FanPost

Why Jerry Rice is NOT the Greatest of All Time and The Case for Don Hutson

Hutson-don-1940_medium

via upload.wikimedia.org

Jerry Rice. To even the most minimally initiated football fan, the name rings familiar. To long-time fans, the name commands a sort of reverence. The title of "Greatest of All Time," is almost unanimously bestowed upon Rice, and not without good reason. The list of accomplishments is long: three Super Bowl victories, thirteen Pro Bowls, twelve All-Pro selections, a two-time Offensive Player of the Year, a Super Bowl MVP, and numerous all-time records. But Jerry Rice is not the Greatest of All Time. You heard me right. That title belongs to none other than Green Bay's Don Hutson.

You may not be too familiar with the name Don Hutson, and that's not too surprising, considering the fact that he played six decades ago and has been deceased since 1997. However, one cannot understate how dominant he was during his eleven seasons from 1935-1945. Lets take a look at his career stats:

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/

Year G
Rec Yards TD
AVG
1935 9 18 420 6 23.3
1936 11 34 536 8 15.8
1937 11 41 552 7 13.5
1938 10 32 548 9 17.1
1939 11 34 846 6 24.9
1940 11 45 664 7 14.8
1941 11 58 738 10 12.7
1942 11 74 1211 17 16.4
1943 10 47 776 11 16.5
1944 10 58 866 9 14.9
1945 10 47 834 9 17.7
11 Seasons 115 488 7991 99 16.4

Not too shabby. Heck, his 1942 season would easily be a Pro Bowl season in today's league. Now Rice's stats.

Year G Rec Yards TD AVG
1985 16 49 927 3 18.9
1986 16 86 1570 15 18.3
1987 12 65 1078 22 16.6
1988 16 64 1306 9 20.4
1989 16 82 1483 17 18.1
1990 16 100 1502 13 15.0
1991 16 80 1206 14 15.1
1992 16 84 1201 10 14.3
1993 16 98 1503 15 15.3
1994 16 112 1499 13 13.4
1995 16 122 1848 15 15.1
1996 16 108 1254 8 11.6
1997 2 7 78 1 11.1
1998 16 82 1157 9 14.1
1999 16 67 830 5 12.4
2000 16 75 805 7 10.7
2001 16 83 1139 9 13.7
2002 16 92 1211 7 13.2
2003 16 63 869 2 13.8
2004 17 30 429 3 14.3
20 Seasons 303 1549 22895 197 14.8

Rice's career stats are off the charts, nobody comes close to him on the all-time list in almost every category.

So...how is Hutson the greatest of all time, when Rice has him beat all over? Well, there's two big differences between both players, and both have to do with the nature of the game during each of their careers. One, season length, and two, average passing attempts.

You can see that Hutson played in an era of 10 and 11 game seasons. Rice played his full career with 16 game seasons. How would Hutson's numbers look if he had the benefit of 16 games?

Don Hutson - 16 Game Schedule
Year G Rec Yards TD AVG RPG YPG TDPG
1935 13 26 607 9 23.3 2.0 46.7 0.67
1936 16 49 780 12 15.8 3.1 48.7 0.73
1937 16 60 803 10 13.5 3.7 50.2 0.64
1938 15 48 822 14 17.1 3.2 54.8 0.90
1939 16 49 1231 9 24.9 3.1 76.9 0.55
1940 16 65 966 10 14.8 4.1 60.4 0.64
1941 16 84 1073 15 12.7 5.3 67.1 0.91
1942 16 108 1761 25 16.4 6.7 110.1 1.55
1943 16 75 1242 18 16.5 4.7 77.6 1.10
1944 16 93 1386 14 14.9 5.8 86.6 0.90
1945 16 75 1334 14 17.7 4.7 83.4 0.90
11 Seasons 172 733 12004 149 16.4 4.2 69.5 0.86

Things start to get a little interesting. Hutson's career stats look like they came from a player in the modern era, and that's just from giving him 16 game seasons. That 1942 season goes from an Pro Bowl selection in today's league to an All-Pro performance with Offensive Player of the Year or MVP credentials. When extrapolating the data, I changed none of Hutson's per game averages; I simply gave him more games. If Hutson missed games in his original stats, I kept him out of those games instead of giving him a full season.

Now that they are both on even ground in terms of season length, what about the passing game during each player's era? I compared the total pass attempts per game for both player's careers. I found that over Hutson's career, the Packers averaged 23.2 passes per game. Over Rice's career, the teams he played on threw an average of 34.2 passes per game. That's a 47 percent increase in passing attempts. What if Hutson got 47 percent more opportunities, in addition to 16 games?

Year G Rec Yards TD AVG RPG YPG TDPG
1935 13 38 892 13 23.3 2.9 68.6 0.98
1936 16 73 1146 17 15.8 4.5 71.6 1.07
1937 16 88 1180 15 13.5 5.5 73.8 0.94
1938 15 71 1208 20 17.1 4.7 80.6 1.32
1939 16 73 1809 13 24.9 4.5 113.1 0.80
1940 16 96 1420 15 14.8 6.0 88.7 0.94
1941 16 124 1578 21 12.7 7.8 98.6 1.34
1942 16 158 2589 36 16.4 9.9 161.8 2.27
1943 16 111 1825 26 16.5 6.9 114.1 1.62
1944 16 136 2037 21 14.9 8.5 127.3 1.32
1945 16 111 1962 21 17.7 6.9 122.6 1.32
11 Seasons 172 1078 17646 218 16.4 6.3 102.6 1.27

Holy crap. Hutson goes off the charts. He actually has more receiving touchdowns than Rice in nearly half the time. His 1942 season becomes the most statistically prolific season in NFL history. 158 receptions, 2589 yards, 36 touchdowns. When extrapolating this set of data, I didn't change anything other than the number of passing attempts each team threw. Their pass completion rate remained the same; I didn't turn Arnie Herber into Steve Young. I also did not change the percentage of total team completions that Hutson accounted for. That percentage would obviously decrease somewhat in a modern passing attack, due to the emphasis on multiple receiver sets.

Hutson also had other disadvantages, ones that cannot be calculated, but certainly had an impact: pass interference and defensive holding. The modern pass interference rule was introduced in 1978, well after Hutson's playing days were done. With that in mind, it seems logical that Hutson would have benefited from the receiver-friendly rules.

In summation, it appears that Hutson was a more dominant receiver than Rice, or at the very least just as dominant. This is also reflected in some of Hutson's NFL records such as:

Most seasons leading league in receptions (8)

Most consecutive seasons leading league in receptions (5)

Most seasons leading league in receiving yards (7)

Most consecutive seasons leading league in receiving yards (4)

Most seasons leading league in touchdown receptions (9)

Most consecutive seasons leading league in touchdown receptions (5)

Most seasons leading league in scoring (5)

Most consecutive seasons leading league in scoring (5)

Hutson was so far ahead of his contemporaries that it isn't even close. His numbers in his 1942 season were better than the next three guys combined. No one has ever dominated the league on such a scale. Period. Even if you take one of Rice's best seasons, say his 1995 campaign, he would have to put up 364 receptions, 44 touchdowns, and 4838 yards to equal Hutson's effort.

But we're not done yet. That was just the offense. Hutson was also a defensive star, playing the safety position throughout his career. In his last 6 seasons (the NFL did not track interceptions before 1940), Hutson picked off 30 passes, leading the league in 1940 with 6. Essentially, Hutson was a combination of Jerry Rice and Ed Reed. Oh, and he also contributed on special teams too, kicking 7 field goals and 172 extra points over his career, including leading the league in field goals made in 1943.

In conclusion, it is these attributes that bolster Hutson's case for Greatest Player of All Time over Rice. Hutson was dominant in two facets of the game, and a solid contributor in the third. He was a integral part of three championship teams and a two-time league MVP-award winner. He invented passing routes. He is the Greatest of All Time.

FanPosts are designed to be used to start a conversation on a specific topic, not unlike a front page story. They have a 75-word minimum: If you don't have much to say on a topic, consider using a FanShot.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Acme Packing Company

You must be a member of Acme Packing Company to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Acme Packing Company. You should read them.

Join Acme Packing Company

You must be a member of Acme Packing Company to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Acme Packing Company. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker