Holler: Even Moss ‘apologist' disagrees

Randy Moss (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

There are many reasons to be impressed with what Randy Moss has accomplished in his career, but his claim to be the best wide receiver of all time doesn't stand up in Jerry Rice's shadow.

Media Day at the Super Bowl is the equivalent to media hogs feeding at a trough. They're all looking for the good chunk of slop to inhale. At times, that isn't as easy as it would seem. Had New England won the AFC title, Hoodie Nation would have likely been suspiciously quiet.

Instead, we got Randy.

As Arsenio Hall said in Coming to America, "You remember Randy!"

Randy Moss, a first-ballot Hall of Famer if you only factor in his freakish on-field ability, used the world stage of the Super Bowl to announce that he is the greatest wide receiver of all-time.

As someone who has consistently been (rightfully) accused of being a Moss apologist, I can defend my stance with immunity by simply saying, "I was there in '98." Moss changed the game.

Viking Update has chronicled how those most deeply impacted by Moss (the Packers, Bears and Lions) responded to one selection made by the Vikings in the 1998 draft. The result of that one pick impacted three organizations for five years. If you're building a Hall of Fame résumé, that's an undeniable foundation. From the start of the 1999 season and for the next five years, Green Bay drafted secondary help heavily. Detroit used free agency to address their problems. The Bears did nothing and suffered. Each took a separate approach. All failed.

But, on Tuesday, Randy decided to say he was the greatest of all time. If he played any other position than wide receiver, he could get support for his claim. Even from an accused "apologist" like me.

What made Moss' comments disturbing was that he plays for the San Francisco 49ers, Jerry Rice's home. If Colin Kaepernick claimed he was the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, he would be quickly shot down and humiliated – not by Joe Montana or Steve Young, but John Brodie and Jeff Garcia would be stepping up ready to throw down.

When Moss claimed to be the best receiver of all time Tuesday (and on Wednesday backed it up by saying he stands by his comments), he did so knowing that, in his brief stint in San Francisco, he was living in the shadow of Rice – a long shadow to say the least.

Fodder for sports talk radio types is to get into the argument of the greatest player at a given position. The reason why that topic is a fossil fuel for that industry is that a case can be made at any other position as to who is the best. Pick a position. Start the debate. In case you need a discussion topic, I contend Deion Sanders may be the greatest player of all time because, in the minds of a significant number of offensive coordinators, he reduced the field to two-thirds of its size – even though he didn't like to "get dirty" and muscle up. By it's nature, the value of a player is subjective.

Who's the greatest quarterback of all time? From a big-game perspective, Cool Joe Montana is the king. But, by that standard, Terry Bradshaw is in the mix. As far at talent goes, Johnny Unitas used to be the benchmark. Fran Tarkenton was in the conversation. Dan Marino, John Elway, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady all have their supporters.

The same is true at running back. Someone can make a case for Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, etc. Pick a position and you have a subject for debate – with one exception. Wide receiver. Rice so dominated the position that he redefined it. Playing in an era before quarterbacks and receivers were afforded the protection they current receive, Rice didn't have blazing speed, but he was as hard a worker as the game has even seen. Moss? Not so much.

When the debate at wide receiver comes up, Moss is competing for second place all-time. He was a member of the NFL's most prolific offense in league history in 1998 with the Vikings. When that record was broken in 2007 by the Patriots, Moss was on that team too. It can be argued he was the biggest game-breaker at his position, but the best of all-time? Not a chance.

For my money (and that of many Vikings fans), Moss is the greatest wide receiver we have ever seen. We didn't see Rice week in and week out. But the numbers tell the story. Moss is one of the all-time greats and will eventually join Rice in the Hall of Fame. But, the best of all time? Not even this "apologist" agrees with that.

THURSDAY NOTES

  • The rumor that the Vikings may have an interest in aging Packers receiver Donald Driver was just that – a rumor. Driver and the Packers announced his retirement, but even before that the Vikings have made it clear they're interested in young talent. Not only have they purged most of the players over the age of 30 off their roster, but they have made almost all of their free agent signings and trades for players in their mid- to late-20s.

  • Brett Favre will be jumping in his pickup and driving a couple hours west this weekend. On Wednesday, Favre was announced as a guest analyst for Sunday's NFL Network coverage of the Super Bowl (or what Pizza Hut is legally forced to refer to as "The Big Game.")

  • In one of the stranger moves of the Super Bowl weekend, the NFL announced Wednesday that 26 children from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. will sing "America the Beautiful." An invitation to the Super Bowl may have been enough.

  • From the Boys In Vegas Said (But Aren't Sayin' Nothin') Department comes this: The anticipated handle on legal bets on the Super Bowl is expected to be in the neighborhood of $95 million. That figure simply covers the amount of money wagered through sports books in Nevada. The amount of betting nationwide could be 10 times that much – making almost $1 billion changing hands on Sunday.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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