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Greater NFL Receiver: Michael Irvin or Chad Johnson 'Ochocinco'?

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Greater NFL Receiver: Michael Irvin or Chad Johnson 'Ochocinco'?
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Many people consider Michael Irvin to be one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game. He was a driving force behind three Super Bowl championship teams and a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.

Chad Johnson (formerly known as Chad Ochocinco) was once considered to be one of the best wide receivers in the game; but he has since fallen from that upper-echelon into the realm of obscurity.

On the field that is.

@ochocinco has over 5,050,000 followers on Twitter—by far the most amongst any player to have ever played in the NFL.

His celebrity cannot be denied.

I feel that he still has the ability to be productive should a team sign him on in 2013.

Still, it's worth analyzing his career now to see where it already ranks amongst the all time greats.

Since their production on the field was so similar, I've decided to compare Ochocinco to Irvin.

 

Comparing career production:

Michael Irvin (147 starts):

  • 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Chad Ochocinco (135 starts):

  • 766 receptions for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns.

 

Comparing average seasonal production (per-start times 16 games):

Michael Irvin:

  • 81.6 receptions for 1,295.7 yards and 7.07 touchdowns.

Chad Ochocinco:

  • 90.8 receptions for 1,310.7 yards and 7.94 touchdowns.

 

Verdict: Ochocinco was more productive than Irvin in terms of all the above—receptions, yards and touchdowns.

With Ochocinco's superiority established in the production department, it's extremely important to analyze the context in which that production came to be.

Irvin is often credited for being the vocal leader of a dynasty.

Kudos to him—he was a fantastic leader.

But isn't it easier to "lead" a team so talented that you know you have a legitimate shot at winning a championship?

The differences in terms of team support provided to each receiver respectively are glaring.

Comparing rushing support (total rushing & yards per carry—averaged)

  • Irvin's teams: 12th in total rushing and 11th in YPC.
  • Ochocinco's teams: 20th in total rushing and 21st in YPC.

Comparing defensive support (total defense & scoring defense—averaged)

  • Irvin's teams: Tenth in total defense and tenth in scoring defense.
  • Ochocinco's teams: 20th in total defense and 20th in scoring defense.
  • Irvin's teams: Ranked in the Top-five in scoring defense seven times.
  • Ochocinco's teams: Ranked in the Top-five in scoring defense zero times.

If you look further inside the numbers, you will realize that it was almost impossible for Ochocinco to ever have a chance of winning a Super Bowl regardless of how productive he was as an individual player.

There was no Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, Larry Allen or Deion Sanders to support Ochocinco.

Did you know: Super Bowl winning teams since the merger in 1970 have averaged fifth (5.12—rounded) in scoring defense.

Irvin played with defensive units ranked fifth or higher in seven separate seasons during his career.

Ochocinco was provided that level of defensive support zero times in 11 years.

And the differentiations in team support do not just impact an individual's chances of winning a championship, they also affect one's ability to be productive.

Who was a greater wide receiver?

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When you don't have the NFL's all-time leading rusher in the backfield and instead, your rushing-support regularly ranks towards the bottom of the league in terms of both production and efficiency—defenses adjust accordingly.

When playing on teams that sport atrocious defensive units, you fall behind early.

When you fall behind on the scoreboard, you need to compensate by scoring quickly. When you need to score quickly, opposing defenses adjust and load up on defensive backs—meaning Ochocinco had to run into swamped pass-preventative coverages, facing more double teams.

Without the luxury of a Hall of Fame quarterback throwing him the football for the majority of his career, Ochocinco still out-produced Irvin despite playing under much more difficult circumstances.

Their individual accomplishments were close, yet, the accolades also favor Ochocinco.

Michael Irvin's Individual accolades:

  • Seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
  • One-time NFL's leader in receiving yards.
  • One-time Conference leader in receiving yards.
  • Five-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • One-time First Team All-Pro selection.

Chad Ochocinco's Individual accolades:

  • Seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
  • One-time NFL's leader in receiving yards.
  • Four-time Conference leader in receiving yards.
  • Six-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • Two-time First Team All-Pro selection.

At the end of the day, we're talking about two great Hall of Fame caliber players.

Both achieved a tremendous amount of success over the course of their careers—it's just that one of the two stands tall as being the superior receiver.

It might not be a popular opinion, but the nod goes to Chad Ochocinco.

 

Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at: bleacherreporter@yahoo.com.

Follow him on Twitter at: @theryanmichael

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