I’ve always liked Antonio Gates.  He is a dominant player and plays through injury.  He stays out of trouble, and by all accounts, represents the San Diego Chargers very well.

This past week Gates broke Lance Alworth’s longstanding Chargers team record with 9,854 career receiving yards.  Impressive numbers and a great achievement for sure, but I must say that I balked a bit when I saw the headline on Chargers.com, Antonio Gates: Greatest Receiver in Chargers History.

Surpassing Alworth’s mark certainly makes Gates the most prolific receiver in team history, but I don’t necessarily think it makes him the greatest.  A few points to consider…

  • Alworth made his catches in a time when defensive backs absolutely abused receivers prior to a catch.  Alworth was not only bumped while he ran, but held, tripped, punched and kicked.  By comparison, Gates has a relatively contact-free path to the ball.
  • Lance Alworth pulled in 9,854 receiving yards in 110 games as a Charger.  Antonio Gates equaled that mark in his 171st game.  That is 61 more games than Alworth.
  • Lance Alworth was traded to the Dallas Cowboys prior to the 1971 season.  However,  by applying his per-game receiving yards average as a Charger (87.1 ypg.) over another 61 games, Lance Alworth would have accounted for an additional 5,313 yards, for a total of 15,167.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Antonio Gates.  He is one helluva player, and we are fortunate to have him in San Diego.  However, let’s not forget about greatness simply because a number is surpassed.