The Best Wide Receiver of All Time
The best fans of any sport know stats don’t tell the whole story. Stats play a huge role in judging which players are good, bad, or legendary. If stats were the only thing to judge a player by then the man who scored the most points in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, should be the best right? Most would answer that with a no. Well if stats don’t determine who the best of all time is, maybe it is championships that determine the best of all time. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, but you won’t find any basketball fan who thinks he is the best of all time. It is a consensus that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever.
How about in baseball? What do you use to determine the best baseball player of all time? Do you go by home runs or strikeouts? Do you look at how many championships a player has won? Is Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds the best baseball player ever?
How about in football? How do you determine who was the best of all time? Is it how much you ran for, threw for, or how many yards you caught passes for? Or are championships how you determine who the best of all time is?
There is no way to definitively determine who the best of all time is, it’s subjective. That is why there are sports debates about who the best is. Stats and championships don’t tell the entire story, which is why the eye test is so important when judging sports. Circumstances, such as teammates or coaches, affect who the best ever is as well.
There are issues with the eye too. A 13-year-old can’t possibly have seen how great Barry Sanders was without watching the film. Players from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s don’t have a lot of film on them to show people growing up now how great they were. When you bring stats, championships, circumstances, and the eye test all together, then it is possible to determine who the best really is.
So with all that said, who is the best wide receiver of all time?
Who Most Would Say
No matter how old you are or how long you have been a fan of football, if someone were to ask you who the best wide receiver of all time is, who would you answer? Jerry Rice, without hesitation. Nobody even thinks about it because it has been the answer for such a long time. How could it not be Jerry Rice? Rice had one of the greatest careers in NFL history. He played for 20 seasons in the NFL. Rice is a 13-time Pro Bowler, a three-time Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP.
Six times Rice led the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Rice still holds recordings for most receptions all-time (1,549), most receiving yards all-time (22,895), most receiving touchdowns all-time (197), and most all-purpose yards all-time (23,546). Perhaps the best season of Rice’s career came in a shortened 1987 season. In just 12 games, Rice finished with 65 receptions, 1,078 yards, and an astonishing 22 touchdowns. That is impressive to say the least. Rice has the stats, the championships, and the eye test as good as anyone in history. He also was always in the best of circumstances.
Rice came into the league with an established two-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, Joe Montana. He played with Montana from 1985 until 1990. Once Montana was gone, Rice began catching passes from another Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young. From his rookie season in 1985 until 1998, Rice was fortunate enough to play with these all-time greats. Towards the end of Rice’s career, he caught passes from both Jeff Garcia and Rich Gannon. These quarterbacks were good as well.
Jeff Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler and in his two seasons with Rice compiled 6,822 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Rich Gannon was also a four-time Pro Bowler and in his three seasons with Rice compiled 9,791 yards, 59 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. Rice has never had an inadequate quarterback and was blessed to play with two Hall of Famers in his career.
Jerry Rice is one of the greatest players of all time and this is not to take away from his greatness. His stats are remarkable and are a testament to his longevity. There is just one receiver who was a better football player and had he been fortunate enough to have 14 seasons with Hall of Fame quarterbacks, such as Rice, he would be unequivocally considered the greatest receiver of all time.
Who is Really the Best WR of All Time?
To describe the best wide receiver of all time, one would say he was, “straight cash homie”. That’s right, Randy Moss was the best receiver to ever set foot on the gridiron. He was so great his name became a verb. Anytime someone out-jumped a defender for a ball, the saying was, “he got mossed.” It takes a special kind of greatness for the world to turn your name into a verb like that.
Moss ranks 15th all-time in receptions (982), third all-time in receiving yards (15,292), and second all-time in receiving touchdowns (156). The stats are pretty remarkable over a 15-year career. He also holds the record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season with 23. Statistically speaking, he has been one of the best of all time. As far as championships go, Randy Moss never won a Super Bowl. It is one of the major accomplishments missing from his career.
The eye test is one of the areas Randy Moss excelled at above all. The man could flat out burn anybody and had some of the best hands in NFL history. This video shows how Moss revolutionized the game and became a defense’s worst nightmare.
Moss has the best eye test of any receiver in the history of football. His explosion, hands, and speed are unmatched. As mentioned before, one of the biggest flaws is the fact that he never won a Super Bowl. Moss was also rarely in a good quarterback situation. In his rookie season, he had both Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson under center. The following year in 1999, Jeff George took most of the snaps. There was a bit more stability from 2000-2004 with Daunte Culpepper, but once Moss was traded to the Raiders, the instability continued.
In Moss’ two seasons with the Raiders, he had three quarterbacks: Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, and Aaron Brooks. Before ending up with Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2007, Moss had played in the NFL for nine seasons and had seven different quarterbacks. To compare that with Jerry Rice’s first nine seasons, Rice only had two quarterbacks. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
Moss only spent three seasons with a quarterback of the same caliber as when Rice had Montana and Young. In those three seasons with the Patriots, Moss played in 48 games and amassed an amazing 422 receptions, 3,765 yards, and 47 touchdowns.
This makes you wonder, what if Moss had 14 seasons with Brady, a Hall of Fame quarterback like when Rice had with both Montana and Young? Moss didn’t play as long as Rice so it is hard to speculate. How about if Moss just had seven seasons with Brady? What would his all-time numbers look like then? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that after Moss left Minnesota he went straight to New England and finished his career there for seven seasons.
His stats after leaving Minnesota were 574 receptions, 9,142 yards, and 90 touchdowns. Moss averaged 83 receptions, 1,255 yards, and 15.7 touchdowns with Brady. Over 7 seasons, based on what he averaged with Brady for his three years in New England, his career stats would have finished with 1,155 receptions, 17,927 yards, and 200 touchdowns. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous to think about.
Now for the sake of more argument, let’s say he spent 14 seasons in the NFL with Tom Brady, similar to Rice’s 14 seasons with Montana and Young. Moss’s career stats would be 1,162 receptions, 17,570 yards, and 220 touchdowns. The receptions and yards don’t change significantly, but the touchdowns sure do. 220 is unthinkable and Rice finished with 197. Had Moss spent more time with a Hall of Fame quarterback, more people wouldn’t hesitate to call Moss the best of all time. Longevity also really helped out Rice’s overall numbers as well. 20 seasons is a long time and it is rare for a player to last that long in such a violent sport.
The stats don’t tell the entire story of who is really the best. Super Bowl trophies tell the story of how a team did, not an individual. Looking at the eye test, and given the circumstances Moss had to deal with, it is clear to see that he truly was the best wide receiver of all time.
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