Jerry Rice in 1998: "I'm not having a good time. Maybe it's time for me to move on."

6 Sep 1998:  Jerry Rice #80 of the San Francisco 49ers misses a pass during a game against the New York Jets at the 3Com Park in San Francisco, California. The 49ers defeated the Jets in overtime 36-30. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr.  /Allsport

Jerry Rice in 1998: "I'm not having a good time. Maybe it's time for me to move on."


Jerry Rice in 1998: "I'm not having a good time. Maybe it's time for me to move on."

Odell Beckham Jr., one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, isn’t getting the ball, and his team is losing. This is frustrating for Beckham. Meanwhile, Julio Jones caught 12 passes for 300 yards on Sunday and the Falcons won. This allowed Jones to speak in glowing platitudes about teamwork. It’s a stark contrast and an easily-made meme. Like this one on Reddit.

To put that in perspective, here’s Julio Jones last season when the Falcons were losing and he wasn’t getting any red zone targets. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“I just go out there and just do what I’m told to do,” Jones said. “If we’re getting those looks, I think they’ll call those plays. But I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re getting down there. I don’t know what the thinking is as far as if we’re going to throw the jump balls or if we’re going to run the ball or whatever look we’re getting down there. We practice throughout the week throwing jump balls, throwing fades, throwing all these little things. But when the game comes, you never know what’s going to come up.”

Every story about those remarks characterized Jones as “frustrated.” Jones wouldn’t be the first wide receiver to be upset by a perceived lack of targets, but he never said anything quite as childish as Beckham did. Or acted out on the field like Beckham. Or this guy. From The Augusta Chronicle:

“Maybe I’ve been spoiled over the years, but this is not 49ers football,” he said. “Or maybe the Man’s giving me a sign.

“If you ask me if I’m having a good time, no. Is this something that might want to make you retire, hell yes. All I know is I’m not having a good time. Maybe it’s time for me to move on.”

Yes, that’s Jerry Rice saying he’s not having fun and threatening retirement in 1998. And that was after a win in which he had the second-most targets on the team and scored a touchdown. And he had 10 catches on 19 targets the week before! He was was leading the NFL in receptions at the time! Yet, he was apparently so frustrated that he thought J.J. Stokes’ 8 targets and Terrell Owens’ two touchdowns might be a sign from God.

Rice went on to play two more seasons in San Francisco before finishing his career with three years in Oakland (and a brief stop in Seattle). And while Rice never attacked a kicking net, he did make an obscene gesture towards Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith during the 1992 NFC Championship.

Wide receivers have been temperamental divas since the invention of the forward pass. There isn’t one at any level of football that doesn’t think he should be getting more targets. So stop villainizing Odell Beckham Jr. like he’s the worst teammate ever. He isn’t the worst and he won’t be the last. He’s just the most scrutinized. For now.

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