Jerry Rice will undoubtedly be voted into the pantheon of the NFL's aristocracy on February 6th. The only question is whether or not the powers that be will make it a clean sweep when the ballots are tallied.
Now, most knowledgeable football fans fortunate (and old) enough to witness Rice during his heyday will admit that number 80 was not only an enigma, his presence as a decoy was enough to drive defensive coordinators to double team him anyway.
Crunching the numbers, there has never been a better wide receiver in the hallowed history of the NFL. Breakaway speed, soft hands and laser-guided attention to routes were part of his routine. And he was a ferocious blocker whenever his number wasn't called. His training regimen was akin to something the military elite would expect. And many notable professional athletes of the day bailed out of his demanding workouts.
So, why should there be any doubt of anything other than a unanimous vote ?
Quite simply, haters. When you're the best, they're the rest.
There, I said it. Those whose teams were victimized year in and year out. Allow me to expound upon that seemingly paranoid concept.
I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed Mr. Rice assume control of the psyches of innumerable defensive backs, no matter the conference, no matter the team. And I honestly couldn't count them with both hands, both feet, and any other appendage not referenced here. Five yard slant equals six points, if he got behind you.
There's lots of salty apologists out there with their tired arguments against J.R. . The most typical, and misinformed being as follows:
"He had two of the greatest quarterbacks ever throwing to him".
True. But there was no shortage of alternative targets to compete with, at least in San Francisco. Don't make me "name names". Every offensive player authorized to have the ball thrown in their direction enjoyed enviable stats with Flash 80 wide right, arms cocked up in anticipation of the hold he was about to fight off. Every play.
Voters - do the right thing and give the man his due. Very likely you will never witness another of his ilk in your lifetime. There are other nominees this year that deserve the same, and I hope they are justly rewarded. It's not about a uniform.
And fans - rejoice. "The San Francisco Treat" will accept his mantle the same way he played the game. With dignity, respect, and quiet humility. He now officially belongs to the ages, love him or loathe him.