|09-05-2005, 12:59 PM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Oct 2003
Imagine if Rice could run
Some guys have it, some guys don't. Some guys get faster when it matters most, some guys slow down.
If Jerry Rice didn't create the concept of game speed, he perfected it.
Of all the amazing gifts Rice brought to a football field, the one that always stood out the most for me was the fact that, though he couldn't break 4.5 in the 40, he could run by anyone with the ball in the air.
Who knows, maybe Rice really ran a 4.25 but was sandbagging it in all those meaningless sprints at combines and in training camp. That way corners and safeties would be certain they could run with him, until, that is, they were watching his back as he crossed the goal line.
Guys who clock a 4.5 in the 40 just aren't supposed to take a 10-yard skinny post all the way to the house over and over again. (So be wary all you speed-snob scouts who have seen Mike Williams run a 4.59 and a 4.61 and are now changing your evaluation of him. You would do well to remember that no one has ever been able to cover him.)
When Jerry Rice announced his retirement Monday, he did so as the greatest football player who ever lived. Better than Jim Brown. Better than Lawrence Taylor. Better even than Joe Montana.
How can you compare the best wide receiver of all time to a linebacker who revolutionized his position, you ask? Isn't that comparing apples and oranges? Well, yes, and for crying out loud it's time someone said it: a great orange is way better than a great apple. An orange just has way more upside than an apple. And the gap between Rice and the other superstars at his position is much wider than that of the other claimants to the title of All-Time Greatest NFL Player.
True, the current receiving triumvirate of Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss has been posting Rice-like numbers as the game has moved into the 21st century. And still not one of them is yet halfway to Rice's staggering touchdown total.
When I was a kid I would invent fictional sports teams, one for every season: football, basketball, hockey, baseball. These uber teams would be stacked with All-Stars and would always win the fictional championships being played out in my driveway. Ultimately, I had to come up with entire leagues so my teams would have real opponents to vanquish. Entire rosters would be dreamt up, statistics meticulously kept. (Man, I had a lot of time on my hands when I was a kid.)
Of course, my imaginary stars would shatter the records of their real-life counterparts. Shane Tanner would edge Rogers Hornsby's .424 on the final day of the season. Nick Ballasard would go top shelf for his 93rd goal of the season to break Wayne Gretzky's single-season mark. Derek Wainraft would lay out for the catch that would break Elroy Hirsch's NFL record for receiving yards in a season. (That's right, my fictional league refused to recognize the records of the bombs-away AFL.) Only Wilt Chamberlain's absurd records remained unchallenged. Even my elastic imagination couldn't stretch all the way to 50.4 points per game.
Then along came the Wilt Chamberlain of the NFL. Not only did Jerry Rice break every real record in the game, he shattered all the imaginary ones I had dreamed up too.
No matter how many times you look up Rice's records to confirm his greatness, they never fail to stun.
208 career touchdowns — In a sport where the average career lasts four seasons, this number is just nutty. It's twenty seasons averaging over 10 TDs a year. Or ten seasons averaging over 20. Or 15 seasons averaging almost 14 TDs a year. No matter how you break it down, it's ridiculous.
22,895 receiving yards — I'm going to spare you the tortured conversion to miles that is supposed to heighten our incredulity. It's unnecessary. Rice has an almost 8,000-yard lead on Tim Brown, who is second with 14,934 receiving yards. By comparison, all-time rushing king Emmitt Smith has a smaller lead on No. 15 Ricky Watters than Rice has on his runner-up.
1,549 receptions — Rice has 448 more receptions than No. 2 man Cris Carter. In other words, if you added Hall of Famer Lynn Swann's career reception total(336) to Carter's, you'd still be over a hundred short of Rice's mark. You could add Swann's numbers to the career totals of fellow Hall inductees Fred Biletnikoff (589) and Paul Warfield (427) and come up 197 receptions short of Rice's record. Grab a copy of Total Football and make up your own combinations who can't measure up to Rice even when their standing on each other's shoulders.
The only numbers more mind-boggling than Rice's career numbers are his Super Bowl records. In four games, he caught 33 passes for 589 yards and eight touchdowns. That's right, on the biggest stage, Jerry Rice averaged 8.25 catches, 147 yards and two touchdowns per start in four Super Bowls. He could easily have won three Super Bowl MVPs instead of just his lone Rozelle Award for his 11-catch, 215-yard dismantling of the Bengals in XXIII. Rice was passed over in favor of quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young in XXIV and XXIX despite scoring three touchdowns in each game. Hard to believe that Swann and Biletnikoff both won MVP awards for games in which they had only four catches. In Rice's worst Super Bowl — at age 40 with the Raiders — he caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
While he did most of his record-setting in San Francisco, his first two seasons in Oakland may just be the two most remarkable years any player has ever put together in the NFL. After seeing his role steadily diminished with the Niners, Rice, at the ripe old age of 38, went across the Bay to don the silver and black. Most people expected the inevitable decline to continue. After all, skill position players don't generally experience a renaissance in their 17th and 18th seasons.
In 2001 and 2002, however, Rice caught 175 passes for 2,350 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 18 more passes in the years he turned 39 and 40 than Terrell Owens caught the last two seasons at 29 and 30.
And while he may have finally hit the wall at age 42, thanks to a midseason trade, Rice added another record to his long list by playing in 17 regular-season games in 2004. That brings his total to 32 NFL regular-season, postseason and Super Bowl records.
Imagine what he might have done if he could run.
|09-05-2005, 03:41 PM||#4|
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arcadia, CA
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