|Michael Conroy / Associated Press|
|In 1998, Randy Moss caught a rookie record 17 touchdowns. Now that's impressive.|
Unless you've been living on the planet Tatooine for the last week, you've probably heard by now that Randy Moss was traded to the Vikings. The various networks -- and this website -- have inundated us with video of Moss making defensive backs look silly, while mentioning his NFL-record 23 touchdown catches in one season. It's an impressive note to be sure.
Does it belong on a list of the NFL's most impressive individual records?
Moss' insane 2007 season -- when he caught the 23 TDs -- made me wonder what the most remarkable individual marks in NFL history are. Not necessarily the most "unbreakable," but performances that, considering the circumstances, are worth revisiting time and again. For example, Tony Dorsett's 99-yard run won't ever be broken. Actually, it can't be broken. It didn't make the list.
Otto Graham's standard of excellence, playing in 10 NFL championships in 10 seasons, didn't make it either. While it is amazing, the first four of those came in the now defunct All-American Football Conference, while there were never more than 13 teams in any of Graham's six NFL seasons.
Below is a list of the top five most impressive individual records, considering the player, challenges, and general environment of the league at the time.
We start with Moss -- and it has nothing to do with his historic 2007 season.
5. Most TD receptions, rookie season
The hardest position to produce as a rookie in the NFL is quarterback. The second most difficult? Wide receiver.
The list of first-round wideouts that were flat-out busts is lengthy. Charles Rogers, Troy Williamson, and Reggie Williams come to mind. Many of you had R.J. Soward on your 2000 fantasy team ... how did that pan out for you? Other rookie wide receivers take a season or two to become productive.
Moss made the transition from college to the NFL look easy in 1998. In fact, he caught two touchdowns in his first game, undressing a Buccaneers defense that featured Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch among others.
Moss just kept on going, adding a touchdown in Weeks 3 and 4, and two more in Week 5. Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham would throw up moon balls, and Moss, more times than not, would make the catch. This was never more apparent than on Thanksgiving when he got revenge on the Cowboys for not drafting him, catching three balls for 163 yards, with each catch going for a touchdown.
By season's end he had 17 scores, shattering the previous record of 13 held by Bill Howton.
4. Most rushing touchdowns for a QB, single season
If one of the top five can make it on quirkiness alone, this is it. It's tough to wrap your brain around how a quarterback scored 12 touchdowns rushing in a season, back in 1976. Consider:
a) Quarterbacks are lucky to get three in a season. Only four ran for that many in 2009, with Aaron Rodgers leading the way at a whopping five.
b) Only six running backs had at least 12 rushing touchdowns last season.
c) The guy who set the record is as mind-blowing as the record itself: Steve Grogan.
Most people remember Grogan as the Patriots quarterback with more pads than touchdown passes. The dude had a neck brace bigger than Bryan Cox's, and that's saying something. His rib pads made Shaun Hill jealous. Oh, and he wasn't fast. And yet, Grogan owns this record, and don't expect him to be knocked off anytime soon.
But in 1976, Grogan was 23 and didn't yet resemble a mummified signal-caller for the 1990 Patriots. His quick feet that season, and decent arm, led New England to an 11-3 record and playoff berth. The Patriots that year were also the only team to beat the Super Bowl-champion Raiders.
In case you're wondering, the most rushing touchdowns Michael Vick ever had in a season was eight. If Vick was a cherry-red Ferrari, consider Grogan a '79 white Pacer with wood-grain siding.
3. Most interceptions, career
This one is tough. Dick "Night Train" Lane's 14 picks as a rookie in 1952 are incredible, especially considering he did it in just 12 games. But the choice here has to be most interceptions in a career.
Paul Krause's 81 lifetime interceptions will never, ever be broken. The active player with the most career thefts is Darren Sharper with 63. How many years do he and his creaky knees have left? Next up: Champ Bailey at 47. Nowhere close.
But what makes Krause's mark so impressive is the fact that the majority of them came in the 1970s when coaches often discarded the pass for the run. Quarterbacks rarely threw for 3,000 yards in a season before rule changes benefitting the passing game were adopted in 1978.
Less passing didn't stop Krause from tricking quarterbacks -- from Johnny Unitas to Roger Staubach -- into throwing his way. Of course, Unitas and Staubach weren't dinking and dunking all over the field. Let's face it, there just weren't a lot of J.P. Losmans and Trent Edwards back in the disco decade.
That said, Krause's mark also makes this list because you'd think by Year 12 quarterbacks would've avoided him more. But in his 12th season, he picked off 10 passes.
2. Most consecutive starts for a quarterback
How Brett Favre has ever started 288 games in a row is beyond anyone's comprehension. Peyton Manning is second with 196, 92 games -- or almost six seasons -- behind. It's also worth noting that Favre's 288 is the top number for all players in league history, not just quarterbacks.
But this list isn't about most unbreakable records, but rather most impressive. In 2009, only 15 quarterbacks played every one of their team's games. If over half the league's quarterbacks are missing starts every season, how has a guy not missed any over the course of 19 seasons?
Not to mention, it's not like Favre was Dan Marino, who was a a master of not taking sacks while getting the ball off quickly. No, Favre has spent a good portion of his career running around to buy time, diving for first downs, taking huge hits, and jumping on guys after they score. There's little doubt pass rushers have tried to hurt Favre over the years.
This is one mark that could arguably be the most impressive record in all of sports.
1. Most consecutive games with a TD pass
Only one guy can be No. 1. Working down from fifth to first is difficult, and with it comes some tough cuts. No Sammy Baugh and his magical season of 1943, when he led the NFL in passing, interceptions and punting. No Bruce Matthews, who made at least five Pro Bowls at two positions. No Wes Chandler and his ridiculous average of 129 receiving yards a game in 1982 (now there's a mark no one talks about.)
No. 1 is easy: Johnny Unitas and his 47 straight games with a touchdown pass from 1956-60.
That's 47 weeks the passing game didn't get shut down, the Colts didn't get shut out, and Unitas made defensive backs shut up.
Considering defensive backs could shove receivers all the way down the field, and that quarterbacks took head-to-head blows more than the Von Erich brothers, Unitas' streak is nothing short of incredible.
Maybe the most important part of the streak is that it resulted in lots of victories. Besides winning the NFL championship in both 1958 and 1959, Baltimore went 31-16 during Unitas' memorable 47-game stretch.