Top running back tandems
- Published: Dec. 11, 2012 at 05:59 p.m.
- Updated: Dec. 11, 2012 at 09:39 p.m.
The 12th installment of "A Football Life" airs on Wednesday, Dec. 12 on NFL Network and will feature Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen. For a time, Allen teamed with Bo Jackson on the Los Angeles Raiders to form one of the greatest running back tandems in NFL history. Was it the greatest? Take a look at the talented competition.
Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson (Los Angeles Raiders)
For four years (1987-90), Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson were teammates on the Raiders. If Jackson hadn't suffered an unfortunate injury in the 1990 playoffs, this could have gone down as the greatest running back tandem in NFL history. Instead, the duo is forever immortalized in the Nintendo classic "Tecmo Super Bowl."
Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung (Green Bay Packers)
This tandem powered the Packers to four of Vince Lombardi's five championships over the course of seven seasons. Working in perfect unison helped Paul Hornung set a scoring record in 1960 and Jim Taylor earn the rushing title in 1962 (the only year in which the great Jim Brown did not lead the league in rushing during his nine-year career).
"Bull Elephant Backfield" - Dick Hoerner, Paul "Tank" Younger and "Deacon" Dan Towler (Los Angeles Rams)
The 1950 Rams hold the NFL record for most points scored per game (an astounding average of 38.8 points per contest; by contrast, the record-setting 2007 New England Patriots averaged 36.8 points per game). Helping pave the way for that offensive onslaught was the famed "Bull Elephant Backfield" of Dick Hoerner, "Deacon" Dan Towler and Paul "Tank" Younger. One of the most awesome point-scoring forces of all time was defeated in the 1950 NFL Championship by the Cleveland Browns, but the "Bull Elephant" Rams exacted a measure of revenge the following season by defeating the Browns in the 1951 title game.
"Million Dollar Backfield" - John Henry Johnson, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny (San Francisco 49ers)
Not to be outdone by their rivals down the California coast were the San Francisco 49ers, who later in the 1950s owned an even more impressive backfield with just as colorful a nickname. John Henry Johnson, Hugh McElhenny and Joe Perry are all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. From 1954 through 1956, this power trio worked out of a 49ers backfield that also included Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle. This foursome is the only full-house backfield to have all four of its members enshrined in Canton.
Clark Hinkle and Johnny "Blood" McNally (Green Bay Packers)
For four seasons, Clark Hinkle and Johnny "Blood" McNally -- future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- were teammates with the Packers. In 1936, the two were members of the fourth Packers team to earn the NFL championship.
Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski (Chicago Bears)
From 1930 through 1934, two of the greatest running backs in the early years of the NFL were teammates on George Halas' mighty Bears. In 1932, the duo combined to help forever alter the game's rulebook. In the first championship game in NFL history, Nagurski threw a touchdown pass to Grange. Controversy surrounded the play, since Nagurski did not throw from at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage -- as the rules of the time dictated. However, the score stood and a new passing rule was set in 1933 that is enjoyed to this day.
Lenny Moore and Alan Ameche (Baltimore Colts)
From 1956 to 1960, Alan Ameche and Lenny Moore were trusted allies for Johnny Unitas in the Baltimore Colts' backfield. Together, this triumvirate helped the Colts win back to back championships in 1958 and 1959. In the epic 1958 NFL Championship, Ameche scored the winning touchdown in what went down as "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
Jim Thorpe and Joe Guyon (Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Rock Island Independents)
In the long, proud history of the NFL, there was no team quite like the Oorang Indians, members of the league from 1922-23. The roster included Long Time Sleep, Joe Little Twig, Big Bear and War Eagle -- all under consideration for the NFL's all-time all-name team -- as well as legendary athlete Jim Thorpe and Joe Guyon. Guyon and Thorpe are each members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Oorang Indians were just one of four teams -- Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians and Rock Island Independents -- that the two played together on.
Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker (Dallas Cowboys)
Rivaling the Raiders luck at having both Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson in the same backfield were the Dallas Cowboys, who for a time enjoyed the services of Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker. For two years (1986-87), Dorsett and Walker -- each Heisman Trophy winners -- shared carries in the Cowboys' backfield. In back-to-back years, the Cowboys traded away these dynamic backs, after Dorsett went to Denver in 1988, Walker was shipped to the Minnesota Vikings in 1989 in one of the most famous trades in NFL history.
Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Rocky Bleier and Franco Harris teamed up to help the Pittsburgh Steelers earn four Super Bowl victories in six seasons in the 1970s. Bleier served as a lead blocker for Harris, who retired 192 yards short of Jim Brown's all-time rushing yardage mark.
Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner (Cleveland Browns)
From 1985 through 1988, Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack were teammates with the Cleveland Browns. In 1985, the two became just the third pair of teammates to each rush for more than 1,000 yards in the same season (Franco Harris-Rocky Bleier and Larry Csonka-Mercury Morris were the others).
Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor were operating out of the Jacksonville Jaguars' backfield for three years (2006-08) and were a big part of the franchise's last playoff appearance (and victory) in 2007. Combining for 1,970 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, Jones-Drew and Taylor led the Jaguars to an 11-5 regular-season finish and then a divisional playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field.
Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick (Miami Dolphins)
The trio of Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris helped the Miami Dolphins reach three consecutive Super Bowls from 1971 through 1973, earning two victories, including the perfect 17-0 season of 1972. In that perfect season, Csonka and Morris each eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, becoming the first teammates to do so.