This piece originally ran on Oct. 10, 2006. Seeing that some poor slob of a franchise is going to waste a valuable No. 1 draft pick next weekend on a wide receiver destined to fail in the NFL, we thought it worth rehashing as we get ready for our pre-Draft spectaculars next week ... though they won't be nearly as spectacular as Teri Hatcher's guns. The data below has not been updated from when it first ran in 2006, but you'll get the point. And did we mention Teri Hatcher's spectacular breasts? See the companion piece to this article, "Insanity plea
By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts resident breast man
There's no doubt wide receivers have an inflated sense of self-worth
. But fans and "pundits" are just as guilty of overestimating the importance of these pigskin prima donnas.
Whatever the reason, fans fret over wideouts far too much. They're always pining for Big Name Receiver to carry their team to victory. And any time you see a "pundit" tell you that a wide receiver is going to make a big difference for Team X, they deserve an express ticket to the Pigskin Detention Hall of Fame
. These "pundits" simply have no idea what they're talking about. But, hey, maybe they can get a job running the Lions
We took a long walk down the showroom runway of pigskin prima donnas and peered behind the curtain of Cold, Hard Football Facts that separates pass catchers from reality. We're here to report the truth about wide receivers in the NFL.
The truth is this: Wide receiver is the most overrated and most useless position on the football field. A lot of things need to go right before a wideout even touches the ball. The coach needs to call his number. The line needs to block well. The quarterback may or may not look his way – and if he does, he still has to deliver an accurate pass.
Receivers do little on their own.
In the big scheme of things on a football field, wide receivers are not very important. It's just that the few times in a game they do make a play, it's usually pretty spectacular.
But there's a difference between important and spectacular. Feeding your family is important. Teri Hatcher's breasts are spectacular.
The net-net in the salary-cap world compounds the wide receiver problem. Teams looking for a "spectacular" or "explosive" player almost always overpay for wide receivers. As a result, they can't afford talent on other – more important but less spectacular – units of the team, like offensive line.
Examples of the relative uselessness of wide receivers abound in almost every NFL city. Here's a sampling from 12 teams where wide receivers have – or have not – made big news in recent years:
The Cardinals fielded TWO guys last year who caught more than 100 passes each and combined for over 2,800 yards (Larry Fitzgerald had 103 for 1,409 and Anquan Boldin had 102 for 1,402). They went 5-11 overall and 0-8 against quality opponents
. Fitzgerald and Boldin are on pace to combine for a nifty 170 receptions and more than 2,000 yards this season. Arizona is 1-4 and ranks 19th in scoring (17.6 PPG).
The immortal Qadry Ismail led the 2000 Ravens with 49 catches for 655 yards. The 2000 Ravens went 16-4, including playoffs, and won the Super Bowl.
Drew Bledsoe was a having a nifty year for himself before last Sunday's debacle at Philly, throwing to a star-studded receiving corps that includes current nutjob wideout
T.O. and former nutjob wideout
Terry Glenn. Bledsoe had a nifty year last season, too, throwing to a star-studded receiving corps that included two former first-round draft pick nutjobs, Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson
. The Cowboys are 11-9 over that period.
The Dolphins went to three straight Super Bowls in the 1970s – winning two of them – when leading receiver Paul Warfield averaged 28 catches a season. He led the team with 29 receptions in their undefeated 1972 campaign. A decade later, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton became one of the most productive receiving tandems in NFL history. They appeared in just one Super Bowl in their 10 years together and lost badly (38-16 to the pre-Jerry Rice 49ers in Super Bowl XIX). Today, Dolphins observers say quarterback Daunte Culpepper is nothing without his former Minnesota battery-mate, Randy Moss. But, as you'll see below, Moss isn't exactly turning around the fortunes of his most recent franchise either.
Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison is the most prolific TD combo in the history of the NFL. It's done little to help the Colts win anything beyond a division title. They have just three postseason victories to show for it and have connected on just 2 TDs in nine postseason games together.
The top receivers for the Patriots in 2003 (Deion Branch and Troy Brown) combined for 97 catches and 1,275 yards. They went 17-2 and won 15 straight games, including Super Bowl XXXVIII. The 2004 Patriots also went 17-2, finished No. 4 in scoring offense, set an NFL record with the franchise's 21st consecutive victory and won Super Bowl XXXIX. Their leading receiver, David Givens, caught 56 passes for 874 yards. New England this year lost its top two wideouts from last season. After four games in 2006, they have a 4-1 record and rank No. 11 in both total and scoring offense.
Randy Moss was hailed as a savior when he arrived in Oakland back in the 2005 offseason. He was seen as a savior for quarterback Kerry Collins, a savior for Raiders fans and a savior for the Oakland franchise, which went 4-12 in 2003 and 5-11 in 2004. He's been no savior. Oakland won four games in 2005. Moss caught a respectable 60 passes for 1,005 yards and 8 TDs – but hardly numbers that justify his $7.8-million-a-year salary. Collins was shipped off to Tennessee, and now it's Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter who must throw the ball to an unhappy Moss. The Raiders rank dead last in the NFL with a comical 2.2 yards per pass attempt
T.O. apologists like to say that he helped the Eagles reach Super Bowl XXXIX in 2004. They forget that he did not even play in Philly's two playoff victories that year. He returned for the Super Bowl, which the Eagles lost. T.O. was mercilessly booted out of town and ended up with the Cowboys this year. Without him, Philly quarterback Donovan McNabb has somehow managed to piece together a spectacular season. After five games, he's on pace for career bests in yards (5,126), TDs (35), yards per attempt (9.1) and passer rating (107.2). The Eagles have a 4-1 record and stand alone atop the NFC East.
Hines Ward was the leading receiver for the Steelers last year (69 catches for 975 yards). No one else on the team caught more than 39 passes. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl.
Former 49ers superstar Jerry Rice is widely proclaimed as the greatest receiver of all time and considered a lynchpin of the San Francisco dynasty of the 1980s and 1990s. People forget, though, that Joe Montana won his first two Super Bowls without Jerry Rice. The leading pass catcher on his 1984 championship team – one that set an NFL single-season record with 18 victories – was running back Roger Craig (71 receptions for 675 yards).
Desperate for a wideout this past offseason, the Titans dished out a ridiculous $5-million-a-year deal to sign away from New England David Givens, a receiver who has never caught more than 59 passes in a season. The Titans are 0-5 and rank 30th in the NFL with just 12.0 PPG. Givens has played just four of those games, catching 8 balls for 104 yards and 0 TDs.