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Top 10 Wide Receiver Tandems in NFL History

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,

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

via nfl.com

Many of our readers have not heard of these two receivers, but in their heyday there were none as deadly as these. Henry Ellard is mostly-unknown but an excellent receiver who finished his career with over 13,000 yards and four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons (1988-91)  Flipper Anderson was an electrifying play maker who still holds the record for the most receiving yards in a single game with 336.  The two players made the Rams post-season contenders, and both had 1,000 yard seasons in ‘89 and ‘90.

9 Jerry Rice/Tim Brown

via breakthehuddle.com

After an amazing career in San Francisco, Jerry Rice moved across the Bay to Oakland for a couple years at the end of his career. Tim Brown had already established himself as an all-time great receiver in his own right with over 1,000 receptions (one of nine receivers to have this accolade), nearly 15,000 yards, and over 100 touchdowns. Of course Jerry Rice had, well just about every receiving record one could have. The two hall of fame receivers played in one Super Bowl together losing to the Buccaneers, but with accusations that the head coach Bill Callahan threw the game.

8 Jerry Rice/ Terrell Owens

via nfl.com

From 1996-2000 these two lit up the skies in San Francisco. This was early in T.O.’s career as he was just beginning to establish himself as an excellent receiver in the game.  It could be said that he had the opportunity to learn from the best. In their four full seasons together they were simply unstoppable, but sadly no championships. While the two were almost polar opposites in terms of personality, they made for a formidable duo with Steve Young distributing the ball.

7 Andre Reed/James Lofton

via si.com

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.

Again sadly it couldn't lead to a Super Bowl title, but it left the Bills' franchise with an unprecedented amount of success. Perhaps the Bills are working their way back to having a strong duo. They just need a quarterback to top it off.

6 Mark Clayton/Mark Duper

via sikids.com

The ‘Mark Brothers” were a deadly dynamic duo down in the sunshine state in the 80s and early 90s.  When Dan Marino was redefining what it meant to be a great quarterback he could not have done it without these two guys. Combined they caught around 1,000 passes for 18,000 yards and 130 plus TD’s. In 1984 When Dan Marino set single season passing records for yards with 5,084 and touchdowns with 48. They both had over 1300 yards receiving and 70 plus catches. Considering how much more leeway defensive backs had in terms of contact on the receivers, this makes their stats all the more impressive.

5 Isaac Bruce/Torry Holt

via nfl.com

These two receivers were a part of the “greatest show on turf” when Kurt Warner and the Rams were destroying their opponents with lethal airstrikes.  This Rams team had perhaps the greatest three years of offensive production in history. From 1999 to 2007 these two both recorded 1,000 yard seasons five times. They also combined for 136 touchdowns, and won a Super Bowl. The St. Louis Rams have come nowhere close to finding this kind of production from their receivers since these two.

4 Lynn Swann/ John Stallworth

via nfl.com

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.

The Steelers have started going to the passing game, with Antonio Brown leading the way and Ben Roethlisberger airing the ball out more and more.

3 Cris Carter/ Randy Moss

via nfl.com

Cris Carter must have been lonely in Minnesota for a long time. He once had the record for the most passes caught in a single season at 122, which he did twice in a row. He had eight consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons. He was the veteran receiver when Randy Moss joined the Vikes in 1998. Randy Moss had the opportunity to learn from one of the elite receivers. Moss, now retired, finished his career second all-time in TDs, and third in yards. For three consecutive seasons (’98-’00) they both had over a 1,000 yards, making them one of the best wide receiver tandems in history. It was the combination of these two that allowed the Vikings to enjoy the franchise's best regualar season at 15-1 and a Gary Anderson field goal away from a Super Bowl appearance.

2 Marvin Harrison/ Reggie Wayne

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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.

In their time on the field together from 2001-08 they have had a combined eleven 1,000 yard seasons, three seasons (2004-06) they both eclipsed the mark simultaneously. They were both on the winning Super Bowl team in 2006.

1 Jerry Rice/John Taylor

via nfl.com

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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Top 10 Wide Receiver Tandems in NFL History