randy-moss-media-day-niners-ravens

I was driving into work when I heard what Randall Gene Moss, wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, said on Tuesday:

“Now that I’m older, I do think I’m the greatest receiver to ever do it,” Moss said at Super Bowl media day in New Orleans. “I don’t really live on numbers. I really live on impact and what you’re able to do out on the field, I really think I’m the greatest receiver to ever play this game.”

The funny thing is, when I finally heard what he said, I didn’t even bat an eyelash. Then, I got to hear the backlash from the sports talk radio show that I was listening to.

“Randy Moss, you’re not even the best receiver on any of the teams’ franchise you’ve played for!”

“Randy Moss is an idiot.”

“Moss must have been smoking New Orleans’ finest early this week.”

I just chuckled to myself, realizing that I now live in the Bay Area, this type of response isn’t surprising. Not saying that it’s ignorant, but I can totally understand the loyalty that folks out here (and across the world) have towards the one and only Jerry Lee Rice. Fans were calling into the show and were spitting verbatim Rice’s stats like they were pledging a fraternity, like the need to defend Rice was necessary in the first place. Rice’s stats are legendary, as he’s the all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns, so he’s unquestionably the greatest wide receiver of all-time.

So what?

I’d still rather have Randy Moss over Jerry Rice if I had to choose. There’s never been a more dynamic football player on the field better than Moss. Only players like Deion, Bo and Vick are as comparable to Moss when it comes to showstopping ability, and at his peak, there was no force more unstoppable.

Yet, when Randy Moss comes out and makes the quote that he did, especially at the Super Bowl … folks get caught up in their feelings. They spit those stats, 20 years worth of them, in fact. Truthfully, I don’t foresee another player playing 20 years like guys like Rice, Brett Favre and Darrell Green did, and Moss has been in his twilight for a number of years. Of course, when you talk about production, is looking at Rice’s 20 years necessary? Check out Rice’s per season stats compared to Moss:

Jerry Rice, per season stats, 20 seasons: 81.6 catches, 1,209.6 yards, 10.4 touchdowns
Randy Moss, per season stats, 14 seasons: 72.0 catches, 1,121.6 yards, 11.4 touchdowns

They’re much closer than what you’d think, right? You’d expect Rice to have an edge in catches and yards, but the catch/yard differential is minimal. Moss is Moss when it comes to touchdown rate, but again the edge is minimal. I’m not much of a stathead, but these two guys have similar outputs, and at a glance there doesn’t seem to be a real difference.

Of course, then the anecdotes start to rain in:

  • Rice has 4 Super Bowl rings, Moss has zero
  • Rice played 20 seasons to 14 for Moss, longevity is a form of excellence, right?
  • Rice was never in trouble, while Moss found trouble like it was his job

Moss defenders could rebuttal with the following:

  • Rice played for 3 MVP’s (Montana, Young, Gannon) to 1 for Moss (Brady)
  • Rice’s career has been anchored by franchise stability, while not so much for Moss
  • While Rice is the all-time leader in the three big receiving categories (catches, yards, TD’s), he’s not a single-season leader in any of said categories: Marvin Harrison, single-season catches leader (143); Calvin Johnson, single-season yards leader (1,964); Randy Moss, single-season touchdowns leader (23)

Let’s hear that quote again from Randall Gene, if you please:

“Now that I’m older, I do think I’m the greatest receiver to ever do it,” Moss said at Super Bowl media day in New Orleans. “I don’t really live on numbers. I really live on impact and what you’re able to do out on the field, I really think I’m the greatest receiver to ever play this game.”

There will be many that will go down to the grave believing that Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver that ever lived, and there will never be anything wrong in believing that. But forgive me, and Randy Moss, if we choose to feel otherwise. To borrow an analogy I heard from Bomani Jones awhile back, watching Jerry Rice was like watching Eric Clapton play the guitar. So precise, so technical, so efficient in their art that you could only watch in awe to the level of preparation one could take in mastering their craft. Watching Randy Moss is much more like watching Jimi Hendrix strum the strings. A raw, yet natural expression of power and creativity, being unleashed for all to marvel at. Doing it “the right way” isn’t always “the best way” for Moss, but if it feels good then you go with it.

Watching Rice execute a 7-route to perfection will never get old. Watching Moss run a 9-route on three defenders will also never get old. You take Clapton, I’ll take Hendrix, let’s just turn up the speakers and rock out for the night.