Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Raiders' top FA signings: Jerry Rice
By Paul Gutierrez
With the Oakland Raiders knee deep in free agency, what better time than the present to count down the team's best-ever and worst-ever free agent signings? We begin today, then, with the fifth-best free agent signing in team history, at least, in this corner ...
The self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. was seemingly on his last legs when the cross-bay San Francisco 49ers let him go following the 2000 season and the Raiders seemed set at wide receiver with Tim Brown and Andre Rison. But Rice was too tempting to pass, so Rison's days with the Raiders were done. Good for the Raiders, bad for Rison. Rice was rejuvenated at the age of 39.
"I still felt like I could play football," he said in the NFL Network's "A Football Life: Jerry Rice."
In his first two years in Oakland, Rice caught 175 passes for 2,530 yards and 16 touchdowns and, in 2002, he was named to his 13th Pro Bowl. He became quarterback Rich Gannon's top target, much to the chagrin of Brown, as the high-powered Raiders advanced to Super Bowl XXXVII, but were thumped by their former coach in Jon Gruden and his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-21, even as Rice caught his record eighth Super Bowl touchdown pass in the game.
In 2003, at the age of 41, Rice led the Raiders with 63 catches for 869 yards but his two touchdown receptions were the fewest he had in a season, outside of 1997, when he was limited to two games due to injury.
And a year later, his tenure in Oakland crashed as his streak of 274 consecutive games with a catch came to an inglorious end, with Rice throwing an epic fit on the sidelines. It was the first time he did not have a reception since his rookie season of 1985, and Al Davis made sure to make mention of then-coach Norv Turner's miscue down the road.
"[Norv] forgot to throw him the ball and he broke his streak," Davis said four years later. "They threw him the ball, it went through his hands and then they didn't come back to him. And so Jerry Rice said he wanted to be traded."
Yeah, things didn't end so well for Rice in Oakland as he said he "can't go out like this" after being held catchless two more times in 2004 and his wish was granted with a deal to Seattle.
But for two years, the Hall of Fame-bound Rice was a potent weapon for the Raiders … as he hit 40 years of age.