When it comes to remembering the 2008 NFL season, one of the more alarming trends will be the rise of the prima donna wide receiver. From Chad Johnson officially changing his name to Ocho Cinco to T.O. saying Dallas is home of the second greatest conspiracy ever to happen in history, fans have been treated to wide receivers who think they are the most important person on the field when the offensive unit has the ball. True we have seen wide receivers put up epic numbers in recent years when it comes to receptions and touchdowns. As a result, the egos of a few wide receivers have increased along with their statistics. But does this increased statistic production mean the team will be able to bring home the Super Bowl trophy at the end of the season?
In 2007 the New England Patriots stormed through the regular and post season with a dominate offense. The offensive unit was le by two wide receivers that were having career seasons. Randy moss was responsible for 98 catches for 1,493 yards and a staggering 23 touchdowns, while his teammate, Wes Welker hauled in 112 catches for 1,175 yards and 8 scores. Despite these amazing numbers, the Patriots lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Two of the top wide receivers during the 2006 NFL season were Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans and Mike Furrey of the Detroit Lions. Johnson led the league with 103 catches for 1,147 yards and 5 scores and Furrey finished 2006 with 98 catches for 1,086 yards and 8 touchdowns. Needless to say, neither the Texans nor the Lions were unable to advance to the playoffs. Marvin Harrison, wide receiver of the eventual Super Bowl champions Indianapolis Colts, did have a Pro Bowl season with 95 catches for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns. What makes Harrison the exception to this trend because his production in the post season dipped where he only managed 18 receptions and no touchdowns? Maybe this is why Harrison seems to be one of those few wide receivers who never flaunts on the field.
In the 2005 season, we saw the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl by defeating the Seattle Seahawks. Hines Ward was their leading receiver with 69 catches for 975 yards and 11 touchdowns. In comparison, the two top receivers in the league were Steve Smith, of the Carolina Panthers, and Larry Fitzgerald, of the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals were not able to make the playoffs with Fitzgerald catching 103 passes for 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Panthers did advance to the playoffs with Smith’s 103 receptions for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns, but they were unable to advance to the Super Bowl.
The real evidence that shows how successful a NFL team can be with little production from the wide receiver role took place in 2003 and 2004 with the New England Patriots. Both years, the Patriots were able to win the Super Bowl where their top wide receiver did not have more than 58 receptions. Meanwhile there were less successful teams that boasted receivers like Torry Holt, who had 117 receptions in 2003 or Mushin Muhammad who hauled in 16 touchdown receptions in 2004.
Think about this when you are looking at the teams who are going to advance to the playoffs in 2008. Will the Arizona Cardinals be able to break the trend and win a Super Bowl with two of the best wide receivers in the game or will a team like the Tennessee Titans win the whole thing while their leading receiver is a tight end? Wide receivers need to check their egos at the door and remember they are only as good as their offense lets them be. Some have realized this and are more content with less statistics in exchange for a win, while others have not.
A few bad apples have ruined the position’s image for the fans and those on the outside. Though a wide receiver statistical prominence may be great for your fantasy football team, it is not always the best thing for the real thing. The rising young wide receivers in the NFL need to remember they are not bigger than the game, no matter how fancy their touchdown celebration is or how many yards they can rack up.