In NFL circles many coaches and players believe Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver in league history. However, his career pales in comparison to former Minnesota Vikings standout Randy Moss.
Besides route running, Moss was superior to Rice in every other facet of playing receiver. Nobody had his combination of size, speed, hands, and leaping ability. Standing at six-foot-four and weighing about 205 pounds, Moss recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.25 seconds and a vertical leap of 51 inches at his NFL combine. In comparison, Rice stood at six-foot-two and weighed 200 pounds. His 40-yard dash time was only 4.59 seconds, according to his coach Bill Walsh.
Even Warren Sapp, Hall-of-Famer and former teammate of Rice, preferred Moss.
“Randy Moss is ‘The Guillotine’ because he’ll chop your head off with one play. Jerry Rice was like Zorro’s sword, slicing you up with precision and skill and making you die a slow death. Randy Moss is Excalibur. When nothing else works, you pull out that sword and its instant death.”
Moss was a threat to score at any given point of the game. He struck absolute fear into the hearts of defensive backs. After torching the league with a rookie record 17 touchdown catches in 1998, the division rival Green Bay Packers drafted four defensive backs in the 1999 Draft just to defend him.
Another reason Moss edges Rice is supporting cast. Rice played with two hall-of-fame quarterbacks, Joe Montana and Steve Young, during his days with the 49ers. That team had already won two Super Bowls before drafting Rice in 1985. Even during Rice’s years with the Oakland Raiders, league MVP Rich Gannon threw him the ball. Rice never had subpar play at the quarterback position throughout his career
Moss on the other hand played with 20 different quarterbacks over the course of his career. That list includes journeymen such as Gus Frerotte, Andrew Walters, and Aaron Brooks. He also had a past-his-prime Randall Cunningham who was retired before joining Minnesota. He went on to have his best career season statistically during his first season with Moss.
The best quarterback Moss had was former MVP Tom Brady for two seasons and in 2007, he set the all-time record for touchdown catches in a season. Despite mostly subpar quarterback play in his career, Moss still finished his career with 156 touchdowns, second to Rice’s 197.
With Jerry Rice’s career accomplishments, he has definitely made his case for the greatest wide receiver of all time. He was probably the most precise route runner the game has ever seen. Rice was also one of the reasons the NFL has the stat, yards after catch (YAC). He was a phenomenal player.
However, his production would tail off dramatically if he had the sub par quarterbacks Moss had. Could Rice set the records he achieved with Aaron Brooks and Gus Frerotte throwing him the ball? Take him out of Bill Walsh’s system and he would be just another very good receiver, hall-of-fame worthy but not the greatest of all time. Now imagine if Moss catching passes from Joe Montana and Steve Young for over a decade. His numbers would have shattered Rice’s.