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Randy Moss vs. Jerry Rice: Brian Billick raises an interesting point

On media day, Randy Moss proclaimed himself the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. We take a look at the hypothetical that could make that true.

Andy Lyons

One of the big "non-stories" of the week has been Randy Moss' proclamation that he is the greatest wide receiver to play the game. Naturally most everybody laughed it off, pointing to Jerry Rice's various numbers as the clear indicator of his superiority. Moss said he didn't think numbers told the whole story, although you could then point to Super Bowl rings and so forth.

On Wednesday, I had a chance to have lunch with Brian Billick and two other writers. We had a chance to talk a lot of football as part of a deal with Thuzio. They are a company started by Tiki Barber that works to create "experiences" where people can meet with professional athletes for dinner, bowling, just talking or whatever. Interesting concept, so we'll see how it pans out.

have a bit more on that at some point this week or next week. Billick was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota during Moss' rookie year, so I wanted to ask him about Moss and his comments.

Billick quickly pointed to the numbers, the rings and so forth as to why Jerry Rice was the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. However, he then followed with a hypothetical: Who would you take if you could have one guy at the absolute height of his abilities. His idea was that if you could have all of Moss' freakish natural talent, combined with the times he did show the necessary mental side of things and was on board with the program, Moss might be that guy.

I have always felt that Randy Moss was in the argument for most physically gifted wide receiver in NFL history. Whatever you think about all the side stuff, his combination of speed, strength and athleticism, was absurd. However, there were always the questions about times when he might not have cared as much, or might not have put as much into things as he could have.

In purely hypothetical terms, I can see how that could rank Randy Moss as the greatest of all time. Of course, Brian Billick was in PR before he became a coach, and I have my legal background, so we can couch things in all sorts of conditions.

However, the fact that you have to couch it in those terms says a lot. I am a huge Randy Moss fan, but given the skills he brought to the table, I do think he has "under-performed" when you look at his overall body of work. That is saying a lot considering on the all-time charts, he is third in receiving yards, second in receiving touchdowns and ninth in receptions. He did have some question marks at times at quarterback, so it is hard to make that comparison with Jerry Rice playing with two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

I think my comment about Moss' freakish athleticism stands with some measure of validity. But given how much any hypothetical about his greatness compared to Jerry Rice has to be couched with conditions, the discussion begins and ends with Jerry Rice. Not a shocking conclusion, but I think still fun to work through some of the permutations.