Ranking Larry Fitzgerald Among Top Receivers Without Super Bowl Rings

Larry Fitzgerald didn’t make it “official” official on Wednesday, but the legendary Arizona Cardinals wide receiver made it clear that his NFL career has come to an end after 17 seasons.

Speaking with ESPN.com earlier this week, Fitzgerald said that while he won’t be submitting actual retirement paperwork to the league – at 38, he feels he’s still too young to actually retire – he is done playing and has transitioned to a full-time job as father to his two sons and making financial investments while running his own company.

Fitzgerald had just one regret about his playing career. In his 17 seasons, the Cardinals only played in one Super Bowl, and were denied a championship by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 43 on a last-minute touchdown by Santonio Holmes.

By announcing his playing career is over, Fitzgerald now belongs to a unique, unfortunate club of Hall of Famers who never won a Super Bowl title. But where does Fitzgerald, a lock for the Hall of Fame, rank among the top five?

5. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (2007-15)

We’ll never know if Johnson and Matthew Stafford could have combined for a Super Bowl championship with the Detroit Lions if Megatron hadn’t so abruptly retired after the 2015 season at age 30. We also will never know the extent Johnson would have re-written the NFL record books if he had continued playing right on through the 2021 season.

As it was, in nine seasons, Johnson amassed 11,619 receiving yards, the fourth-most in NFL history for a player in his first nine seasons. Despite a furious bid in 2021 by the Los Angeles Rams’ Cooper Kupp, Johnson still holds the all-time single-season receiving yardage record with 1,964 in 2012. He is one of five receivers in NFL history with two seasons of 1,600 receiving yards or more.

Johnson, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, only played in two postseason games – posting a 12-211-2 line against the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 Wild Card Round – and the Lions lost both times.

4. Cris Carter, Philadelphia Eagles (1987-89), Minnesota Vikings (1990-2001), Miami Dolphins (2002)

“All he does is catch touchdowns,” was the quote most often used in reference to Carter, and it was a line he most certainly earned, ranking fourth in NFL history in touchdown receptions with 130. But the eight-time Pro Bowler and 2013 Hall of Fame inductee did more than just score. He ranks sixth all-time in receptions with 1,101 and 13th all-time in receiving yards with 13,899.

Carter’s rep for scoring touchdowns is a product of his incredible reliability inside the Red Zone. Carter had 48 touchdowns scored from inside the 7-yard line, the most in NFL history inside that range.

But despite all his heroics with the Vikings in the 1990s, he could not get them to a Super Bowl, most famously losing the 1998 NFC Championship Game to the Atlanta Falcons after Gary Anderson missed his only kick of the season, allowing the Falcons to score late and force overtime.

3. Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks (1976-89)

When Largent retired after the 1989 season, he was, at that moment, the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Others would supplant him from that perch over the next quarter-century, but there was no denying his place in the game when he stepped off the field for the final time.

Upon his retirement, Largent led the NFL in career receptions (819), yards (13,089) and touchdowns (100). An original Seahawk when the team entered the league as an expansion team in 1976, Largent is still ranked ninth all-time in receiving touchdowns and is in the top-20 for receiving yards.

But Largent, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1995, never reached a Super Bowl. The Seahawks only made it to the AFC Championship Game once in his career, losing to the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1983 season.

2. Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings (1998-04, 2010), Oakland Raiders (2005-06), New England Patriots (2007-10), Tennessee Titans (2010), San Francisco 49ers (2012)

The only player on our list to play in two Super Bowl games in his career, Moss was an unstoppable force who dominated the league over the first seven years of his career with the Vikings, then again in one phenomenal season with the Patriots in 2007.

A four-time first-team All-Pro, Moss led the league in touchdowns five times and still holds the mark for most touchdowns in a season (23 in ’07) and most touchdowns by a rookie (18 in ’98). He ranks second all-time behind Jerry Rice with 156 career touchdowns and is fourth all-time in yards.

Of all the receivers on this list, Moss came the closest to winning a Super Bowl title. He was part of the 1998 Vikings team with Carter that lost the NFC Championship Game to the Falcons. But his biggest heartbreak came with the 2007 Patriots, who took an 18-0 record into Super Bowl 42 against the Giants.

But after Moss scored a touchdown with 2:42 left to give the Patriots a 14-10 lead, Eli Manning connected with David Tyree on his famous helmet catch and the Giants scored to take a 17-14 lead with just seconds remaining. Moss nearly caught a last-gasp attempt to get a winning score on a long bomb from Tom Brady, but Moss couldn’t quite reel in the long pass and the Giants pulled off the upset.

Moss would later play in Super Bowl 47 with the San Francisco 49ers, but lose another close game to the Baltimore Ravens.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (2004-20)

Fitzgerald stepped away from the game after 17 seasons ranked second all-time in receiving yards with 17,492 and receptions with 1,432. He ranks sixth in touchdowns with 121.

His eight seasons with at least 90 receptions is an NFL record, and his performance in the 2008 NFL Playoffs is the greatest by a receiver in a single postseason.

In three games, Fitzgerald had 30 receptions, 546 yards, and seven touchdowns, all NFL records. His second fourth-quarter touchdown in Super Bowl 43, a 64-yard catch and run from Kurt Warner, gave the Cardinals a 23-20 lead with 2:37 left. But Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers downfield, hitting Holmes for the winning score with 35 seconds left.

“I had a great run. It was fun. I wouldn’t change anything,” Fitzgerald told ESPN.com this week. “I wish I could have delivered more for the Valley in terms of winning a championship, but that’s water under the bridge at this point.”

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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