The 34-year old Moss spent the 2010 season on three different teams (New England, Minnesota and Tennessee), setting career-lows in receptions (28) and yards (393) with five touchdown catches. It was just the third time in his 13-year professional career that The Freak failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a single season.
While many still believe his "retirement" from the game will be brief and that he will get the urge to return to the field with a contender and work towards earning that coveted Super Bowl championship, I am set to believe that Moss will never step foot on a field again.
Throughout his career, the supernatural talent of Moss has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, who is without a doubt the best wide receiver in NFL history–possibly even the best player in NFL history.
The Rice/Moss comparisons have surely been abundant amongst fans and "experts." And although a majority say Rice wins in a landslide, there's plenty of evidence that Moss isn't as far behind Rice as we think.
First off, let's take a look at what the Hall of Fame voters will be looking at first and foremost: career numbers..
Note: all-time rank in parenthesis
Rice–SF, OAK, SEA: 1,549 receptions (1), 22,895 yards (1), 197 TDs (1), 14.8 YPC, 10 rushing TDs in 21 seasons
Moss–MIN, OAK, NE, TEN: 954 receptions (t-8), 14,858 yards (5), 153 TDs (t-2), 15.6 YPC in 13 seasons
It's obvious Rice's numbers trump Moss's by a longshot, and that his numbers are clearly the best of any other receiver to step foot on an NFL field. But what people don't understand is that Rice played for over two decades. Of course his career stats are going to stack up extremely well against the rest of the competition, he played for a long time.
The other top receivers in history? Cris Carter (Moss' teammates in Minnesota), Tim Brown, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce, Art Monk, Steve Largent, Rod Smith, James Lofton. NONE, and I mean none of the receivers named in the previous sentence played for as long as Rice did.
That's what made Rice so great, though, is that he was able to stay in shape and was even a huge asset to the Oakland Raiders' AFC Champion squad in 2002. At age 40, Rice's stateline was a Pro Bowl-worthy 92 receptions 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns for Rich Gannon's offense.
Rice's prime produced him three Super Bowl championships under Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco. Rice's approach to the game–calm, collective and very non-diva-like–paved the way for the receiving position. In his day, circus catches were the norm, and crying and complaining about his team were not.
Rice gave 110% in every game, and was a total team player.
Moss? Not quite so much. In fact, he usually just "did him," as hip-hop artists in today's society often like to call it. Meaning he did what he wanted, when he wanted, and didn't really care about anyone else. If he didn't like the situation he was in, he would throw a hissy fit and sometimes even not make a full attempt while on the football field.
This attitude gave Moss a bad rep, and may hurt his chances at reaching the Hall of Fame on first ballot. Which is a silly claim to make.
His bad attitude should not hurt his chances, because whether fans like it or not, Moss's production–and circus catches–are up to par with Rice's.
Before you try and call B.S. on me, take a gander at Rice and Moss's season averages (Note: Rice made 284 starts in 21 seasons while Moss made 191 starts in 13 seasons)..
Rice: 73.8 Rec., 1,090 yards, 9.4 TD in 14 starts
Moss: 73.4 Rec., 1,142 yards, 11.8 TD in 15 starts
It's a pretty tough comparison. Moss did more with his receptions, meaning he had a much better YPC average, yet Rice was thrown to more often. Let's just say, Moss played along side future HOF wideout Cris Carter part of his career and played with future HOF quarterback (Tom Brady) for another part of it. While Rice played with two Hall of Fame signal callers in Montana and Young.
They both received assistance in putting up astounding career numbers, both made numerous highlight-reel circus catches on the norm, and both changed the way defensive coordinators went about in weekly game-planning.
Overall, I do agree with the masses in that Rice will still go down as the best receiver the game has ever seen, but there's no doubt that Moss is right behind him. One of the league's first divas, Moss did more with less in Minnesota, while Rice was pampered in San Francisco's west coast offense with Walsh and Montana.
After all of this back-and-forth debating of the two's careers, I really don't think it's fair for Rice and Moss to be compared. Rice revolutionized the passing game with his big plays and clutch Super Bowl performances, not to mention his continual burning of opposing defensive backs. But at the same time Moss shouldn't be punished for his attitude towards his teammates.
Football is the ultimate team game, and a better attitude from Mr. Moss would have, no doubt, helped his career out quite a bit. But nevertheless his production was there, and it was up to the same level as Rice.
Well, except for all those accolades Rice earned in his two decades as a player: 13 Pro Bowl selections, 12 First Team All Pro selections, three Super Bowl championships, Super Bowl MVP, Pro Bowl MVP, PFWA MVP, two-time AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, NFL 75th Anniversary All-time Team, 1980s All-Decade Team, 1990s All-Decade Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame. His #80 jersey is retired in San Francisco and, of course, he still holds several NFL receiving records.
Gotta love Rice's love and approach to the game, and he trumps Moss in personal accolades. But Moss is a close No. 2 to Jerry.
**Photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**