Not since the Beatles and Bob Dylan entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 were a pair of nominees so deserving of election into a hallowed hall than Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend, the first-time candidates virtually have their own chapters in the NFL record book.
Skip this paragraph if you are averse to large numbers. Smith's most dazzling digits: 4,409 (rushing attempts), 18,355 (rushing yards), 164 (touchdowns). For Rice: 1,549 (passes caught), 22,895 (receiving yards), 197 (touchdowns). Each figures prominently in any back-and-forth on the most accomplished player ever at his position. No dispute there. So, let's create one. Who was superior? Put another way, which would be the better building block for the all-time all-star team?
Let's bring Smith and Rice, one-on-one, to the debate table to state their case. Gentlemen, start your arguments. Smith: You need four yards? Just gimme the ball. Look at my average per carry: 4.16. I didn't have many breakaway runs, only six touchdowns at 50-plus. That means I hardly ever got stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Moving the chains, that's what I'm talking about. Rice: With you, Em, the chains took baby steps. My average reception was 14.8 yards, not bad for a West Coast offence that rarely threw deep. I'm sure you've heard of the YAC (yards-after-catch) statistic. It was started because of moi.
Smith: Stop YAC-ing and listen to this, JR. Most running backs are toast after reaching one-third of my career total carries. Nothing against these guys, all of them great. But Walter Payton got his number called 500 times fewer then me, Barry Sanders nearly a thousand and Jim Brown about 1,800. You look up durable on your on-line dictionary, and my pretty face pops up. Rice: You'll find my mug over in the G's. Specifically, under GOAT - Greatest of All Time. We can talk stats all day; mine are other-wordly compared to other wideouts. No disrespect, but you're contending with Sweetness, Sanders, Brown, OJ Simpson, Gale Sayers - all with better averages per carry, by the way.
Smith: And you've got Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, my homeboy Michael Irvin, Terrell ? Rice: Terrell Owens? Mr Dropsies? C'mon. Besides, those younger guys benefit from the league's no-touch rule with receivers. In my day, pass defenders got away with assault and battery. Smith: Do I hear violins? Watch the video of me, Jer, and you'll see a human pinball, bouncing off one tackler after another. I was harder to bring down than a 103-degree fever.
Rice: OK, let's talk work ethic. Everybody knows about my legendary off-season training - 2-mile runs on an incline, with the last half-mile straight uphill. Smith: Everybody knows because you described it to anyone with a microphone or notepad. How do you think I answered the bell in all but six games during my 13 seasons in Dallas? Wearing your nerdy-looking Breathe Right nasal strips? May I remind you that, against the Giants in '93, I separated my shoulder but stayed in when the Cowboys trainers took padding from knee pads and stuffed it into my shoulder pads.
Rice: Did somebody say Cowboys? That's the team with the amazing Troy Aikman handing off, Irvin receiving, Moose Johnston and a killer offensive line blocking for you, right? And you gained only four thousand? Smith: This, coming from a guy who was served up balls on a dinner plate by 49ers Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young? Rice: Allow me to quote the sage commentator Keyshawn Johnson: "Jerry Rice is probably the only guy at a position that is clearly, clearly the best ever at his position."
Smith: That's an ex-receiver, sticking up for one of his own. Let's hear from someone on the other side of the ball, Warren Sapp: "Emmitt is the greatest runner the world has ever known." Rice: Uh, wouldn't that be Usain Bolt? Look, let's just concur that nobody at our positions were more productive and, because our different roles prevent valid comparisons, any team would thank their lucky stars to have us. Smith: Agreed. But, since you mentioned stars, let me remind you who finished runner-up in the second season of "Dancing With the Stars." You. And who won the third season. Me. Rice: You try doing the samba with a partner with two left feet. Now, if I'd had Ochocinco ? @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org