Jerry Rice: Still Winning After Retirement

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 16, 2011



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts Receiving Threat


The shockingly fast decline and subsequent retirement (we think) of wide receiver Randy Moss offered more perspective on how amazing of a career Jerry Rice had, and how unlikely it is that his records will ever be broken.
 
Rice, chosen as the greatest player in NFL history for The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players, set the standard for which all modern receivers are judged by.

The problem is he set the bar way too high, and everyone that has come along since pales in comparison.

Including Moss, of course, who Rice more or less said paled in comparison during some recent comments.

“It was hard for me to swallow because I was not as talented and I had to work harder. To see a guy with that much talent not give it 100 percent, it was almost like a little slap in the face. But Randy was Randy,” said Rice. He went on to add that Moss “could have been one of the greatest if he had worked just a little bit harder. I don’t think he wanted to give it 100 percent. You never knew what you were going to get with Randy. Sometimes you’d get the unbelievable guy, the amazing guy. Other times you’d get the guy that took a couple plays off.”

But Rice didn't, and the record books show it.

There are receivers that have come along to break some of his lesser receiving records. Moss caught 23 touchdowns in 2007, breaking Rice’s record of 22 in 1987, a strike-shortened year in which he only played 12 games (Moss had to play 16). Marvin Harrison caught a record 143 passes in 2002, and ties Rice as the only receivers to have four seasons with 100+ receptions. Rice's teammate Terrell Owens caught a then-record 20 receptions (on 22 targets) on "Jerry Rice Day" in 2000.

The career marks, though, 22,895 yards, 197 touchdowns and 1,549 catches, are all in a stratosphere all their own.

Moss, Harrison, and Owens had the best opportunities to break Rice’s career records, and in the end, they weren’t even close. The greatness of these three receivers, all Hall of Fame-worthy even if they raise some flags for character issues, should not be undermined. But because they all started their careers post-Rice, they are held to his standard, and they come up short.
 
How far short? Far.
 
Distance from Rice Catches Yards Rec. TD
Randy Moss 595 8037 44
Marvin Harrison 447 8315 69
Terrell Owens 471 6961 44
 
Even just using the bare minimum for each column, these are not numbers to scoff at. Just 91 players have ever had 447 catches, 6961 yards and 44 receiving touchdowns in their entire careers, and that's how many an old Terrell Owens would need to get to Rice.

THE GRANDEST OF OLD MEN

That is where Rice really separated himself. He was the best receiver in the regular season, the best in the postseason, the best on Monday Night Football, and he was the best “old man” receiver the league has ever seen.
 
 
Top 20 In Receiving Yards, Age 34+
Rk Player From To G GS Rec Yards TD Y/G
1 Jerry Rice* 1996 2004 131 125 607 7772 51 59.3
2 Charlie Joiner* 1981 1986 88 80 325 4858 25 55.2
3 Terrell Owens 2007 2010 61 58 277 4219 39 69.2
4 Tim Brown 2000 2004 79 67 324 3990 25 50.5
5 Irving Fryar 1996 2000 78 54 289 3869 26 49.6
6 Joey Galloway 2005 2010 69 55 234 3736 23 54.1
7 Cris Carter 1999 2002 53 49 267 3452 29 65.1
8 Drew Hill 1990 1993 64 53 258 3135 12 49.0
9 Jimmy Smith 2003 2005 44 44 198 3000 16 68.2
10 Isaac Bruce 2006 2009 56 48 211 2930 14 52.3
11 Derrick Mason 2008 2010 48 47 214 2867 19 59.7
12 Art Monk* 1991 1995 67 51 210 2786 16 41.6
13 Rod Smith 2004 2006 48 48 216 2761 16 57.5
14 James Lofton* 1990 1993 57 46 157 2753 18 48.3
15 Henry Ellard 1995 1998 54 42 147 2619 11 48.5
16 Don Maynard* 1969 1973 51 0 129 2399 10 47.0
17 Marvin Harrison 2006 2008 36 36 175 2249 18 62.5
18 Frank Lewis 1981 1983 35 35 134 2173 9 62.1
19 Muhsin Muhammad 2007 2009 46 44 158 2074 9 45.1
20 Keenan McCardell 2004 2007 47 34 159 2003 11 42.6
 
You can view a full list here
 
Rice was head and shoulders above anyone else at age 34+. Just the numbers he accumulated in that portion of his career alone (607/7772/51) would put him in high regard (just 42 players have done that in their entire career).

WHIPPERSNAPPERS NEED NOT APPLY

So, can anyone playing now catch him?  How about two younger guys that are still playing: Andre Johnson (30) and Larry Fitzgerald (28)?
 
Distance from Rice Age Rec Yards TD
Andre Johnson 30 876 13731 147
Average season needed (11 yrs): 40 79.6 1248.3 13.4
Larry Fitzgerald 28 936 14691 132
Average season needed (13 yrs): 40 72.0 1130.1 10.2
 
Good luck, guys.
 
Only Rice (14) and Moss (10) had at least ten seasons in their career with 1,000+ receiving yards. Given how rare it is for a player to have a 70/1100/10 season in his 30s (only done 33 times by 21 players), you would probably be making a safer bet on Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams (65/964/11 as a rookie) and Julio Jones (Atlanta’s rookie who has yet to play a down) breaking Rice’s records than you would on Johnson or Fitzgerald.
 
What will it take for someone to surpass Rice’s career receiving records? If they start playing 20-game regular seasons with teams averaging 800 pass attempts a year, then maybe you’ll find someone that could do it.

Maybe.

It is a testament to Rice’s work ethic, practice habits, durability, longevity, production, and determination to be the best receiver of all time that set him so far apart from the rest. Every time a superstar receiver retires from the game well short of Rice’s legendary marks, it’s just another reaffirmation of who the greatest of all time is.

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