Analysis  

 

Top 15 RB-WR tag teams of the Super Bowl era

Print

I know Vince McMahon doesn't care much for tag-team wrestling -- I mean, seriously, Enzo and Cass and DIY are both gone? -- but I love it. Mostly because I grew up worshipping Edge and Christian. With that in mind, here is my stab at the best RB-WR tandems of the Super Bowl era. (Didn't want to irresponsibly judge long-past eras completely foreign to me.) This stems from an article I penned last month: "Why you should root for the Pittsburgh Steelers." In that piece, I wondered if Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell-Antonio Brown duo is the best ever. Well, wonder no more ...

15) Walter Payton and Willie Gault, Chicago Bears

We all know Payton is the G.O.A.T. And if this were the WWE, we know who would be the weak link. But the Bears' offense of the 1980s never gets enough credit. Everyone's familiar with the 1985 Bears' defense. But Chicago also ranked second in scoring that season. Gault had ... Oh, wow -- Payton led the Bears in rushing yards and receptions in '85. You know what, screw it: Payton in handicap matches. He's that good.

(Yes, I jammed the Bears into another piece. I am who I am. Deal with it. OK, now on to the real rankings ...)

14) Curt Warner and Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks

I feel bad for Curt because, if you search his name, the Google even asks if you mean "Kurt." Tough. He was a pretty great running back. I mean, he was the 1983 AFC Offensive Player of the Year as a rook. Warner and Largent helped lead the Seahawks to the AFC Championship Game that year. (Yes, they were part of the AFC West at that point.)

13) David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Full disclosure: Going into this exercise, I aimed to find tandems with an extended run together. But I'm willing to bend the rules right off the top here because Johnson had more than 2,000 scrimmage yards last year, while Fitzgerald still managed to lead the NFL with 107 receptions. And while Fitz's age keeps this duo from being a pair of "young bucks," it's a partnership that can keep climbing these ranks as long as Larry is around.

12) Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

I feel like, to a lot of millennials who grew up playing fantasy football, this is probably their favorite duo of all time. Foster was an absolute beast from 2010 through 2012, with 'Dre putting up great numbers alongside of him (though a hamstring injury limited him to just seven games in 2011). You know, maybe a quarterback better than Matt Schaub puts this tandem into the truly elite category.

11) Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson, Dallas Cowboys

This duo was clearly great on the field. Pearson led the NFL in 1977 with 870 receiving yards (not a typo -- different game). That happened to be Dorsett's rookie season, when he rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns. But I wonder if I'm giving this tag-team duo excessive credit for the mic skills Pearson displayed at the 2017 NFL Draft, where he trolled the Philly crowd like a true WWE superstar.

10) Robert Smith and Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings

Obviously everybody remembers how awesome Moss was during his day. But Smith is often overlooked as one of the best in the business from his time. At age 28 in 2000, Smith rushed for 1,521 yards (with Moss going for 1,437 yards and 15 TDs) -- and then he retired. Yep, he pulled a Barry Sanders.

9) LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

All right, I'm cheating here. But it would be disingenuous to ignore how great Gates was as a pass catcher. Tomlinson was the best of his era. And Gates was top two at his position during that time, as well. I'll let him and Tony Gonzalez fight out who was really the best. But I'll make this one TE exception here.

8) Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts

Harrison is already in the Hall of Fame. Edge figures to join him at some point. Peak year for this duo was probably 2000. Edge led the NFL in rushing (1,709) with 18 total touchdowns, while Harrison paced the league in catches (102) with 1,413 yards and 14 TDs. Having a Hall of Fame quarterback helped, but these two guys could get it done.

7) Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, Buffalo Bills

You can look at them as four-time Super Bowl runner-ups. I look at them as four-time AFC champions. So they didn't have a run as world champs ... Still, four years holding a secondary belt (like the WWE's Intercontinental Championship) is pretty damn good. This tandem's the Chris Jericho of the NFL.

6) Terrell Davis and Rod Smith, Denver Broncos

Davis played just a short while, but he was clearly the best at his position during his prime years. I mean, he helped John Elway finally get over the top (and good grief -- Elway certainly deserved some help). But Rod Smith never gets enough credit for how good he was, and I can only hope he will take his rightful place next to Davis and Elway in Canton.

5) Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, Dallas Cowboys

Emmitt is the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Irvin never gets the praise he truly deserves because he sacrificed stats for rings. If this were the WWE, Irvin would eventually hit Emmitt over the head with a metal folding chair because of this and scream, "You held me back!" Not that Irvin would ever feel that way in real life.

4) Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt, St. Louis Rams

Faulk was absolutely amazing during his first three years in St. Louis. I give the slight lean to Holt over Isaac Bruce. In 2000, Holt led the NFL with 1,635 receiving yards while Bruce finished third with 1,471. Seriously, this St. Louis offense was completely ridiculous. So, in other words, this was like the NFL version of The New Day.

3) Barry Sanders and Herman Moore, Detroit Lions

People don't give Moore enough recognition for how great he was during his career. But I guess that's what happens when you play for the Lions in the 1990s, when there were three other great teams in the NFC (Cowboys, 49ers and Packers). Moore set an NFL record in 1995 with 123 receptions (which produced 1,686 yards and 14 touchdowns). Yeah, the same year Barry rushed for 1,500 on the dot.

2) Roger Craig and Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers

Not only is Rice regarded as the greatest receiver of all time, but many argue that he is the best overall player in NFL history. Craig was no slouch himself -- in 1985, he became the first player in NFL history to pile up 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Craig never reached that 1,000/1,000 plateau again, but still did work on those late-'80s teams that went back-to-back.

1) Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

I know: Hipster pick. But over the past two years, Bell has averaged 101.3 rushing yards per game and Brown 100.6 receiving yards per game. They are the first teammates in NFL history to average over 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards over a two-year span. They win.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @AdamRank.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop