Most football fans understand that Larry Fitzgerald is a historically great wide receiver, but his loyalty to the Arizona Cardinals may have obscured the depth of his greatness. His consistency has few rivals throughout his career, and he is near the top of numerous receiving categories because of that. Talent like this can’t be boiled down to one number, but there is one that goes a long way to describing what makes Fitzgerald so stellar.
Is Larry Fitzgerald underrated?
This is another version of Larry Fitzgerald’s career where he is one of the most prominent stars in the NFL for the past decade. That’s not to say that his quality has been completely unnoticed. He’s shone on the football field his entire life.
He was a first-team All-State wide receiver twice in high school, and while attending the University of Pittsburgh, set records for the receiving touchdowns, the most games with at least 100 receiving yards, and the longest consecutive streak with at least one touchdown (18).
Fitzgerald took to the NFL like a fish to water. He made his first Pro Bowl after his second season, and hasn’t looked back since. Fitzgerald is currently second all-time in receptions and receiving yards, has made 11 total Pro Bowl teams, and was named to the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team and the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Despite these accolades, you could argue that Fitzgerald is slightly underrated and should have a bigger profile outside of the game. The Cardinals have done very little winning during his 16-year career, but Fitzgerald has fulfilled his role on the team better than anyone could ever expect.
Larry Fitzgerald owns a lot of records – but this one is the most impressive
Being good at catching things is pretty important to being a wide receiver, and Fitzgerald has received (pun not intended) a lot of praise for the reliability of his hands. He wouldn’t own over 40 franchise records without that skill. But there is one stat that truly highlights the absurdity of Fitzgerald’s talent: he has more tackles than drops.
This feat is impressive for several reasons. Even after playing so many games, an offensive player having this many tackles is remarkable considering how rare the opportunity to do so — even if your quarterbacks are substandard. (More on that later.)
Secondly, such a low level of drops is a testament to Fitzgerald’s consistency, especially as he progresses further and further away from his prime. He hasn’t gotten any more mistake-prone in his mid-thirties. He’s still playing the way he always has, albeit a little slower than he used to be. There isn’t a wide receiver with better hands in NFL history.
Should he have left Arizona earlier in his career?
Just think what Larry Fitzgerald could’ve accomplished if he played for a more competent franchise. Fitzgerald’s numbers are even more impressive when you realize that he’s done all of this without ever playing with an elite quarterback.
Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer had their moments while they were on the team, and they were certainly the best of the 21 players that Fitzgerald has caught a pass from during his career, but they were both past their primes by the time they arrived in Arizona.
Kyler Murray already has a strong case to be the third-best signal-caller Fitzgerald has played with. That’s not a great endorsement for the GMs and coaches that have filtered in and out of the Cardinals organization over the last 15 years — although they do deserve credit for being the first team to pick up the phone when the Houston Texans decided to trade DeAndre Hopkins on the cheap.
A lot of players would’ve demanded a trade away from this mediocrity years ago, but Fitzgerald clearly isn’t built that way. He’s developed such an affinity with the city and made the choice to maintain that relationship over chasing rings. Fitzgerald won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2016 for his volunteer and charity work in this community. He also recently became a minority owner of the Phoenix Suns.
Fitzgerald could have the fame of someone like Odell Beckham if he wanted, but he has no interest. He’s perfectly happy being a legendary football player and letting the work speak for itself.