Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver the NFL has ever seen, and few will take issue with this statement. He coupled physical ability and intelligence with an exceptional work ethic. The result is a Hall of Fame case that is as open-and-shut as it could possibly be.
The man holds so many NFL records that they necessitate their own lengthy Wikipedia article. Among the most notable:
- All-purpose touchdowns (208; the closest to this mark is 175, held by fellow Hall inductee Emmitt Smith)
- Yards from scrimmage (23,540; again, the closest is Smith's 21,579)
- Receptions (1,549; closest is Marvin Harrison's 1,102)
- Receiving touchdowns (197; closest is Randy Moss' 148)
Rice broke scores of records and absolutely shattered many of them. To be sure, he owes much of this to his partnerships with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, but he was at least as responsible for their numbers as they were for his. With the San Francisco 49ers, Rice won three Super Bowls, and was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXIII after racking up 215 receiving yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.
One of Rice's most impressive performances came during Super Bowl XXIX, in which he recorded 149 receiving yards for the 49ers despite playing with a separated shoulder for most of the game.
Rice ensured that his career after the 49ers wasn't simply an afterthought. As a 39-year-old, he signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2001, joining future Hall of Famer Tim Brown, and immediately racked up 1,139 receiving yards. The following year, he helped quarterback Rich Gannon lead the Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII, a full 14 years after his first Super Bowl appearance. Though the Raiders fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rice scored his eighth Super Bowl touchdown, which still stands today as one of his many Super Bowl records.
Lest we get too centered on his resume, though, let's remember how he achieved all his numbers and accolades to begin with.
He wasn't the fastest wide receiver who ever played, but he may have been the most disciplined route-runner. He knew how to follow his routes, but his on-field relationships with his quarterbacks allowed him, when necessary, to improvise effectively. He played with great quarterbacks, and he squeezed every drop out of this advantage.
Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver in NFL history, and if we were to draw up a list of best players, period, Rice would merit consideration.
He's also a pretty good dancer.