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Randy Moss’ ‘greatest receiver’ boast clearly a misread

Winning Super Bowl ring with 49ers Sunday would give Randy Moss résumé boost. | David J. Phillip~AP

Winning a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers on Sunday would give Randy Moss a résumé boost. | David J. Phillip~AP

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Updated: March 4, 2013 6:47AM

NEW ORLEANS — The San Francisco 49ers’ Randy Moss proclaimed on Tuesday — and reiterated on Wednesday — that he’s the greatest receiver in NFL history, statistics and titles be damned.

The lightning-rod receiver, who turns 36 later this month, may be creating his final storm.

His credentials are Hall of Fame worthy, except his boast falls short because of the position he plays. Even his former Minnesota Vikings teammate Cris Carter, who also deserves serious Hall of Fame consideration, couldn’t back Moss.

‘‘No big deal to me, but Jerry Rice is the best receiver ever. There’s no question,’’ Carter told the Sun-Times. ‘‘Not going to go into great detail.”

Moss downplayed statistics, wisely pointing to Emmitt Smith as an example, given his prodigious numbers.

‘‘If you sit here and just said, ‘Who is the greatest running back?,’ statistically it is Emmitt Smith,’’ Moss said. ‘‘People would say Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers or Jim Brown. Their numbers do not match Emmitt Smith.’’

Former Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian said he uses statistics as a ‘‘neutral measuring stick.’’ He noted that Rice, Tony Gonzalez, Marvin Harrison, Carter, Tim Brown, Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce and Hines Ward were ahead of Moss statistically entering the 2012 season.

One spot behind Moss was Andre Reed, a key player for the Bills during Polian’s successful tenure there.

‘‘Obviously, I would place Reed well ahead of Moss because of his contributions to our team in Buffalo and the kind of person he was,’’ Polian told the Sun-Times. ‘‘That is my own personal — but strongly felt — preference.

‘‘That said, I think that the statistics tell an accurate story. All those listed ahead of Moss, in my opinion, were better players.’’

Two current NFL general managers told the Sun-Times that Moss is top-five but not the best ever.

As for Rice, who’s now an ESPN analyst, he said he doesn’t want to trumpet himself as the greatest receiver, although many even consider him the greatest player in NFL history.

Rice has it all: the records ­(receptions, touchdowns and yards), the individual awards (12-time All-Pro, two-time Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year) and the team trophies (three Super Bowl rings). But he makes perhaps the most telling and honest distinction between himself and Moss.

‘‘Randy Moss probably was the most talented,’’ Rice said, ‘‘but along with being the most talented, you’ve got to work hard. I mean, every season, every play. I was not the most talented, but I was going to outwork you.’’

Rice pointed to Moss’ rare combination of size and speed.

‘‘He could have been probably the greatest player to ever play the game,’’ Rice said. ‘‘But you’ve got to have it here, in your heart.’’

Earlier, when asked about Moss’ assertion, Rice said, ‘‘I never took any plays off, and I always gave 100 percent.’’

Other criticisms of Moss: Earlier in his career, he couldn’t effectively run every route. He was temperamental and emotional. And he didn’t maximize his immense potential.

Moss isn’t disrespectful of Rice. He ranked Rice among his top five players ever, along with Walter Payton, Sanders, himself and — curiously — Owens.

On Sunday, he can do something to help himself. He’s looking for his first Super Bowl ring.

The sting of the 2007 season still haunts him. That season, the New England Patriots went 16-0, with Moss breaking numerous records and scoring 23 touchdowns, and they reached Super Bowl XLII. But they lost 17-14 to the New York Giants, with Moss catching five passes for 62 yards and one touchdown.

‘‘I’m still not over it,’’ Moss said, noting how memorable that season was compared to some of his 13 others. ‘‘That season will always stand out to me. Anytime you go down in history, that’s something you won’t forget.’’

So does Moss need a ring to secure his legacy?

‘‘To the people’s eyes, the way they look at sports, yes,’’ he said. ‘‘But to my eyes, no.’’

Moss hasn’t been a significant part of the 49ers’ 11th-ranked offense, starting just two games and catching just five passes for 71 yards in the two postseason games. But Rice said Moss could have plenty of chances against the Baltimore Ravens’ defense, which may be forced to focus on quarterback Colin Kaepernick, tight end Vernon Davis and receiver Michael Crabtree.

‘‘This is how I impacted the game, with Super Bowl rings,’’ Rice said, pointing to the one he won in New Orleans after the 1989 season. ‘‘I’m hoping he can go out there and win his first one and be a big factor.’’

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