MINNEAPOLIS (BVM) – Cris Carter, his former teammate Randy Moss, and Jerry Rice are universally recognized as a few of the best wide receivers to ever play in the NFL. Although Rice is the NFL’s all-time receiving yards leader with Moss not far behind at fourth all-time, Carter is just outside the top 10.
But in terms of pure talent at the wide receiver position, there might not have been anyone better than Carter. Just ask Rice himself.
The NFL Throwback Twitter account posted a montage in June of the former Vikings WR making one ridiculous one-handed catch after another with a caption that asked, “Best hands ever?”
Carter got wind of the video and shared part of a recent conversation he had with the most accomplished wide receiver in NFL history.
“Talked to @JerryRice this week, he said, ‘I wanted to catch the ball like Cris Carter’ I rest my case,” Carter said on Twitter.
— Cris Carter (@criscarter80) June 7, 2022
When looking back at his Hall of Fame career and taking Rice’s compliment into consideration, there’s a strong case for Carter – who made the one-handed catch cool before Odell Beckham Jr. – to own the best hands in NFL history.
Cris Carter’s early life
Born Graduel Christopher Darin Carter in Troy, Ohio in 1965, Carter dropped his birth name (named after his grandfather) and unofficially changed his name to Cris after former NFL wide receiver Cris Collinsworth. Carter dropped the name during seventh grade, stating that he would never become famous with the name Graduel, before attending Middletown High School where he starred in both football and basketball.
Cris Carter’s college career at Ohio State
Carter was heavily recruited out of high school for both football and basketball and intended to play both sports at Ohio State until a breakout freshman season on the gridiron. He set a Rose Bowl record that year with nine receptions for 172 yards.
The Ohio native first began becoming known for his great hands, body control and acrobatic leaps after his sophomore season with the Buckeyes. During the Citrus Bowl following the 1985 season, Carter made a ridiculous catch on a ball quarterback Jim Karsatos was attempting to throw away. Karsatos later claimed that it was the greatest catch in the history of college football.
“When I finally saw it on film, he was tiptoeing the sidelines and he jumped up and caught the ball left-handed by the point of the football at least a yard out of bounds,” Karsatos said. “Then he somehow levitated back in bounds to get both his feet in bounds. I swear to this day he actually levitated to get back in bounds. When I saw it on film, it just blew me away.”
Carter parlayed that memorable moment into a special junior season where he caught 69 passes for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns to become a consensus All-American, Ohio State’s first at the wide receiver position.
But prior to Carter’s senior season, he secretly signed with notorious sports agent Norby Walters. He was ruled ineligible when the contract was discovered and Carter’s absence during the 1987 season contributed to a disappointing 6-4-1 season for the Buckeyes.
Despite missing out on his senior campaign, Carter left Ohio State with the school record in receptions (168), receiving yards (2,725) and touchdowns (27). He was selected as a member of the Ohio State Football All-Century Team in 2000 before being inducted into the Ohio State Varsity “O” Hall of Fame in 2003.
Cris Carter’s NFL career
Carter was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1987 supplemental draft and caught just five passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns in limited action during his rookie season. He became more involved the next season — catching 39 passes for 761 yards and six touchdowns – before leading the Eagles with 11 touchdown catches in 1989.
But Carter and Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan had a falling out that resulted in Carter’s surprising cut following the 1990 preseason. Carter later admitted that Ryan released him because of alcohol and drug abuse and credits his former coach for helping turn his life around.
The Minnesota Vikings claimed Carter off waivers prior to the 1990 season for just $100 and despite playing sparingly during his first season in Minneapolis, he exacted some revenge on his former team by catching six passes for 151 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown, in a Monday Night Football game at Philadelphia.
Carter became the Vikings’ top pass-catcher in 1991 when he led the team with 72 receptions for 962 yards and five scores. But after a second consecutive disappointing season, head coach Jerry Burns retired and Stanford head coach Dennis Green was named as his replacement. The result was a successful 1992 season where the Vikings went 11-5 (capturing their first division title since 1989) and Carter again led the team with 53 receptions for 681 yards and six touchdowns despite missing the final four games of the regular season.
Veteran QB Jim McMahon helped Carter have his first real breakout season in the NFL in 1993 when his 86 catches for 1,071 yards and nine touchdowns earned him his first Pro Bowl appearance. Warren Moon was acquired by the Vikings before the 1994 season and he helped Carter set the NFL single-season record for receptions with 122. His 1,256 receiving yards and seven touchdowns that season also earned him first-team All-Pro honors.
Carter posted his best statistical season in 1995, catching 122 passes for a career-high 1,371 yards and a league-high 17 touchdowns. He would make the Pro Bowl again in 1995, 1996 and 1997 before the Vikings drafted Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss with the 21st overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) April 27, 2022
The addition of Moss to form one of the NFL’s most dangerous duos with Carter helped the Vikings cruise through the regular season with a 15-1 record and then-league record 556 points. Led by quarterback Randall Cunningham, Minnesota entered the 1998 postseason as heavy favorites to reach the Super Bowl but after entering the NFC Championship Game as 13-and-a-half point favorites, the Vikings lost 30-27 in overtime to the Atlanta Falcons to become the biggest favorite to ever lose a home playoff game.
Carter enjoyed his best individual season since 1995 the next year as the first team All-Pro caught 90 passes for 1,241 yards and an NFL-best 13 touchdowns. He finished the ‘90s with 835 receptions, second only to Rice’s 860, and was named to the NFL’s All Decade Team.
Catching passes from Daunte Culpepper, Carter had his last great season in 2000 when he finished with 96 receptions for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns, good enough for his eighth Pro Bowl nod. On November 30 of that year, Carter became just the second player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions.
Carter’s production dipped to its lowest point in nearly a decade in 2001 (73 catches, 871 yards, six touchdowns) and following that season, he exercised an out clause in his contract that ended his career in Minnesota.
Carter left the Vikings as their all-time leader in receptions (1,004), receiving yards (12,383) and touchdowns (110).
Cris Carter’s net worth, career earnings
Carter amassed more than $62 million in earnings, according to Spotrac, during his 15-year NFL career. His net worth is reportedly in the neighborhood of $9 million.
Cris Carter’s post-football life
Carter became a host of HBO’s “Inside the NFL” and an NFL analyst for Yahoo Sports and ESPN following his retirement from the NFL. But in December 2016, Fox Sports hired him as a football analyst and by May 2017, Carter’s role was expanded to co-host a morning show, “First Things First,” with Fox Sports 1 radio personality Nick Wright and moderator Jenna Wolfe.
However, just two years after the show’s premiere, Carter’s tenure ended in November 2019 following a suspension. Carter was reportedly miffed at not being included in Fox’s Thursday Night Football pregame coverage. There were rumors of an alleged blow-up between Carter and his Fox bosses that resulted in his termination.
But since 2021, Carter has been a part of NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” as an analyst.
Cris Carter’s case as one of the best WRs ever
At the time of his retirement, Carter’s 1,101 career receptions and 130 touchdowns placed him second in NFL history behind Jerry Rice. He’s one of 14 players in NFL history with 1,000 or more receptions and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 along with Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp and others.
Carter is one of three players to record more than 120 receptions in a season twice, 1994 and 1995 (Wes Welker, Antonio Brown). He’s one of three players (Clarke Gaines, Rice) to record more than 12 receptions in back-to-back games and the first player to record a 150-yard receiving game in three different decades (Rice and Terrell Owens went on to also do it).
The numbers, accolades and highlights are all there as evidence for Carter’s case as one of the best wide receivers in NFL history with some of the best hands ever.