By J.R. Lebert aka jrlebert

I can certainly respect debate about who is better at many positions in the NFL. Some of the higher profile skill positions are certainly up for rather impassioned discussions. Is it Barry, Emmitt, Jim Brown, or, now, Adrian Peterson at running back? When it comes to signal callers, the debate rages between Montana, Peyton Manning, Brady, or Elway. One position, however, that of wide receiver, is as easy of an open and shut case for the number one spot as exists in all of professional sports. Jerry Rice is clearly the greatest of all time.

There are many different factors when considering the greatest wideout ever. Simple counting stats are definitely a part of the equation. Championships are certainly a factor. Longevity, impact on the game and physical attributes should certainly be considered as well. Lastly, one’s team and cast of teammates are also worth discussing.

Personal opinions aside, there can be no debate. It’s Jerry, and nobody else. I will even go as far as to say that the debate for the #2 pass catcher of all-time, whether it is Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, or even Tony Gonzalez, is a MUCH closer debate than that of #1. To reply directly to Dhays12, however, I will keep the comparisons between Rice and Moss, for the most part.

I’ll tackle the attributes in the order I listed them above. First, there are the statistics. No matter how you slice it, Rice destroys Moss up and down the line. Total catches: Rice leads Moss by 567 grabs, 1,549-982. To put that in comparison, only 77 other players in NFL history even have 567 catches. That’s more grabs than Hall Of Famers Lance Alworth, John Stallworth, Kellen Winslow Sr., Don Hutson, and Tommy McDonald. Receiving yards: Rice leads by 7,603 yards. Think about that… that is seven more years of 1000 yards receiving for Moss, something he already did TEN times in his career. It’s also more yards than HOFers Bob Hayes, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, and Dante Lavelli. Though Randy ranks second in receiving TD’s, it’s 41 touchdowns behind Rice. Perhaps if he would have caught more than just 8 TDs in his last three years, from 2010-2012, despite playing in 32 games, he would be closer to Rice.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that Moss played in far fewer games than Rice. Jerry’s total games played, 303, ranks 6th in NFL history, compared to Randy’s 218, putting him 132nd as of the end of the 2012 season. If Randy truly was better, however, his per game average would show vastly superior numbers, right? Well… that may not be the case. Rice has a better yards/game average, 75.6 to 70.1, with Rice’s number ranking him 5th all-time. Rice also has a better receptions/game line, 5.1 to 4.5. Where Moss does have better numbers is TD/game, besting Jerry .720 to .686.

It must be Moss’ season totals that separate him, instead of career or per game totals! No? Jerry Rice led the league six times in yards/game and receiving yards. He also led the league twice in catches. Randy Moss NEVER led the league in any of those three categories. Rice had a dozen seasons of 80 grabs or more, while Moss had just half as many, six. The same can be said for 100 catch seasons, with Jerry holding the edge 4 to 2. While he was certainly a TD machine, Moss still comes up short in league leading TD seasons, 6 to 5. Rice had a total of 14 seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving, including an incredible 11 straight from 1986-1996. Randy had just 10 such seasons, and his best streak stops at six.

Personal accolades are never something that a player strives for, but when you have a great career, they tend to add up. Jerry Rice has been named to 13 Pro Bowls, and, more importantly, 10 AP 1st Teams. Randy Moss was named to less than half as many Pro Bowls, six, and just four AP 1st Teams. Jerry was also named the AP Offensive Player of the Year two times, an award Moss never won.

Championships, while not attributable to any single player, help to create a more complete body of work for anyone up for the title of best ever at their position. For that very reason, Dan Marino isn’t in the conversation for best QB of all time, just as Charles Barkley is out of the talk of best power forward of all time in the NBA. Even with Tom Brady at the helm for a 30-year old Randy Moss, at the peak of his best season as a pro, in his most important game he would ever play in, on the best team he ever played on, Randy was largely a non-factor. Through the first three quarters, Randy was held to just one single grab for 18 yards. He finished with a ho-hum line of 5-62-1 TD, in a disappointing loss, the only such loss for New England that year. As a 35-year old mentor/3rd WR for the 2012 49ers, Moss caught just two balls for 21 yards in another loss. Moss’s career Super Bowl record: 0-2.

When it comes to the Super Bowl spotlight, no wide receiver performed like Jerry Rice. Rice won the first 3 Super Bowl’s he appeared in. He put up box scores that were simply staggering, despite being the first offensive option on all three teams, and having the opposition game plan to stop him. His totals from those three contests: 28 catches, 512 yards, and SEVEN touchdowns. He was also named the Super Bowl MVP in 1998. Despite playing in the 2002 game at age 40, Rice still put up solid numbers. While he was held without a catch in the first half, he came back strong with a 5-77-1 TD line in the second half.

Rice was incredibly lucky, as he was able to play a difficult skill position at an extremely high level for an abnormally long time. Part of being able to do so is staying injury free. With the exception of Jerry Rice’s 1997, both players missed very little time due to injury. It’s essentially a wash there. Another large part of it, however, is having the physical attributes to last many seasons in the NFL. There is absolutely NO DEBATE that Randy’s pure physical gifts allowed him to dominate in his younger years. No wideout in NFL history came in to the league with the set of gifts that Moss did. His leaping ability and speed were unquestioningly superior than Rice’s ever were. Moss did have excellent hands, but Jerry’s rank up there with some of the best ever. Moss was also taller, by two full inches. However, Moss’s physical make-up, a bit thinner than Rice, may have contributed to his career being quite a bit shorter.

Assuming 2012 is Randy Moss’s last season, he ends his career in his 35-year old season. Moss had very little meaningful production after his 32-year old season, 2009. After that, he played in just 32 games in three seasons, sitting out 2011 entirely. His line after 2009, and after his age 32 season: 56-827-8 TDs. Oh boy…

Assuming Jerry Rice doesn’t attempt a comeback at age 50, he ended his career in his 42-year old season. He definitely hung on one year too long, but his production from ages 33-41 are downright legendary. While Moss was floundering in his 33-year old season, shuffling between three teams, Rice had one of the great seasons of all-time, putting up this video game-like line: 122-1848-15 TDs. Moss NEVER had as many grabs or yards in ANY season. Rice’s line after his age 32 season, 729-9620-66 TDs. That line would be a HOF career for any wide receiver. Also, Randy had a two year head start on Rice, drafted into the NFL during his age 21 season, while Rice was 23.

It also cannot be debated that having legends like Joe Montana and Steve Young for the large majority of your career certainly helps, but Rice was always the first offensive option on just about every team he played for, just like Moss. Moss did have seasons playing with Tom Brady, Brett Favre, and Randall Cunningham, and definitely helped to make some of his other quarterbacks better, but Rice did have a very clear advantage in terms of signal callers. Randy did play on two of the NFL’s all-time best teams, the 1998 Vikings and 2007 Patriots. However, these are also two of the most disappointing teams in NFL history, with Minnesota not making what seemed to be a pre-ordained trip to the Super Bowl in Moss’s rookie year (not his fault), and the 16-0 Patriots losing their only game in their biggest game (see above on Moss’s role).

Wherever he went, Jerry Rice was a clubhouse leader. The same cannot be said about Randy Moss. He personified the high-maintenance diva wide receiver, wearing out his welcome in Minnesota in 2004, Oakland in 2006, New England in 2009, and, astonishingly, three different teams in 2010, to the point he wasn’t even offered a contract in 2011. Only after he had a complete change of heart was he offered a shot in 2012. From all reports, he was a fantastic clubhouse guy, and someone whom younger receivers relied on heavily for his leadership and guidance. Definitely a major change for Moss, but it might be too little, too late.

To me, there is no possible way to put Moss ahead of Rice, unless you are taking only their physical gifts early in their career into account. Yes, in terms of uniform numbers, 84>80. But despite missing fewer games due to injury, starting two years earlier in age, having far better physical gifts, and playing more years in a pass-heavy offensive era than Rice, Jerry still comes out on top. It only takes looking up each player on, where it lists all kinds of information, including nicknames. Under Jerry Rice, it says “The G.O.A.T.” Under Randy Moss, it says “The Freak.” Sorry… Jerry Rice is #1.