In the winter of 1985 there was a wide receiver from a relatively obscure southern college who was about to embark on a journey to the National Football League.
This particular wide receiver had enjoyed a prolific collegiate career, but quickly found that his unimpressive 40-yard-dash time was causing scouts around the league to overlook the remarkable body of work he had produced the four years prior. It appeared as if catching 205 passes in a two-year span didn’t mean all that much if you couldn’t run a predetermined amount of yards in a straight line at an exceptionally high rate of speed.
At the same time this young wideout was looking to make the jump to the professional ranks, there was a 28-year-old quarterback who was coming off his second Super Bowl win in four seasons. He was good-looking, accurate and, most of all, he was intelligent. And after six professional campaigns, this particular quarterback was entering the prime of his career.
The good-looking quarterback played football for an innovative head coach who had created a brand-new offensive system the previous decade. This head coach didn’t care about the young wide receiver’s speed. In fact, the coach went so far as to trade his first two draft picks to the New England Patriots so that he could move up in the first round of the 1985 draft to select the young wide receiver.
And just like that, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana were teammates playing under the tutelage of Bill Walsh.
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see another quarterback-wide receiver tandem in our lifetimes as lethal as Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. In eight seasons together in San Francisco, Montana and Rice won two Super Bowls, made seven trips to the postseason, posted an astonishing regular season record of 95-31-1 (.754) and earned two inductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If a more decorated resume exists, I have yet to see it.
But that doesn’t mean today’s NFL is without devastating quarterback-wide receiver tandems. Bill Walsh’s west coast offense operated by Montana and Rice opened the floodgates and ushered in a new era of professional football. A pass-happy, throw first, throw second approach that saw three quarterbacks record over 5,000 yards during a historic 2011 season.
Today’s NFL features plenty of formidable quarterback-wide receiver tandems capable of striking fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators around the league. Here are the ten duos we’re most excited to watch in 2012:
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