During Sunday Night Football on NBC, John Madden emphatically declared that he'd take Tom Brady and Randy Moss over Joe Montana and Jerry Rice—commonly considered to be the best quarterback-receiver combination in the history of football.
On the surface, it's a bold endorsement for Moss, whose market value was equivalent to a fourth-round draft pick six months ago. So much for declining speed and attitude problems, right?
But to think that the immortal Montana-to-Rice combination could be overthrown in just 10 games is unfathomable.
Time to pull in some stats:
-Jerry Rice scored an average of 1.8 receiving touchdowns a game in 1987. Moss is currently averaging 1.6 receiving touchdowns a game in 2007.
-Randy Moss has 16 touchdown catches to date, and is on pace to break Rice's 20-year old record of 22 touchdown receptions set in 1987.
-Rice recorded 22 touchdown catches on just 65 receptions (he had one rushing touchdown too). Better than one touchdown for every three catches. In 2007, Moss's 16 touchdowns have come on 66 receptions. A one-to-four ratio. Both players are models of efficiency within lethal offenses.
My first thought was that the league scoring average in 1987 was probably lower than it is in 2007. Thus, after being weighted against the league average, Rice's accomplishment would be more impressive.
I was wrong.
In 1987, the league-wide average for points scored was 21.6 ppg. Through 10 games in 2007, the league-wide average for point scored is 21.3 ppg. The discrepancy here is so minimal that we can assume that the opportunity to score touchdowns in 2007 is on par with the opportunity to score touchdowns in 1987.
Did I mention that Jerry Rice played 12 games in 1987? That's right: he set the league record for receiving touchdowns in just 12 games, sitting out three games due to injury, with the entire season shortened by one game by the player's strike.
What Moss and Brady are doing this season is spectular—but all of us (and especially former football coaches-slash-TV analysts) should remember that we've seen this once before.
With that said, best of luck to the Patriots the rest of the way as they chase history. Ten years removed from Michael Jordan, it's truly a pleasure to watch the greatest team in sports compete.