Though the first three names he listed might come as no surprise, the addition of his former rival Terrell Owens might come as a shock to some.
"Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders," Moss replied immediately. And then, a pause. "Ummmmm ... you gotta put Terrell Owens in there."
"How many is that?" Moss then asked. (Four, we told him.) "Did I say me?"
Moss wasn't out of line.
Owens' career has been so incredibly productive and consistent that it warrants a second look for "greatest of all-time" consideration.
That's right. Owens himself may be too humble to ever make such proclamations; continuously referring to his former teammate and mentor Jerry Rice as the "Goat."
Only Owens didn't play for a Bill Walsh coached dynasty with Joe Montana throwing him the football.
He spent his first three seasons playing with Steve Young before catching passes from Jeff Garcia, Tim Rattay, Donovan McNabb, Drew Bledsoe, Tony Romo, Brad Johnson, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Palmer.
Yet Owens ranks right up there with the very best to have ever played the game.
Owens' 15,934 receiving yards rank him second in NFL history.
- Rice (22,985 yards)
- Owens (15,934 yards)
- Moss (15,292 yards)
- Isaac Bruce (15,208 yards)
- Tim Brown (14,934 yards)
His 156 total touchdowns rank him fifth in NFL history.
- Rice (208 touchdowns)
- Emmitt Smith (175 touchdowns)
- LaDainian Tomlinson (162 touchdowns)
- Moss (157 touchdowns)
- Owens (156 touchdowns)
If you pay close attention to the all-time touchdown list, the top-two players (Rice and Smith) have one major thing in common: both piled on the majority of their production with the same team; both of which were considered dynasties respectively.
Tomlinson, Moss and Owens played for good teams at various points in time, but there was no where near the same level of consistency in terms of "team support."
For years, Tomlinson had a big red "X" on his chest; carrying the Chargers' one-dimensional offense without opposing defenses having any answer.
Did you know: there are only two wide receivers in NFL history to be named a First Team All-Pro with multiple teams (Moss and Owens).
Longevity may have been Rice's greatest asset. Owens' production is comparable through the age of 37 (Owens' age during his last active regular season).
(Rice though age 37 in 208 starts): 1,206 receptions for 18,442 yards and 169 touchdowns.
(Owens through age 37 in 201 starts): 1,078 receptions for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns.
Do the math a little further and break the production down to per-16 game averages (rounded):
- Rice: 93 receptions for 1,419 yards and 13 touchdowns.
- Owens: 86 receptions for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns
Then break it down to per-game averages (rounded):
- Rice: 5.8 receptions for 88.7 yards and 0.81 touchdowns.
- Owens: 5.4 receptions for 79.3 yards and 0.76 touchdowns.
- Verdict: Rice averaged 0.4 more receptions for 9.4 more yards and 0.05 more touchdowns per-game.
Rice's production was almost identical while playing in Walsh's innovative offensive system and having multiple Hall of Fame quarterbacks throwing him the football.
In my opinion, Owens' production is more impressive.
So when Moss puts Owens on his personal list of the Top-Five players in NFL history, it's a perfectly valid placement. Even "fantasy" statistics validate it.
- Rice (3,588 points)
- Owens (2,546.5 points)
- Moss (2,475.1 points)
- Marvin Harrison (2,222.8 points)
- Cris Carter (2,174 points)
The misinformed might scoff at Moss' notion of Owens being one of the very greatest to play the game at any position, but Moss is right on this one.
Did you know:
- Owens is the only player in NFL history to be named a First Team All-Pro with three different organizations.
- Owens is the only player in NFL history to score a touchdown against all 32 NFL teams. Furthermore, he's also the only player in NFL history to score two or more touchdowns against all 32 NFL teams.
Owens was a statistical juggernaut, a perennial All-Pro who thrived in many different systems with many different players throwing him the football. It didn't matter the era, the supporting cast or the uniform.
I agree with Moss.
"...you gotta put Terrell Owens in there."
Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
He also writes for www.TerrellOwensDefense.org.
Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/theryanmichael.