Larry Fitzgerald may be the most under-appreciated great wide receiver in NFL history.
Sure, football fans know he’s caught a lot of passes tucked away in Arizona and can recite his big plays in 2009’s Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What he’s not is a guy whose name generally comes up alongside Jerry Rice and Randy Moss when discussing the greatest receivers of all time. And he should be.
Fitzgerald passes Jerry Rice
The Cardinals receiver with glue traps for hands added a stat to the NFL record Sunday to bolster his case for that pantheon, logging the most career catches by a receiver with one team.
His 14-yard grab in the third quarter Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the 1,282nd of his career, passing Rice, who caught 1,281 with the 49ers during his storied stint in San Francisco.
Fitzgerald great and loyal
The feat speaks to his greatness as a wide receiver and his loyalty to the Cardinals franchise.
“You have to want to stay in a place and the organization, team, coaches have to want you to be here,” Fitzgerald told reporters. “It’s a two-way street. I’m appreciative of the Bidwill family for giving me the shot to continue to play and call Arizona home. It means a lot to me.”
Fitzgerald was part of one great playoff run with that Cardinals team that suffered heartbreak in the Super Bowl in 2009. But besides that season, he’s largely been sheltered in the obscurity of a largely mediocre Cardinals’ franchise that’s been to the playoffs in just four of his 15 NFL seasons.
What if he’d left Arizona?
While it’s admirable to show loyalty to the franchise that’s treated him well, it’s a a shame he never felt the pull to leave Arizona for a competitive franchise or a great quarterback.
Just imagine Fitzgerald teaming up with Tom Brady in New England or Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, two quarterbacks with Hall of Fame careers largely played without Hall of Fame receiving help.
Fitzgerald did it with mostly terrible quarterbacks
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald has made his iron-clad Canton case playing with a past-his-prime Kurt Warner and a motley cast of Cardinals quarterbacks that’s included Drew Stanton, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton.
In doing so, he’s racked up the third-most catches in league history (1,286), trailing Rice and Tony Gonzalez, and the second-most receiving yards (17,108) behind Rice.
Rice’s numbers (1,549 catches for 22,895 yards) appear unassailable. Those stats combined with his three Super Bowl rings and Super Bowl MVP award put him in a class by himself.
But any conversation about the next tier of all-time greats that doesn’t include Fitzgerald isn’t a worthy one.
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