Super Bowl XLVII: Randy Moss better than Jerry Rice? Blasphemy!

San Francisco Chronicle - Sitting at his podium, in his red San Francisco 49ers jersey, Randy Moss casually dropped the news.

"I really do think I'm the greatest receiver to ever play the game," he said. 

Come again?

Once upon a Super Bowl, there was this man who wore the same 49ers uniform. Remember No. 80? Three Super Bowl rings? Hall of Fame? But Moss had taken Jerry Rice into consideration.

"Back when Jerry was playing -- and no disrespect to Jerry Rice, because he's arguably the greatest," Moss said. "But for me to go out and revolutionize the game from a single safety to a 'Cover 2' to dropping four guys deep and still be able to make a difference, I really feel in my heart and my mind that I am the greatest receiver to ever play the game."

Move over Muhammad "I am the greatest" Ali. Moss is in the house. 

Funny, but in all the years I covered Rice, I don't remember him taking off a play, let alone entire games or full seasons. I remember him being able to get open even when he was 40 and playing for the Raiders, catching 92 passes and going to a fourth Super Bowl. 

Anyone who watched Moss in his stint with Oakland, when he was still in his prime, would not call him the G.O.A.T., just a goat. Raiders fans called Moss mostly a waste of money.

Many people called Rice "G.O.A.T.," as in the Greatest of All Time. Rice is in town this week working for ESPN, and he responded on air to Moss' comments.

"You'd never hear me say I'm the greatest football player to ever play the game," Rice said. "I let my body of work speak for itself, and I think I was able to be very productive on the football field." 

That's the understatement of the modern era of football. Rice -- whom many do consider not only the greatest receiver ever but also the greatest player in the history of the NFL -- defined productivity. He remains the career leader in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards and playoff-game appearances. The category YAC might as well be called the Rice Statistic.

But in Moss' world, those statistics are merely details.

"I don't really live on numbers," Moss said, conceding that he has had several statistically unimpressive years, including this season and his two Oakland years (2005-06). "I live on impact and what you're able to do on the field."

It's kind of an odd time for Moss to make such a statement, in a season when he was on the field for only about half the offensive snaps. During the regular season, Moss caught 28 balls and scored three touchdowns. 

For the 49ers, he has been an impressive decoy, but at age 35, he is no longer a game-changing player. 

Certainly, he once was one of the most dangerous and explosive receivers to play the game. But the greatest ever? Nope.

What he has been lauded for this season, for really the first time in his career, are his leadership and teamwork. His younger teammates have lavished him with praise, saying how much he helps them.

Before the trip here, he warned his teammates about staying businesslike and focused and not getting into any trouble.

Yet he managed to stir up a controversy, anyway. 

Moss spent an hour at his podium during Media Day. He talked about his family, about his desire to be normal and live a quiet life, the joys of fishing and eating family dinners with his mother and kids, about being depressed and missing the game while he took off a year.

He said he wants to play again next season but doesn't know if it will be with the 49ers. And he made it clear he's not crazy about his status as a part-time receiver.

Dennis Green was the first coach to explain to Moss how valuable he was as a decoy. That was when he was in his prime. He's still valuable today, drawing coverage and allowing Michael Crabtree and others to get open.

"I understand my presence out on the field, that I don't always have to touch the ball to help the offense score touchdowns," he said. "But like I said, I don't really like that. I've always been a team player. I've never been about self. Anything that is going to push our team to victory and hopefully win a Super Bowl, I'm willing to do." 

Maybe Moss was being a decoy again, drawing the attention away from his younger teammates with his headline-stealing remarks. But that seems a bit too prepared for a player who rarely has been shy about proclaiming his greatness.

(Contact Ann Killion at akillion(at)sfchronicle.com; Twitter: (at)annkillion)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)

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