NFL

NFL Analysis: Is Steve Largent a Top 100 Player of All Time?

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Recently on TheXLog.com, and on other fan sites, the NFL.com list of the Top 100 Players of 2011 has drawn a lot of online controversy and generated a lot of spirited discussion.

That’s the great thing about these lists. They get people talking, and encourage the community among sports fans. Things can sometimes get heated, as we know. Especially when there is a lockout to give us a lot of energy to direct towards other pro football topics that may not have much to with what will actually go on between the hash marks, hopefully later this season.

So now is a good a time as any to revisit the Top 100 Players of All Time list that NFL.com and the NFL Network rolled out last winter. Putting this together likely was not easy, although surely a lot of fun, too. There is also a fan-generated list along with the NFL’s selected panel. Yet on both lists, there is one glaring omission. Former Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent never receives the prime accolades he deserves. He is certainly one player that should have made the Top 100.

Largent never gets the full recognition he deserves, for a few reasons. He played in a smaller media outpost, on a team that never even reached a Super Bowl. He was not flashy and he was so reliable at such a high level, people often took his fine production for granted. As time goes by, Largent’s star seems to dim more among pro football historians. The memories of what he accomplished should be kept alive, by those who watched him and will never forget that you could make a case that he was the greatest WRs of all time outside of Jerry Rice. 

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Some could make the case he was the best outside of Rice, and that would not be crazy. Seemingly every time Rice or one of his contemporaries shattered an NFL receiving record, it was Largent who was holding that mark. When he retired after the 1989 season, Largent held almost every major receiving record. He had the most receptions in a career (819), most receiving yards in a career (13,089), and most touchdown receptions (100). He also held the record of 177 consecutive games with a reception at the time.

Largent was voted as No. 46 on The Sporting News’ Top 100 Players of All Time in 1999. A decade later, he is somehow off these lists? Such an omission from the NFL list is proof that time has not been kind to a greatly deserving player in terms of his legacy. Largent deserves a lot better.

There is no way that Michael Irvin, who appears on the Top 100, should be ahead of Largent, or even close to him. Pure numbers would not tell the full story, as Largent played in a different era than Irvin. Plus, Irvin had a much better supporting cast. The main reason Irvin is ranked and Largent is not is simple: Super Bowl championships. Irvin was in the spotlight much more. But he never was the singular force Largent was against the best defensive backs in the NFL. Irvin was great, no doubt. Yet he was also way more flashy and part of much better teams.

Largent excelled among his peers despite lacking high-quality complements on offense for much of his career. Opposing defenses often built their entire game plans around stopping Largent, yet he still posted terrific numbers. Largent was often unstoppable and clutch even when he was facing top cover cornerbacks and double teams. Irvin had Troy Aikman throwing to him. Largent had Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg. Big difference. Largent had no Emmitt Smith to draw the major attention of defenses for a significant stretch.

Randy Moss, also on the list, had some spectacular seasons, but Largent never suffered through the individual ups and downs Moss did. He also terrorized DBs with a lot less pure talent than Moss had.  Largent was a stellar player from start to finish in his career. He never played with a Tom Brady, and he never paired with a Cris Carter. Yet he was always at the top of the receiving ladder in the sport every year of his career. Moss should have watched Largent film to see how a truly dedicated WR played the game.

Michael Haynes, one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL in the 1970s and 80s, often cited Largent as the toughest player he ever faced. Largent’s unrelenting approach to the game made him a nightmare for most DBs. No one set up and outworked defenders like Largent during his heyday. What Largent lacked in pure athletic skills, he made up for in smarts, guile and tenacity.

I used to laugh out loud when overzealous New York Jets fans used to compare Wayne Chrebet to Largent. Those were lazy comparisons for the obvious reasons. Such laughable observations were reflective of the national opinion. So many people never saw Largent play consistently. He did his best work before the days of NFL Sunday Ticket and Fantasy Football, two developments among fans that made players from any city more recognizable. If Shaun Alexander had played in Seattle in the Largent era, he may have never won an MVP award.

It’s time to look far beyond the flash of guys like Irvin and Moss, and remember the man who set the standards for receiving before those guys burst onto the scene. The man who set all the records for Rice to smash. Steve Largent is truly one of the all-time greats. Most of us have forgotten or were never told.

 

Scott Engel joined RotoExperts.com in 2008 after four years at ESPN.com, where he was an Associate Editor and Fantasy Writer. He began his career as a Fantasy professional in 1996 at CBS Sportsline, where he served as Managing Editor of Fantasy Sports and Senior Writer during his tenure. In 2006, Scott was named Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in his first year of eligibility. Since joining RotoExperts, Scott's work has also appeared regularly on NFL.com and Yahoo Sports. Scott hosts the RotoExperts morning drive program on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio. In 2011, Scott was inducted into the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class. You may email Scott @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @scotteRotoEx