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Was Isaac Bruce right in declaring himself and Torry Holt as the best duo ever?

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By: Christopher Daniel

Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Three other receiving duos of the early 2000s may disagree

Isaac Bruce’s recent induction into the Hall of Fame brought back so many great memories. There were offensive explosions at every turn and insane highlight packages, scorching the turf in the Edwards Jones Dome.

From a receiving standpoint, the Rams were head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL during their 1999 Super Bowl season and early 2000s. Bruce and running mate Torry Holt were the best wide receiver duo in their era, if not in NFL history, as Bruce declared during a recent interview. Or were they?

The Contenders

While there were several wide receiver pairs during the era of The Greatest Show on Turf that could be considered part of the conversation, for the sake of time we will look at four tandems to see if any can contradict the most recent Ram immortalized in Canton.

  • Cris Carter and Randy Moss-4 seasons
  • Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens-5 seasons
  • Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne-8 seasons
  • Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt-9 seasons

The Numbers

In an effort to view this debate objectively, it may be best to first view the statistics without associating them with their respective groups, paying more attention to the average per season due to the fact that each duo played a different amount of years together.

The first number that jumps off the page is one pair (WR Duo A) produced an average of 23 receiving touchdowns per season, about six more per year than the next closest group. In fact, they averaged more catches, yards, and touchdowns than all other combinations.

Another notable statistic is one group (WR Duo D) averaging only 131.6 catches and less than 2,000 yards per season. This means group D had less opportunities to produce gaudy numbers, and may have been a part of a run first or defensive minded team.

Identifying the receivers, noting their individual statistics, and also reiterating the amount of seasons each duo played together obviously puts the numbers into a much better focus. Bruce and Holt had the most catches and yards while the Indianapolis Colts Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were a relatively close second. Not surprisingly, both duos played together for the better part of a decade.

The Supporting Cast

Each of these tandems played with a considerable amount of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Specifically referencing the Rams, Bruce and Holt shared the field with three Hall of Famers in their prime in left tackle Orlando Pace, running back Marshall Faulk, and quarterback Kurt Warner. Marc Bulger took over for the back half of this union, logging 75 starts between 2002 and 2007.

While that combination of talent was a prominent reason for the Rams hoisting the Lombardi trophy at the end of the 1999 season, in this debate it may actually be a slight knock to the claim of being the best wide receiver duo, since opposing defenses were stretched thin with all of those threats. That doesn’t even include the likes of Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl.

Unlike the Greatest Show on Turf, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t have any players on offense that are currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame, besides Cris Carter and Randy Moss. During their four year span together, Carter and Moss split time catching passes from Randall Cunningham (20 starts), Jeff George (10 starts), and Daunte Culpepper (43 starts), while Robert Smith was the primary running back.

The Indianapolis Colts offense was flat out loaded. Harrison and Wayne paced the team with receptions on an offense led by quarterback Peyton Manning and running back Edgerrin James, coached by Tony Dungy, all three being permanent residents of Hall of Fame. Throw in an underrated Dallas Clark, an offensive line anchored by Jeff Saturday, and a young Joseph Addai at running back and you have a juggernaut on your hands.

Out of the four wide receiver partnerships, Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and the San Francisco 49ers may have had the least comparative overall offensive talent. Outside of Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and workhorse running back Garrison Hearst, the majority of big name players resided on the defensive side of the ball.

The Verdict

Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to pick against Carter and Moss. They are the only duo to play without a Hall of Fame quarterback, and yet they may be the most dangerous. Not that I would want any other pair besides Bruce and Holt, but just for a brief second, imagine the Rams and Vikings trading their respective duos. Warner to Moss is simply tantalizing. Which partnership produces the most yards, touchdowns and most importantly Super Bowl wins in that swap?