Reflection on the career of Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice is the GOAT of WRs

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Jerry Rice is an absolute legend of the NFL. He is clearly the best wide receiver to ever play the game. His production paired with his longevity are unmatched and his numbers are a class above the rest. When debating who is the GOAT at each position in the NFL, it is a matter of opinion with more than one “right” answer. The exception to this is at wide receiver because it is not an opinion that Rice is the GOAT WR, it’s a straight fact. He is clearly better than anyone else to ever do it without any question when everything is factored in. Let’s take a look back at the legendary career of Jerry Rice.

Statistics

The list of impressive stats is endless for Rice. His career 1549 receptions for 22,895 receiving yards and 197 receiving touchdowns are all the most of all time by a wide margin. He is ahead of second place by 117 receptions, 5403 yards, and 41 touchdowns. He was the receiving yards and touchdowns leader in the NFL in six separate seasons and was in the top five in 11 seasons. He was also in the top five in receptions in nine seasons.

His career bests are just as impressive as the cumulative totals. His 1848 receiving yards in one season is the third-most in NFL history, and his 22 receiving touchdowns rank second-best ever. It’s also important to remember that the majority of his work came in the late 1980s and the 1990s, so it was in an era before the high-flying passing attacks took over the game. It’s crazy to think that his numbers realistically could have been even higher if he played in the modern style of football. Regardless, his numbers are still off the charts and stand high above the rest.

Awards

In his 20 seasons in the NFL, Rice made the Pro Bowl 13 times, was selected as a First-Team All-Pro 10 times, and was a member of the All-Rookie Team in his first season in 1985. He was awarded the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award twice and is listed on the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade teams for both the 1980s and the 1990s. He helped the San Francisco 49ers win three Super Bowls and was selected as the MVP of the game for one of them. Rice put together one of the most decorated careers in the history of the NFL.

Longevity

One of the things that make the career of Jerry Rice so special is how long he was able to perform at such a high level. For example, in his 18th season in the league and at 40 years old he put up a quite impressive stat line of 92 receptions for 1211 yards and 7 touchdowns. For almost any other player in history, this would be considered a career year or at least one in the middle of their prime. For Rice, in comparison to his own peak, this is when he was past his prime and nearing the final days of his long career.

The total package of the career of Jerry Rice is one that is unmatched to this point and won’t be surpassed any time in the near future, if ever. His dominance of the league compared to the style of the era he played in will probably never be replicated. Add in the fact that he played at an extremely high level that spanned three different decades and it is made clear that this is a truly one-of-a-kind player. Rice is the GOAT WR by a very wide margin and that is not going to change any time soon.

Does Aaron Donald have a chance to be the greatest defensive player of all time?

By: Chris Thomas

Since the (at the time St. Louis) Los Angeles Rams selected Aaron Donald out of Pitt with the 13th overall pick in 2014, he has dominated the NFL. During that span, Donald has been arguably the best defensive player in the entire league. More recently Donald has passed fellow 2014 draft prospect Khalil Mack and has entered a category of his own. Despite being double and triple-teamed on every snap Donald still puts up outrageous numbers every season that could enter him into the greatest of all-time category.

In seven seasons Donald has enough career accolades for him to be a get voted into the Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. Those accolades include being a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2017,2018, 2020), six-time First-Team All-Pro (2015-20), seven-time Pro Bowler (2014-20), Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, and unanimous 2010’s All-Decade team.

Those accolades are well deserved after the outstanding numbers Donald has put up during his career. Over the course of seven seasons, Donalds has 85.5 sack, 357 tackles, and 19 forced fumbles. Has 20.5 sacks in 2018 are the seventh most a player has had in a single season and the most by an interior defensive lineman in a single season.

Since Donald has that impressive of a resume it begs the question can he be the greatest defensive player in the history of the NFL when it is all said and done? Here is why that answer could be yes!

Who else is considered the Greatest Defensive Player of All Time?

First In order to put Donald in the conversation, it is important to acknowledge who else is in that category of player who could be the greatest defensive player of all time. There are a couple of players at each position who could be considered.

The greatest defensive ends of all time include Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Gino Marchetti, and J.J. Watt. Not including Donald, the greatest defensive tackle’s of all time include Bob Lilly, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen, and Randy White. Factoring both inside and outside linebackers the greatest players to play either of those positions include Lawerence Taylor, Ray Lewis, Derrick Thomas, and Dick Butkus. The cornerbacks that could be considered the greatest defensive player of all time are Deion Sanders, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Rod Woodson, and Charles Woodson. Finally the greatest safeties to ever play in the NFL include Ed Reed, Ronnie Lott, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, and Paul Krause.

How the rest of Aaron Donald’s career could look like before he retires?

Before Aaron Donald enters the GOAT conversation he will have to play a majority or the entirety of his career. Seven seasons into his career, Donald appears to be at the peak of his career and could play another ten seasons or close to it. If Donald did have a 17-year career he projects to be at or near the top in a majority of defensive categories. There would likely be some kind of decline towards the end of his career, but if he doesn’t decline too much Donald could have 207.5 sacks, 867 tackles, and 46 forced fumbles. If he were to put up those numbers Donald would be the all-time leader in sacks, 24th in tackles (first among defensive tackles), and fifth all-time in forced fumbles. He would likely double the career accolades he already has which would not only break the tie with J.J. Watt and Lawerence Taylor with three AP Defensive Player of the Year awards and double that record with six. On top of that, he would tie the all-time record for most Pro Bowl selections with 14 and have the most First-Team All-Pro selections of all time with 12 (current record held by Jerry Rice and Jim Otto with 10)

Comparing Aaron Donald’s career with the other all time greats

If Donald continues to be a force on the interior of defensive lines at the level he has been at, there is no doubt he will hold multiple NFL career records. Taking into consideration the players of the defensive side of the ball he will be better than will give him the lead for greatest defensive player of all time. Donald can have more career sacks than Bruce Smith and have more defensive player of the year awards than Lawerence Taylor.

Taking into consideration the records he will have broken with the awards he could finish his career with, Donald will be the greatest defensive player to ever play in the NFL.

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