Welcome back to our Throwback Thursday blog. Each week, we spotlight one of our favorite throwback superstars. We choose these stars using a rigorous scientific process we know in-house as “Whoever Nick Feels Like Writing About This Week Unless The Office Niners Fan Bribes Him” This week’s Throwback Thursday pick hold more records than just about anyone else: Jerry Rice.
If numbers don’t lie, then Jerry Rice is the greatest football player who ever lived…and it isn’t even especially close. 13x Pro Bowler, 10x All-Pro First Team, 3x champion, 1x MVP, 1x Super Bowl MVP. That’s before getting to his records: all-time leader in receptions (1549), receiving yards (22,895), and receiving touchdowns (197), with nobody particularly close behind him in any of the three.
Let’s not forget that he’s got the total touchdown record, too: 208, a full 33 ahead of second place, and 96 ahead of the nearest active player (Antonio Gates, likely in his last season or two). The nearest player with ten years or less under their belt? LaSean McCoy, with 76 in his eighth season. Even if he doubles that production over his next seven years (not a thing running backs do, incidentally), he’ll be at 152… or, put another way, he’ll be 15 years into his career and STILL 56 touchdowns behind Jerry Rice.
That’s how far out in front of everybody Jerry is. The guy who has a shot of passing him hasn’t entered the league yet, and won’t until medical science opens the door for guys to play longer. You’re just not catching Jerry’s insane production over as long of a timeline; can’t happen.
Megatron was the last, best hope to mess with his records, and insanely productive receiver who beat Jerry to 10,000 yards, and was also built like a tank and therefore could *conceivably* last long enough to challenge Jerry… nope, he was done after nine years. Jerry played twenty.
He’s untouchable…and that’s fitting, because he was untouchable when he played, too. The guy led the league six times in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. There was no stopping him. Granted, it was nice to have Montana and Young tossing him the ball, but it didn’t hurt that Jerry had maybe the greatest hands (Stickum or no Stickum) the league’s ever seen, a superhuman ability to get open at will, and a Daredevil-like radar sense that allowed him to know where the ball was without needing to look at it.
Beyond the numbers—not that you need to go beyond the numbers with Jerry—there’s a hyper-competitive showboat who could back up every boast, and earned every last swiveling end-zone dance he performed. Rice stayed up all night before games against rival cornerback Deion Sanders trying to figure out how to beat the All-Pro’s coverage… and he usually did.
I said last week that John Elway was Daffy Duck… well, Jerry Rice was Bugs Bunny. Cocky, sure, but it was earned cockiness, and he almost always won his matchup (and more often than not, the game too). It was an earned confidence; he didn’t only dominate on the field, he put in the work off it, doing daily runs up the steep two-and-a-half mile “The Hill” in Edgewood County. He put in the time to make sure he could keep on dominating.
So yeah. You take a perfect skill-set, best-in-class level team success, and every record in the books, it’s pretty easy to see that, by the numbers, Jerry Rice is the best there ever was.
And remember: numbers don’t lie.