49ers news: Michael Irvin says Jerry Rice is ‘first, period’

Jerry Rice (L) with Michael Irvin (R) (Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Harold and Carole Pump Foundation )
Jerry Rice (L) with Michael Irvin (R) (Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Harold and Carole Pump Foundation ) /

49ers fans can take comfort knowing Hall of Famer Michael Irvin is settling the debate about the greatest wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice.

San Francisco 49ers fans know this already: Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver to ever play the game. Perhaps even the greatest overall player in NFL history, too.

For some reason, though, a growing debate among league fanbases has started to push other players into that discussion. In recent years, many have suggested the accolade of being the best wide receiver in pro football history should go to other Hall of Famers, namely Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

Interestingly enough, both Moss and Owens also played with the Niners, the latter ranking second behind Rice in franchise all-time receiving yards (8,572). Rice’s 19,247 receiving yards with San Francisco is more than double that number, though.

Heck, even the Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill is starting to somehow work into the equation.

Well, Dallas Cowboys legend and fellow Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin isn’t having any of that discussion any longer. In Irvin’s mind, there’s only one GOAT wide receiver, and it’s not even close: Rice.

Irvin laid down the hammer on the discussion (h/t Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports) during a recent appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz:

"Jerry Rice is first, period.Jerry Rice is probably the least physically gifted out of those three guys. Probably the slowest out of those three, probably the least vertical out of those three. But, when Jerry Rice put it all together, he’s a better receiver. He’s the greatest of all time, the most accomplished. He’s a better receiver. … TO and Randy Moss, they were great receivers and were physically gifted with all of the gifts. …My opinion is I know what is required to play the position. … There’s nothing like playing the position that we played. Jerry Rice, all that he’s done, it’s insane."

Related Story: Randy Moss says he’s the NFL’s best all-time receiver, not Jerry Rice

Recency bias working against Jerry Rice, 49ers?

There’s no doubting Moss and Owens should be considered among the list of top wide receivers in NFL history. Perhaps even ranked Nos. 2 and 3 on the list. Maybe even Hill gets there someday.

But Rice is No. 1. And it goes far beyond just looking at the stats, of which Rice dominates in nearly every category. Even when looking at the best deep threat in league history, well, Rice wins in that category, too:

Yet Rice last played in 2004, meaning there will soon be an entire generation of football fans of adult age who never got to see him play, rather they know him either from commercials, archive highlight reels, looking up stats or merely discussing the topic with older fans.

Owens, meanwhile, last played in 2010 whereas Moss ended his NFL playing career after the 2012 season with the 49ers.

Perhaps it’s nothing more than a fun-natured debate. Fans who never got to witness Rice on the field may never truly understand just how big a dominant game-changer he was on the field. Owens and Moss were rightfully in that same discussion, too.

But it’s fair to say, at least with regards to the game’s best wide receivers, Rice is No. 1 and then there’s everybody else.

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