Santana Moss is a better wide receiver than Terrell Owens.
Let it soak for a moment.
My complaint is that Wide Receiver rankings largely assume that Dallas has the better crew. There is no doubt in my mind that Dallas has an incredible receiving core, particularly their brand new 1-2 punch of Owens and Terry Glenn. But there is an operating assumption that Owens instantly makes this unit better than the Redskins (as an example, Football Outsiders ranks Dallas the number 1 receiving unit in the nation and I have to assume that ranking is largely due to the addition of T.O.). So I pose the question, who really is the better #1 receiver? Santana Moss or Terrell Owens?
Let's establish our metric: 1. I am not saying that Santana Moss is, historically, the better receiver. Terrell Owens has had a much more successful career in the NFL given that he's played for 5 more years than Moss and has consistently been one of the best receivers in the league. 2. I am not saying that Santana Moss is better than Terrell Owens in every aspect of the game. Owens is a large, physical guy and Moss is a smaller, more elusive receiver. In capacities and strengths and weaknesses the two represent different kinds of receivers. 3. Acknowleding that Owens is the better historical receiver, much like Jerry Rice is a better historical receiver than T.O., if you owned a football franchise, who would you choose between Moss and Owens?
If this were a long term acquisition, I think the question is answered. Santana Moss is 27 years old and Owens is 32. But I'm not out to argue that Moss is the better longterm acquisition, I mean to argue that he is the better acquisition for next year. I want to argue that Moss is the better receiver for the owner who wants to win in the 2006-2007 season.
Terrell Owens will turn 33 this season. It's perfectly conceivable that his best years are behind him and that this year his production will drop. Moss, on the other hand, is entering his 6th year in the league and likely has his best seasons in front of him. Remember that Owens' best year was arguably his 6th, when he had 1412 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Santana Moss is, per catch, a more productive wide receiver. Throughout his career Moss has outpreformed T.O. on a catch by catch basis. His 17.7 ypc last year eclipsed anything Owens has produced in his 10 NFL seasons. Moss' career 16.6 ypc is higher than T.O.'s single season best -- 16.4 in 1998.
The largest advantage that T.O. has over Moss is that he has an incredible knack for finding the endzone. Since games are won by points and not yards, this is certainly an issue worth exploring. Terrell Owens obviously has more career touchdowns than Moss because he's been in the league twice as long. To the untrained eye he is clearly better at finding the endzone... or is he? Moss has 45 starts and 28 touchdowns. By comparison, T.O. had 30 touchdowns after his first 45 starts in the league. I do not think that comparing touchdown production between the two players is a fair measure of their respective worths in 2006 because a) Moss has comparable numbers in the same amount of starts and b) T.O. has had a much longer career under circumstances favorable for touchdown receptions.
Since T.O. didn't play all last year, we don't have an accurate, recent measure by which to predict his production in the coming year; in other words, we don't know what Terrell Owens could have accomplished in the 2005-2006 NFL season. In 7 starts last year T.O. had 763 yards for 109 YPG. That's an amazing figure. Also impressive were the 6 touchdowns he accumulated in that same time span.
But that's just a hypothetical. There's no way to know how many yards T.O. could've accumulated because he had to have a characteristic meltdown that ultimately led to his early retirement from last season. We have no way to calculate Owens most-recent-season-production vs. that of Moss. Prorating those numbers makes little sense given we have no way of knowing if Owens could maintain those figures throughout the year.
But we can compare those first 7 games.
Moss had 777 yards after 7 games and 5 touchdowns. He had more yards than T.O. and 1 fewer touchdown, and he did it with fewer receptions.
So rather than speculate about what T.O. might have done last year, we know that what he did do was at best comparable to Santana Moss.
What we also know is that T.O. is unlikely to benefit from the same volume of redzone looks he enjoyed in Philly. Andy Reid passed early, he passed often; he passed every chance he got. Dallas is a run first offense with multiple endzone receiving options in Witten, Glenn and even Patrick Crayton. Like Washington, Dallas will also be punching most of their short yard touchdowns on the ground.
And we also know that T.O. is already suffering early hamstring injuries and taking his sweet time recovering (although he did make practice today).
To sum up: Owens will not get 90-100 receptions next year and certainly won't enjoy the exclusive redzone looks he had in Philly. Even assuming that Owens can shut up long enough not to pick a fight with Parcells (which we won't), you have to love Moss' productivity per catch. Furthermore, Owens is getting long in the tooth and could have an injury riddled year (or is at least more likely to do so, at this point, than S. Moss).
And if none of that compels you, just remember that Terrell Owens caught a miserable 51% of the passes thrown his way vs. Santana Moss who had a respectable 63% catch percentage.
Disagree? Strongly? I'd love to hear why in the comments section.