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Best NFL QB-WR Tandems of All Time: Joe Montana and Jerry Rice Headline Top 10

Who are the best NFL QB-WR tandems of all time? We offer our top 10, which includes NFL legends Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Peyton Manning.

Let’s get this out of the way: This list is specifically about quarterback-receiver tandems. It doesn’t include tight ends such as Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski, the former of whom basically is a receiver. Obviously, these rankings would look much different if we opened them to all pass-catchers.

With that said, who are the best NFL QB-WR tandems of all time? We came up with the top 10, along with five honorable mentions.

10 Best NFL QB-WR Tandems of All Time

Honorable mentions: Kurt Warner and Torry Holt, Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson, Jim Kelly and Andre Reed, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, Dan Fouts and Charlie Joiner

10) Tom Brady and Julian Edelman

Catches: 580
Yards: 6,311
Touchdowns: 41

Tom Brady posted better numbers with Wes Welker than with Julian Edelman and over a shorter span. And Brady’s connection with Randy Moss in 2007 was more impressive than anything he did with Welker or Edelman. However, when you look at the full picture, the Brady-Edelman tandem deserves a spot on this list.

It’s all about the playoffs. Brady and Edelman won three Super Bowls together, connecting for 118 catches, 1,442 yards, and five touchdowns in 19 postseason games. If you gave Brady truth serum, he probably would name Edelman as his favorite target in big situations.

9) Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne

Catches: 787
Yards: 10,748
Touchdowns: 69

The Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison connection — more on that in a bit — gets most of the love, but Manning’s connection with Reggie Wayne also is one of the best we’ve ever seen.

Wayne topped 1,000 yards in seven consecutive seasons while playing with Manning. His 53-yard touchdown also was one of the biggest plays in the Indianapolis Colts’ victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl 41. Was Harrison the better player? Yeah, but Wayne also had a fantastic career with Manning as his quarterback.

8) Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce

Catches: 246
Yards: 3,977
Touchdowns: 26

Some might argue that the Kurt Warner-Torry Holt tandem should be on this list instead of Warner and Isaac Bruce. But we’re going with the latter.

One of the best route-runners of all time, Bruce took his game to another level when Warner was inserted as the St. Louis Rams’ starting quarterback in 1999. He caught 77 passes for 1,165 yards and 12 TDs and punctuated the campaign by hauling in a 70-yard fourth-quarter touchdown in the Rams’ Super Bowl 34 win over the Tennessee Titans.

The “Greatest Show on Turf” is one of the best offenses we’ve ever seen, and the Warner-Bruce tandem was a huge part of it.

7) Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry

Catches: 631
Yards: 9,275
Touchdowns: 68

We’re going old-time football for the No. 7 spot.

The first great QB-WR tandem in NFL history, Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry dominated the league from 1956 through 1967. During the run, Unitas won three MVPs while Berry twice finished top-five in the voting. With the Unitas-Berry connection leading the way, the Baltimore Colts won back-to-back titles in 1958 and 1959.

6) Dan Marino and Mark Clayton

Catches: 550
Yards: 8,643
Touchdowns: 82

The 1983 NFL Draft was a total franchise-changer for the Miami Dolphins. In Round 1, they selected Dan Marino, who became one of the five best quarterbacks in NFL history. And in Round 8, they selected Mark Clayton, who turned into arguably the best receiver in Dolphins history.

Marino’s connection with Clayton was sublime and unstoppable for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to earn either player a Super Bowl championship.

5) Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann

Catches: 336
Yards: 5,462
Touchdowns: 51

Other tandems on this list produced far better regular season numbers than Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann, as the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers heavily relied on their power running game. But make no mistake: The Bradshaw-Swann connection is one of the best NFL QB-WR tandems of all time.

The pair won four Super Bowls together and always delivered in big moments. They’re both in the Hall of Fame — and deservedly so.

4) Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin

Catches: 641
Yards: 9,949
Touchdowns: 54

The Troy Aikman-Michael Irvin tandem has it all: multiple Super Bowl titles, big-time regular season stats, and real star power.

Aikman and Irvin were the driving force behind the 1990s Dallas Cowboys dynasty, which featured a slew of all-time greats. In Super Bowl 27, Aikman won MVP honors while Irvin delivered seven catches for 114 yards and two TDs. With Aikman throwing him the ball, Irvin set a then-NFL record by topping 100 yards in 47 games.

3) Steve Young and Jerry Rice

Catches: 780
Yards: 11,462
Touchdowns: 119

Some San Francisco 49ers fans might put the Steve Young-Jerry Rice connection ahead of Rice and Joe Montana, but we’d disagree.

The two were absolutely electrifying, especially during the Niners’ Super Bowl 29 win over the San Diego Chargers. Young threw for 325 yards and six TDs, with Rice racking up 10 catches for 149 yards and three scores. The Young-Rice tandem certainly made it easier for 49ers fans to accept Montana finishing his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

2) Joe Montana and Jerry Rice

Catches: 386
Yards: 6,710
Touchdowns: 67

The greatest receiver in NFL history and the second-best quarterback of all time. They couldn’t be any lower than No. 2 on this list.

Montana and Rice won back-to-back Super Bowls together in 1989 and 1990. Rice dominated in both, posting 215 yards and a TD against the Cincinnati Bengals and 148 yards and three TDs against the Denver Broncos. When Montana and Rice were clicking, NFL defenses were powerless to stop it.

1) Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison

Catches: 953
Yards: 12,766
Touchdowns: 112

The numbers are just absurd.

Manning and Harrison were the NFL’s best QB-WR tandem for a decade — and the best of all time. They won a Super Bowl together, and their 112 TDs are the most for a QB-WR tandem in NFL history. Their most prolific season was in 2002 when Harrison caught a then-record 143 balls for a league-leading 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Manning-Harrison connection is unrivaled in production and consistency. It’s an easy pick for the No. 1 spot.