NFL Network’s Elliot Harrison this week named the best quarterback and receiver combinations in league history. He tabbed 49ers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice as the best to ever do it, citing their strike-shortened 1987 season as the high point in their play.
This wasn’t hard. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Let me tell you, the hardest part is picking what year. I took 1987 and the reason was because Jerry Rice was in Year 3. I don’t want to say the lightbulb came on, but this is where he really became Jerry Rice. Twenty-two touchdown receptions in a strike-shortened 12-game season. He added another one rushing, so he had 23 touchdowns in 12 games. This is before the re-emphasis on illegal contact, thank you, Bill Polian. Before all the players’ safety rules when it was a little bit harder. And Joe Montana led the league in passer rating.
This comes as no surprise. Rice is widely regarded as the best wideout to lace them up. He holds just about every significant receiving record, including yards (22,895), receptions (1,549) and touchdowns (208). He was at the peak of his powers in 1987, although the 49ers didn’t go on to win the Super Bowl that year.
Montana remains one of the best quarterbacks in league history. Many argue that he had the best resume ever before Tom Brady won his fifth Super Bowl in February, surpassing Montana’s four. Brady showed up second on Harrison’s rankings:
5. Ben Roethlisberger – Antonio Brown (2014 Pittsburgh Steelers)
4. Joe Namath – Don Maynard (1967 New York Jets)
3. Dan Fouts – John Jefferson (1980 San Diego Chargers)
2. Tom Brady – Randy Moss (2007 New England Patriots)
1. Joe Montana – Jerry Rice (1987 San Francisco 49ers)
New 49ers general manager John Lynch didn’t have a problem with how the list shook out.