NFC West colleague Mike Sando is handling our coverage of Randy Moss' continued assertions that he is the best receiver in NFL history. Based on Twitter, at least, it seems clear that NFC North blog readers remain interested in Moss' comments as well as the larger issues they spawn.
During Super Bowl XLVII media access periods on Tuesday and Wednesday, Moss has struggled to explain why he believes he has been a superior player to Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice. There are no statistics to back his claim; Rice played longer, caught more passes for more yards and more touchdowns, and also won three Super Bowl titles.
To me, there is at least one subjective argument Moss could make -- one I think he was implying with his quotes in Sando's latest post on the topic.
In short, Moss might well have changed the game to a greater degree than Rice did. To be clear, the West Coast scheme Rice helped popularize forced fundamental transformations from NFL defenses. But Moss has never been part of a revolutionary scheme. The changes he effected resulted from his unique individual skills. As Moss once joked during his time in Minnesota, the offenses he played in were best called "Moss, Go Deep."
As we discussed in 2011, when he announced a retirement that became a one-year hiatus, Moss forced opponents to develop and enhance new coverages to cover him. At the time, brackets, clouds and regular safeties over the top were exotic defenses rarely seen in the NFL. Moss forced them on a weekly basis.
Moreover, at least one team -- the Green Bay Packers -- changed their draft philosophy in response to Moss' arrival in 1998. The following year, the Packers drafted three cornerbacks. Two of them, Mike McKenzie and Antuan Edwards, were at least six feet tall, a size range the Packers deemed better suited to defend Moss.
Here's how Moss put it Wednesday, via Sando: "… Do you understand what a Cover 2, two-man, 3 Cloud, Tampa 2 is?"
Moss suggested that those defenses made it tougher to put up the kind of numbers that Rice did.
"Well, I think over the course of my career," he said, "it's not very smart for an offense to design a whole offense [around me] knowing that I'm going to be taking two and three and four guys here and there, on each and every play. It's hard for me to be able to put up numbers knowing that I have multiple guys guarding me on plays. But what I've been able to do, I'm happy with it."
I don't think that element alone elevates Moss above Rice, nor does the fact that Rice played most of his career with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. (Moss said Wednesday, via ESPN's Rick Reilly, that: "Jerry Rice had two hall of fame QBs his whole career. Give me that and see where my numbers are." But this argument isn't as much of a landslide toward Rice as many would suggest.