Harrison's Chasing History

Terrell Owens? Randy Moss? Chad Johnson? None of them can compare with the Colts' Marvin Harrison. And he's chasing the one legendary receiver that most would agree does deserve higher accolades at this point in time -- the recently retired Jerry Rice.

Many consider Jerry Rice the greatest football player to ever play the game.  As a wide receiver, that title seems nearly unattainable with your production at the mercy of the quarterback under center.  Luckily for Jerry Rice he had Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing him footballs.

Luckily for Marvin Harrison he has Peyton Manning.

You will rarely hear Harrison mentioned with the best players in the league, let alone the best at the wide receiver position.  Experts seem to robotically spit out Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Chad Johnson when speaking of elite NFL receivers. 

Maybe they need a new stat guy.

Or maybe they get caught up in the circus act these guys put on display.  From Owens getting kicked off his team, Moss proclaiming that he's used marijuana while playing in the NFL or Johnson's list insulting opposing cornerbacks – Harrison's greatness gets lost in the mix.

He's not as big, ok…not even close, not as muscular, not as loud and not nearly as physically gifted as the afore mentioned receivers.  But he's got them beat in virtually every statistical category imaginable -- aside from end-zone theatrics -- and will most likely finish his career behind only one man in the three major receiving categories – Mr. Rice.

If Harrison continues at his current pace, he will place second amongst the all-time leaders in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns a few games into the 2008 season at the age of 36.

To capture the best of all-time title in those categories, Harrison would have to continue his pace for nine more seasons, which would make him 42-years old. 

Tony Dungy wouldn't put it past him. 

"Obviously, Marvin would have to play to probably close to 40 to get up there. If he has the desire to do that, I think it's possible. You don't normally see guys spend that amount of time (practicing and working on it), but he enjoys his craft and he's very, very proud of what he does…and he wants to do it better than anybody else," Dungy recently said during a press conference.

Among his current peers, however, Harrison is the best in the business.  Check out his numbers in comparison with the media's favorite choices for the "best" receivers in the NFL since the 2001 season.

Marvin Harrison 485 6,255 59
Terrell Owens 397 5,777 58
Randy Moss 380 5,608 52
Chad Johnson 335 4,932 30

Another underrated receiver -- seemingly due to his classy attitude and lack of gamesmanship -- is the Rams' Tory Holt, who also ranks above Owens, Moss and Johnson in receptions and yards since 2001.

You would think that with their superior size and athleticism, Owens, Moss and Johnson would be much more durable than the 6-0, 175 pound Harrison.

Not so.  Since 2001, Harrison has missed only one game.  Owens has missed seven, Moss three and Johnson four during that same time span.  Amazingly, Harrison has missed just five games over his entire 10-year career.

Oh, yes…then there is Keyshawn Johnson. Early in his career the media had us thinking he was the second coming of Rice with his flashy smile, big hands and bigger attitude. 

NFL's Monday Night Football microphones picked up some of his comments regarding Harrison during the Bucs-Colts match up of 2003.  Keyshawn, along with his Bucs, were off to a fast start and he had some thoughts he wanted to share with the world regarding who the best receiver was in the 1996 draft and belittling how Harrison seemingly got all his catches (stating they were from screens).

Keyshawn finished that game with 4 catches for 62 yards and 0 touchdowns.  Harrison finished with 11 catches, 176 yards, 2 touchdowns and a victory.

In fairness to Keyshawn it would be more appropriate to judge the two men on their career numbers, not just one game:

Marvin Harrison 898 11,809 106
Keyshawn Johnson 715 9,403 59

Marvin Harrison is not a talk radio favorite, his sound bites are boring at best, his end-zone celebrations lackluster -- but he has proven to be one of the most reliable and productive wide receivers in the NFL over the last decade.

With his driving work ethic, incredible durability and long-term contract that practically ensures he will conclude his career with Peyton Manning as his quarterback…don't put Rice's records past him just yet.

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