NEW ORLEANS -- Randy Moss says he doesn't do many interviews because he doesn't care to participate in shaping his image. Because he prides himself on unfiltered honesty, I suspect he also believes more exposure increases the likelihood of words he'd regret.
But he was flat wrong, if not downright dishonest, Tuesday. He was wrong in front of hundreds of cameras and microphones, wrong before quite possibly the biggest audience he'll ever have here at Super Bowl XLVII media day.
Moss cleared his throat and pronounced himself as the best receiver in NFL history.
"Now that I'm older," said Moss, who turns 36 on Feb. 13, "I do think that I'm the greatest receiver to ever do it."
Now let that marinate for a moment.
Then consider this: Moss made this statement wearing a bright red 49ers uniform, same as he'll wear Sunday at the Superdome when he and his San Francisco teammates take the field to face the Baltimore Ravens.
Moss is now employed by the franchise made famous by the likes numerous Hall of Fame players and coaches, one of whom was Jerry Rice.
"I'm very surprised Randy Moss said that in those words, that he's the greatest," Rice said Tuesday on ESPN's "NFL Live." "You'd never hear me say I'm the greatest football player ever to play the game. I let my body of work speak for itself, and I think I was able to be very productive on the football field."
Rice is widely acknowledged as the best and most complete receiver in NFL history, because he is precisely that. He owns all-time NFL records for most catches, most touchdowns and most receiving yardage; no one is remotely close in any of the three categories.
Moss is No. 2 only in touchdown catches, 41 behind Rice.
"I don't really live on numbers," Moss said. "I really live on impact and what you're able to do out there on that field.
"So I really do think that I'm the greatest receiver ever to play this game."
Moss is entitled to his opinion. He wants to be honest. But he's wrong on this.
Yet Moss makes an argument worth hearing, pointing out how his impact changed the way passes are defended in the NFL. Teams frightened of being burned deep by Moss routinely placed two safeties downfield. He in some ways forced teams to play "Cover-2" pass defense.
As explained by Randy's former coach in Minnesota, Dennis Green, this was a way for Moss to help the team even when he wasn't catching passes. Defenses had to react to his presence.
They still do.
That means not that Moss is the best receiver ever but perhaps the most dangerous deep threat ever.
Asked about Moss on ESPN radio, Rice responded by saying he thought Moss, with his tremendous physical gifts, could have been the best of all time -- if not for so many lapses in effort.
"It was hard for me to swallow because I was not as talented and had to work harder," Rice said of Moss.
Once clocked at 4.3 in the 40, Moss is among the fastest receivers ever. At 6-foot-4, he's among the tallest receivers ever. With a vertical leap that once measured more than 36 inches, he's one of the most inviting targets in league history. His pure physical gifts may be unparalleled.
This is where Moss' argument falls apart. He conceded he could have been better. Asked what he might do differently with the advantage of age and wisdom, he essentially pleaded guilty to Rice's allegation.
"I would have been a little more focused on my preparation," Moss said. "Now that my focus is somewhere that I really haven't seen it ... it seems weird now that my focus on whatever plays that I'm on the field, it wasn't like that earlier in my career. If I would have put that much effort (on preparation and focus) back in the day, it might have been different."
Bingo. Preparation and focus are what lifted Rice to the top. It's why he was the receiver -- the football player -- he was. Nobody worked harder, in season or out, 50 weeks a year.
That work ethic explains why Rice was such a willing and excellent blocker, and how he became a major component of 49ers teams that averaged 11 wins a season and won three Super Bowls.
Rice is to the history of catching passes as Rickey Henderson is to the history of stealing bases.
If Moss had compiled similar numbers and been a focal point of similarly successful teams, he likely would be in position to claim, without dispute, the mythical title of being No. 1. He would be the so-called "G.O.A.T."
Moss instead must settle for being the greatest receiver of his generation and easily deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.
That's not quite the same as being the best ever. But it's a lot more honest and a lot less wrong.