The quarterback position is widely regarded as the position of having the greatest importance on the football field. However, other positions are just as significant as the QB. The wide receiver or WR is one of them. Wide receivers are considered as the powerhouses of any good offense. Any team that aspires to achieve major success in the league, needs to have quality wide receivers who possess knowledge of the game and can adapt to any situation.
In the modern pass-happy era, the importance of wide receivers has increased manifold. The preference for this position can be seen in the recent draft combines, where many franchises were gunning to lay their hands on good WRs. Over the years, the NFL has produced some legendary wide receivers. The likes of Randy Moss and Jerry Rice have etched their names in the history books on the back of the iconic moments they were able to produce.
Unlike the quarterback, wide receivers function in duos, on both sides of the pitch. A franchise can benefit only if the proper offensive flow is maintained on both sides of the field, That is why the combined potency of these duos carries more weight. Keeping that in mind, here are some of the greatest wide receiver duos in NFL history.
#10. Andre Reed and James Lofton (Buffalo Bills)
The Buffalo Bills were an iconic outfit during the ’90s. With other franchises struggling to adapt to the modern form of the game, the Bills surged ahead, fueled by a roster of players who had a deep understanding of the game and knew what their roles were. However, many analysts credit Andre Reed and James Lofton for ushering in a certain freshness into the squad.
James Lofton had already become a popular figure instead of his exploits with the Packers. However, Andre Reed was a new addition to the squad. Together, they wreaked havoc on every other team in the league and were influential in the Bills being a force of nature for four consecutive seasons. Moreover, the iconic Jim Kelly was the quarterback at that time, so this combination became even more effective.
In the 1991-92 season, both Reed and Lofton were at the peak of their craft. They dismantled their opposition with ease and ran away with the game. They both caught more than 1000 yards worth of passes on that season. That stat should prove just how impactful this pair was.
#9. Don Maynard and George Sauer (New York Jets)
The City of New York has always given birth to some of the most iconic teams in NFL history. Nowadays, it is the Giants who are doing most of the damage but there was a time when the New York Jets were at the top of their craft. During the late ’60s, the Jets were a force to reckon with. They had the iconic Joe Namatha as their quarterback, and he inspired every teammate to perform better than they ever had. Don Maynard and George Sauer were among the ones who were influenced.
The brilliance of Namath could come to the fore only with the help of his receivers; and during his time, Maynard and Sauer did most of it. With excellent game-awareness and poise, they used to separate themselves from the crowd and make Namath’s job easier. Both Don Maynard and George Sauer recorded 1000-yard receiving seasons in both 67 and 68.
This epic combination made the Jets a team that was capable of annihilating every other opposition in the league. They even managed to do so as they defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. That victory has made itself a part of the NFL folklore because of the comeback the Jets offence stitched together in the dying minutes of the game. Based on that victory alone, it is safe to say that Don Maynard and George Sauer deserve a spot on our list.
#8. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts)
In the mid-2000s Colts are remembered because of the arrival of a young Peyton Manning on the scene. What he achieved in his storied career is hard to emulate for any other quarterback who came after him. However, somebody had to catch his passes, and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were just the men for the job.
The 2004-06 period was the best in Colts history, culminating with a Super Bowl victory. Manning was as good as ever and it showed in the team’s performances. Every single member of the squad was performing at a higher level, and it was all thanks to the combination of the quarterback and the two wide receivers.
Harrison and Wayne will forever be remembered as one of the greatest WRs in Colts history and rightfully so. They were instrumental in the side having the chance to lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time since 1971.
#7. Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens (San Francisco 49ers)
The 49ers have had a rich history of producing some of the most prolific wide receivers in the history of the league, and it all started from here. The duo of Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens torched every other opposition in the league with their deceptive pace and nimble movements. Both of them had a certain way to avoid the oncoming defenders and were always fun to watch. Even when it was not their day, the pair produced something out of thin air to swing the tie in their team’s favour.
Their performances were so phenomenal that they were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 and 2018 respectively. While Jerry Rice made a name for himself as the greatest wide receiver in the history of the NFL, Owens was always around the top. Both of them complimented each other and made for a stunning show every time they took to the field. One thing is for sure, what they accomplished together is not seen regularly.
The 1998 season was when Jerry Rice was heading towards the end of his tenure with the 49ers. Everybody thought that this season would be some run-of-the-mill stuff, however, the duo had other plans. Together they combined for 23 touchdowns and 2254 yards during the season. If that does not make them one of the most prolific pairs in history, nothing ever will.
#6. Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt (St. Louis Rams)
When your team is dubbed as the “Greatest show on turf”, you sure have some fabulous players on the roster. The St. Louis Rams had plenty of quality on show during their iconic ’99 season. Led brilliantly by Kurt Warner, their offensive unit could take defences apart in the blink of an eye. The two powerhouses of that offense were Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.
Bruce had already made a name for himself in the league with the Rams. However, he could not realize his full potential because of the lack of a proper partner on the other side of the field. With the arrival of Holt, the due became one of the most potent combos in the entire league. Dodging past opponents and challenges with ridiculous ease.
As a rookie, Torry Holt needed some guidance to function properly within the league system. He got that from Isaac Bruce. In return, Bruce received a fresh impetus from his younger teammate which made him strive for more. Along with Warner, this iconic duo stitched together one of the most storied campaigns in NFL history, that culminated in quite some style with the Rams winning Super Bowl XXXIV.
#5. Mark Duper and Mark Clayton (Miami Dolphins)
At the peak of their prime, the Miami Dolphins were a team that could take apart every opposition that came in their path. And it was all thanks to the legendary Dan Marino and his band of merry men. Apart from Marino, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton were pivotal players in the offensive lineup.
“The Mark brothers”, as they were fondly called were exactly the type of receivers Marino needed in his team. Both Duper and Clayton were the perfect amalgamations of pace and game awareness. Many critics believe that Dan Marino’s brilliance was prominent only because of the quality of his wide receivers.
In all the years that they played together, this epochal pair crossed the milestone of 1000-yards each on three occasions. The Dolphins reached the Super Bowl XIX on the back of exceptional performances from their offensive stalwarts. Even though they could not lift the Super Bowl, the legacy of Mark Duper and Mark Clayton remains untarnished.
#4. John Stallworth and Lynn Swann (Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Pittsburgh Steelers of old are remembered for their quintessential “Steel Curtain” made of stalwarts like Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. And yet, their wide receivers find themselves near the top of our list. Led by the dynamic duo of John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, the Steelers were just as good in the offense as they were in defense.
1978 was the year when both these players came into their own. During that season, they dismantled every other defense in the league and recorded 20 touchdowns in the process. It has to be said that the Steelers were heavily reliant on their defense, however, their offense did the job when it mattered the most.
In the Super Bowl game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers’ defense capitulated on many occasions. Moreover, they were missing key fringe players due to injury. Stallworth and Swann understood the need for a match-winning performance and led the side to a narrow 35-31 victory. There is no denying the fact that this duo is one of the greatest offensive combinations of that generation.
#3. Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch (Oakland Raiders)
The modern crop of NFL fanatics might not remember the achievements of Biletnikoff and Branch, but that does not take away from their technical brilliance and lightning pace. The level at which they functioned throughout gruelling seasons is still a dream for many professional athletes. That is why they are renowned as one of the best WR pairs in NFL history.
The Oakland Raiders faithful rate them as one of their franchise legends and rightfully so. both these players ushered in a new era of tactics through the way they approached the game. It is safe to say that the Biletnikoff-Branch duo is one of the best in the business. Fred Biletnikoff provided Branch with the necessary inputs when he came into the side and they both wreaked havoc on every opposition.
In 1976, Branch came into his own and finished the season with 1111 yards and 12 touchdowns to his name. On his back, the Raiders rode and reached the Super Bowl where Biletnikoff provided the fireworks. Biletnikoff was adjudged as the Super Bowl MVP.
#2. Cris Carter and Rany Moss (Minnesota Vikings)
Whenever the name of Randy Moss is mentioned, the average NFL fan expects to see an exhilarating show of lightning pace and nimble movements. Now imagine a younger version of Moss, not the Patriots one, but the time when he played for the Minnesota Vikings. That version of Moss was something else. His electrifying persona and calm temperament of Cris Carter were the main factors behind the Vikings having one of the most potent offensive units of all time.
The duo of Moss and Carter was everything that is expected of an ideal pair of WRs. They were fiercely competitive and never backed down from a challenge. Moreover, they had this uncanny ability to inspire their teammates with the kind of performances they delivered in every game.
Randy Moss had found the perfect mentor in Cris Carter. He was the one who instilled the never-say-die attitude in Moss that made him a star in the NFL. When both of them played together on either side of the QB, it was a treat to watch for the spectators in the stadium and the ones glued to their tv sets.
#1. Jerry Rice and John Taylor (San Francisco 49ers)
Hands down the best wide receiver duo of all time, the combination of Jerry Rice and John Taylor was something to behold. Each time they took to the field, the 49ers faithful knew that something magical was about to happen. Such was the aura around these two stalwarts of the game, that the entire team got motivated to deliver in every game and dismantle the opposition.
While Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens had an impact on the 49ers’ offense, that does not even come close to the kind of partnership between Rice and Taylor. And the most important factor behind that dynamic partnership was that both the players were in their primes. Many analysts believe that the job of Joe Montana was made a lot easier because of the presence of the two prolific wide men.
A glowing example of their impact is the iconic Super Bowl XXIII, Down by 3 points in the fourth quarter, the 49ers stitched together a classic comeback to upstage the Cincinnati Bengals. This match was won on the backs of John Taylor and Jerry Rice. Rice was even adjudged as the Super Bowl MVP.
It has to be said that the combination of these two players formed arguably the offensive duo of all time and was a source of inspiration to thousands of athletes who wanted to emulate their feats on the grandest stage.
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