I got involved in a Twitter discussion Tuesday, shortly after San Francisco 49ers receiver Randy Moss suggested he is the best receiver in NFL history. We could debate that assertion for hours, especially as it relates to the generally-accepted G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) -- Jerry Rice -- but that's NFC West material as it relates to media day at Super Bowl XLVII.
From an NFC North perspective, however, I received some intense pressure to suggest that Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson will one day make this discussion moot. Johnson, of course, has posted two of the best seasons in NFL history for a receiver and now owns Rice's former record for yards in a season (1,964).
— Kirk Dandurand (@KirkD_9) January 29, 2013
— MMarcelloni (@MMarcelloni) January 29, 2013
The biggest hindrance to including Johnson in the conversation anytime soon is longevity. He has played six seasons, or eight fewer than Moss and 14 less than Rice. Johnson's productivity has been elite in this era, but it can't compare yet against players who performed at nearly the same level for more than twice the amount of time.
Raw numbers aren't always the best for comparing players, especially as it relates to the NFL's relatively recent passing explosion, but you would think Johnson is at least another six years away from reasonably challenging Rice and/or Moss for all-time supremacy. With that said, the chart has the best apples-to-apples comparison we can make between the three players.
If anything, the numbers reinforce how good Moss and Rice were at the beginning of their careers. Johnson is setting NFL records left and right, and he still has fewer yards and touchdowns than both of them. His 488 receptions trailed the 525 Moss caught but are ahead of Rice's 446 during a span that included the 1987 player's strike. There is some perspective for you.