Football was invented without the forward pass at all. It was a runner’s game, more like a game of rugby than the game we know today. Running backs dominated the early years of the game of football, but over the years there has come a paradigm shift. Quarterbacks slowly stole the spotlight and the pass has overtaken the run as the dominant offensive force in football. With the advent of the passing era we have quarterbacks putting up numbers unheard of only a decade ago and this has created the need for dynamic receivers, like never before, to catch those passes.
The greatest players in team sports make the players around them into better players. This is true in nearly every sport. There have been players who had great personal careers and lit up the highlight films, but without help from elsewhere on the field it was all for naught. Many teams are lucky to have one good receiver on their team, but the teams who have been privileged to have two or more routinely find themselves with a high-scoring offense. With the shifted focus more on the passing game today there is a need for more and more excellent wide receiver tandems to emerge in the NFL. The league already has the likes of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon racking up the numbers in Washington, Roddy White and Julio Jones in Atlanta, “Megatron” Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate in Detroit, a couple great guys named Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall in Chicago and the list could go on. We have an unprecedented amount of talent at the wide receiver position today, and who knows who else will yet emerge and take the spotlight.
In last year's draft we saw perhaps the greatest rookie class of wide receivers in the league's history. Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Kelvin Benjamin and Sammy Watkins all enjoyed tremendous seasons, yet only one of these guys was on a playoff team (Benjamin in Carolina). As good as these receivers are, their teams will probably want to add a formidable partner alongside them.
Here we have a memorial to the greatest wide receiver tandems in the history of the NFL.
10 Henry Ellard/ Flipper Anderson
9 Jerry Rice/Tim Brown
8 Jerry Rice/ Terrell Owens
7 Andre Reed/James Lofton
When James Lofton joined the Buffalo Bills team he was already a veteran with an outstanding career in the NFL. Coming to Buffalo rejuvenated his career, and playing with Andre Reed made them the sharpest weapons in the AFC. In 1991 they both had 1,000 yard seasons and went to the Super Bowl (they would play in three together). Lofton was the speedy deep threat, and Reed the “over-the-middle” receiver. The K-Gun no-huddle Buffalo Bills offense was unstoppable with these two grabbing balls from Jim Kelly.
6 Mark Clayton/Mark Duper
5 Isaac Bruce/Torry Holt
4 Lynn Swann/ John Stallworth
These two Hall of Fame receivers were a part of the dominant Steelers teams that ripped apart the NFL in the 1970’s. This Pittsburgh team has a number of Hall of Famers, but perhaps none as important as the dexterous Lynn Swann, and the quiet warrior, John Stallworth. Stallworth put up the bigger numbers, but Swann got a lot of the glory. They played in a different era when the run was more emphasized than the pass, and when you had Rocky Bleier and Franco Harris running the ball – it is any wonder these guys ever caught a ball at all, but when they did pass these two were as potent as anyone on this list.
3 Cris Carter/ Randy Moss
2 Marvin Harrison/ Reggie Wayne
Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were Peyton Manning’s favorite targets in Indy. Harrison finished his career with record breaking numbers – most catches in a season (143), most yards in a season (1,722), and was only the fourth player to finish his career with more than 1,000 receptions. He and Peyton connected for 112 touchdowns (more than any other QB/WR combo). Because of “Marvelous Marv’s” gaudy stats one often forgets about Reggie Wayne, a great receiver in his own right. Since Harrison’s retirement, Wayne has also gone over the 1,000 reception mark, and currently has more than 14,000 yards. He had a very impressive seven consecutive 1,000 yard seasons – it would have been nine, but he was 40 yards shy in 2011 with the likes of Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins throwing him the ball.
1 Jerry Rice/John Taylor
Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver that has ever played the game of football – there are few people who would argue that point. His greatness is seen in the numbers, the records, and the championships. During his illustrious career in San Francisco he played alongside another great wide receiver by the name of John Taylor. John Taylor did not have the numbers that Jerry Rice had, but he was a dangerous receiver that made teams pay for double-teaming Jerry. He caught the Super Bowl winning touchdown pass against the Bengals and the following season (1989) he caught 60 balls for 1,077 yards. Over the years these two played together they won three Super Bowls and are, in the author's opinion, the greatest wide receiver tandem of all time.
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