As Nice As Jerry Rice: How Larry Fitzgerald Stacks Up to the Legendary Wideout

John ParkerCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2009

As historically inept as the regular season performances of recent Super Bowl teams have been, the 2008 Arizona Cardinals may just take the cake.

However, one man's performance has lifted the spirits and souls of thousands of fans and hundreds of players, coaches, and staff members. He has elevated an offense which struggled in December and united them together as 11, all with the play of one.

His name is Larry Fitzgerald and his postseason run has been one of the greatest in NFL history.

How does his epic performance stack up against the greatest receivers ever to play the game?

Could his playoff run be the best ever by a wide receiver, as good as Jerry Rice's?

The two actually have a lot in common, in fact so much that you could almost say Larry Rice and Jerry Fitzgerald. Here are some of the similarities.

Not The Fastest...

Fitzgerald admitted in a press conference that he isn't the fastest guy on the football field. In fact, the Steelers, Fitzgerald's opponent on Super Bowl Sunday, probably have at least two receivers on their roster who could outrun Fitzgerald in the 40-yard dash.

Without the speed to "blow by" opposing corners, Fitzgerald has been forced to find different ways to get open. His height, superior leaping ability, crisp route running, and amazingly soft hands have allowed him to do just that.

Utilizing such strengths, Fitzgerald has overcome his lack of pure speed and developed into the biggest deep threat in the game today.

Rice has a similar story.

Although I placed Rice at No. 14 on my list of top 15 fastest players ever ahead of Hall of Fame wide receiver Don Hutson, legend has it that Rice, the NFL player with the most career records, actually ran a 4.8 40-yard dash.

Defensive tackles and maybe even some nose tackles in today's NFL, run 4.8 40-yard dashes! Maybe even you ran a time similar to 4.8 back in high school before you had a 48-inch waistline. Although, probably not.

Regardless of what the combine or urban legends may say about his speed, there has never been a player who got as much separation as Jerry Rice. While Rice may have the strongest claim to the title "greatest football player in NFL history," Larry Fitzgerald may one day take that away.

Elevated Postseason Success

Win or lose on Super Bowl Sunday, Fitzgerald's 2008 postseason run is one that should be remembered for not only the record books, but also the history books. The Cardinals were called "the pathetic hopeless playoff contender who had no business of even being in the playoffs" by the so-called "pundit" annihilators.

Most people do not understand the significance of Fitzgerald's postseason run. They say to slow down, and that Fitzgerald really isn't the best.

But without Fitzgerald, the Cardinals would have probably been knocked out in the first or second round. Although Fitzgerald's 1431 receiving yards were second in the league this season, and his 12 receiving TDs tied him for first, he has elevated his game even higher in the postseason.

Just like Rice, who in 1988 raised his receiving yard average from 81 YPG in the regular season to 136 in the postseason, Fitzgerald has averaged 140 YPG in the postseason, compared to 90 during the year. 

With at least seven catches, two touchdowns and one first down catch for 25 yards or more, Fitzgerald would surpass Rice's 1988 postseason performance.

The competition is amazing and Larry Fitzgerald has just out-danced Jerry Rice (the greatest football player ever) at the height of his powers when it matters most. If that doesn't secure the best active receiver spot along with his impressive regular season statistics, I don't know what will.

Desire to Win and Improve

A participant in four Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks, Jerry Rice was never satisfied with himself. Legend has it that he read all of the criticisms of him in the newspapers or on the Internet before every game to fuel his desire to win. Maybe that's why he decided to keep on going after the 49ers let him go. Rice never won a Super Bowl in Oakland, but he at least got there at the age of 39.

Fitzgerald said in a press conference recently that he wants to continue to elevate his play. He says he isn't where he wants to be.

Well I'll tell you one thing Larry Fitzgerald, 99.9 percent of all wide receivers in the history of the game would be happy where you are. The other .1 percent consists of you and Jerry Rice.


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