The 1 Thing Missing From Jerry Rice’s NFL Career

Widely regarded as the greatest wide receiver to ever play in the NFL, Jerry Rice had a long, successful career with the San Francisco 49ers. While he has a career full of achievements, his resume has one glaring omission. Let’s look at Rice’s career, the one thing missing, and why he doesn’t have it. 

Jerry Rice’s Hall of Fame career

Rice played the majority of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. Here’s what he accomplished during his illustrious career: 

  • 303 games played
  • 1,549 receptions
  • 22,895 receiving yards
  • 197 touchdowns
  • 13 Pro Bowl selections
  • 10 All-Pro selections
  • Three-time Super Bowl champion
  • 1987 and 1993 AP Offensive Player of the Year award winner
  • 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee

Rice’s excellence in San Francisco wasn’t the only impressive thing about his career, however. The wide receiver played at an extremely high level into his early 40s with the Oakland Raiders. In 2002, the year he turned 40, Rice had 92 catches for 1,211 receiving yards. 

The one thing missing from Rice’s NFL career

NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice visits "Fox & Friends" in 2019
NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 2019 | Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Despite putting up video game-type numbers, Rice never won the Most Valuable Player award. He probably should have won the 1987 MVP. While the Broncos’ John Elway received it, Rice had a ridiculous season. He scored 22 touchdowns in 12 games. 

When one looks at Rice’s career and accounts for his lack of MVPs, it’s truly head-scratching. He is one of the best players to never win the MVP. How could an oversight this egregious be possible? But a closer look at the history of the MVP voting, and the types of players the voters favor, tells more of the story.

Why Jerry Rice never won the MVP Award

The main reason Rice never won the MVP is likely the fact that wide receivers aren’t often considered for the award. In fact, no wide receiver has ever won it. The MVP is typically reserved for quarterbacks, with a running back occasionally drawing some attention. 

Bleacher Report discussed the voter bias toward quarterbacks and running backs, bringing up Rice’s situation

“While Jerry Rice accumulated the numbers that justified his candidacy for the award, Joe Montana and Steve Young posted more impressive numbers, because quarterbacks get credit for not only that receiver’s yardage, but everyone they complete a pass to. Rice had great quarterbacks, but there is no getting around the fact that during perhaps the greatest career in NFL history, he should have been given the award at some point.”

The fact that Rice never won means voters have a reason to discriminate against receivers in the future, too. After all, if the greatest receiver ever didn’t win the award, why should any receivers who follow him win it? 

While Rice’s lack of an MVP may disappoint fans, it should not cast a shadow over an otherwise perfect resume. Rice isn’t just the best receiver of all time; he may be the best player ever. Rice’s lack of an MVP award is less a comment on his play and more a comment on NFL voters’ lack of vision. 

Going forward, it would be a testament to Rice if a receiver was considered for the award, even if they don’t have Rice’s track record. It’s highly unlikely any receiver will dominate in the way Rice did — Randy Moss came close — so a receiver earning MVP may be nothing more than wishful thinking.

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