest wide receiver in history. He also stated that he in fact changed the game, alluding to his efforts in revolutionizing the wide receiver position. Since his pre Super Bowl revelation, Moss has been hit with a backlash of media scrutiny. Most of which has come in the defense of Hall of Fame 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, who holds all of the important receiving records to date. Unfortunately most of the media took the Moss statements as an affront to Rice rather than Moss just emphasizing the supreme confidence that he has in himself.
It is quite clear that Moss will not touch the receiving records that Rice has left behind. Especially since the last two seasons that he played (2010 and 2012) have been woefully unproductive by his standards. As were the last two seasons of Rice’s career. After two painfully unproductive seasons in a row, Rice retired to let others chase his legacy. Rice finished his career with 208 touchdowns; Moss has 157 touchdowns. Rice finished with 1,549 receptions; Moss has 982 receptions. Rice finished with 22,895 receiving yards; Moss has 15,292 receiving yards. Rice has three Super Bowl rings; Moss has zero Super Bowl rings. If the last two full seasons that Moss played are any indication of what can be expected for the remainder of his career, in which Moss averaged 413 receiving yards and four touchdowns per year. He would have to play almost 13 more years to catch Rice in touchdowns and he would have to play over 18 more years to catch Rice in receiving yards.
Moss knows this; he wasn’t making a statement as to how his greatness measures up to the statistics that Rice left. Now in his late 30’s, Moss knows he will not catch the records set by Rice. Moss is arrogant, not foolish. The statements Moss made were an insight into his own mind and his elevated self-confidence. There is nothing wrong with that in sports. Professional athletes do it all the time. Tiger Woods made a similar statement a couple years ago, in the midst of his fall from grace, he still claimed himself to be the best golfer in the world. And rightly so, they have to think that way, especially if they are still active players. Professional athletes have a huge chip on their shoulder; their pride and talent will not allow themselves to claim mediocrity. The media would have torn Woods apart if he had made a statement minimizing his abilities. He would have lost more than he already had if he had came out and said he was merely as good as half the field or not in the talent class as some of his peers. Moss on the other hand is vilified for making his statement.
First of all Moss is one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game and he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Of course Moss is going to make a statement with such bravado. To think he would do otherwise would be ridiculous. Especially since he has had such an outlandish relationship with the media anyway. And if you really think about it, Moss is not that far off based with his comments. If you put his quarterback situations under a microscope against Rice’s quarterback situations; it is very likely that his numbers be much higher if he were afforded more luxury at quarterback.
Rice played 21 years in the NFL, for the first 15 years of his career (his prime) he caught passes from two Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Moss on the other hand has had 16 years of NFL service. But it was only when he went to the New England Patriots, in his tenth year in the league, that he caught passes from an quarterback (Tom Brady) with a caliber equal to a Montana or Young. It’s fair to say that if he had spent his first nine years playing with someone with the talent level of Brady his numbers would be drastically higher. He was already moving past his prime when he hooked up with Brady.
If Moss had any of those facts in his head when he made the statement, it could be said that the debate of best wide receiver ever is arguable. Given better circumstances, he could have had better numbers than Rice. But alas, that is all it is now, a could’a-should’a-would’a debate. The statement that makes less sense is the one he made about changing the position. As great as a wide receiver he was and is, he did not change or shape the way the wide receiver position is played. His style of play has always been a tribute to former dynamic wide receivers that were fast, had great hands, great leaping ability, tremendous route runners, and had a flair for the dramatic. That list includes Rice, Lynn Swann, Drew Pearson, Art Monk, Steve Largent, and Michael Irvin, all those guys had the same attributes that Moss does.
Unfortunately it probably doesn’t vote well that he return next year in a 49ers uniform, but Moss will definitely be an NFL player next year on some ball club. And he will continue to build upon his legacy as he distances himself from the field with Rice.
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