Randy Moss made headlines this week on Media Day at the Super Bowl when he said he thought he was the greatest receiver to ever play the game.
Those comments, not surprisingly, started a firestorm of media analysis and opinion of whether the current San Francisco 49ers pass catcher's career can stand up to that of a former 49ers' pass catcher.
Jerry Rice, widely considered the greatest, has receiving statistics that no one can match. He has Super Bowl wins as a bonus, too.
But Moss does stand alone, however, in the Super Bowl era by one definition which he spelled out Tuesday.
"I don't really live on numbers. I really live on impact and what you're able to do out on the field," said the 35-year old, a veteran of five NFL teams. "I really think I'm the greatest receiver to ever play this game."
No team knows that "impact" more than the Green Bay Packers. In a 1998 Monday night game at Lambeau Field, Moss burst onto the scene as a rookie with 190 yards receiving and two touchdowns to help the Minnesota Vikings end the Packers' 25-game home winning streak. Later that season in the rematch, he caught eight passes for 153 yards and a touchdown giving him 26.4 yards per catch against the Packers in two games. For the season, he posted a rookie-record 17 touchdown receptions and 19.0 yards per catch on 69 catches.
So explosive was Moss as a rookie that he made Ron Wolf take drastic measures. The following off-season the Packers general manager selected defensive backs with his first three picks in the NFL Draft to try to combat the NFC Central's new weapon.
Moss continued to have big games against the Packers anyway, and against the rest of the league for that matter. During his first stint with the Vikings (1998-2004) what he really did was change the receiver position not unlike that of a Packers' legend from decades before the first Super Bowl.
End Don Hutson (1935-45) had maybe more influence on how the game is played on offense than any other player. Credited with inventing pass patterns, and a possessor of world-class speed for his era (9.5 in the 100-yard dash), Hutson was the central piece in the Packers becoming the first dominant passing attack of the NFL.
Hutson's greatest season, 1942, was the most dominant receiving season in NFL history. That year he caught 74 passes for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns. The next closest player in the league in catches had just 27. The next closest in yards had just 571. And the next closest in receiving touchdowns had just eight.
In 2007, Moss set an NFL record with 23 receiving touchdowns, seven more than his next closest suitor that season. He broke Rice's record of 22 touchdown catches, set in just 12 games in the strike-shortened 1987 season.
Rice had three league MVP's – Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Rich Gannon – throwing him the ball for much of his career.
Moss made his hay with Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper, and Kerry Collins before going to New England in 2007. Tom Brady was the only MVP he played with for an extended period (sorry Favre fans, not counting four games with Brett in 2010 in Minnesota). Not coincidentally, Brady set the NFL record with 50 touchdown passes in 2007 playing with Moss.
In the same way that Huston was a never before seen-type of receiver, so was Moss. This was the impact he spoke of Tuesday. Game-planning for both Hutson and Moss in their primes meant virtually nothing.
After a game against Hutson in 1942, New York Giants coach Steve Owen said, "The best way to stop Don Hutson is to let him catch a pass in the end zone. Then he can't catch another until they get the ball again."
And over a decade ago, Favre once said this about Moss, "There is no one in this league who puts fear in people more than Randy Moss."
The difficult part with Moss is to separate his personality and work ethic, both of which rubbed some people the wrong way during his career. Moss "played when he wanted to play," something he would not deny. There is none of that with Rice who was the complete package.
There were big receivers before Moss. There were fast receivers before Moss. But no receiver has ever had the combination of size and speed quite like Moss. Look at any list of top receivers in the Super Bowl era and try to find a better vertical threat. Try to find a better big-play receiver. Try to find someone who played more freakish.
Greatest of all-time? Probably not.
Revolutionary in his own way? No doubt.
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org