Back in 2013, then San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss said he was the greatest wide receiver of all time. He followed that up by saying Jerry Rice had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks “his whole career.” He thought if you gave him that, his numbers would be that much greater.
Earlier this week, Football Perspective founder Chase Stuart was tweeting about that, and he pointed back to his discussion of the topic in 2013. We’ve discussed Rice’s dominance overall, but Stuart took a look at the numbers specifically during the Joe Montana and Steve Young years when Rice was playing without them. Over five seasons, that group of quarterbacks included Elvis Grbac (9 games), Jeff Kemp (6), Steve Bono (6), Mike Moroski (2), and Matt Cavanugh (1). Over 24 games, Rice caught 134 passes for 2,177 yards and 23 TDs. That creates an average season of 89 catches, 1451 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns. It’s not an apples to apples comparison to players spending whole seasons with non-HOF quarterbacks, but it is impressive nonetheless.
Stuart also looked beyond just those 24 games. Per Stuart, Moss had approximately 12,000 receiving yards not from first ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks. His time in New England with Tom Brady being the exception. Rice on the other hand had 10,000 receiving yards not from Montana or Young. That included the quarterbacks listed above, as well as significant time with Jeff Garcia and Rich Gannon. Considering the length of Rice’s career, that’s all the more impressive.
In terms of physical tools, I don’t know if anybody has had anything quite like Randy Moss. But Rice’s dominance both week-to-week, in the later stages of his career, over the course of his career, and with or without Hall of Fame quarterbacks shows why he’s the greatest and it’s not even close.