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Greatest Cornerback Tandems of All-Time

Nnamdi Asomugha is considering several teams, including the Jets. Obviously, our editor-in-chief is excited about that possibility. I would say that I am intrigued by it from a purely neutral view because of the impact that having two elite cornerbacks on the same team would have, and because we rarely see two such cornerbacks paired in their primes.

In fact, I wanted to take a look at where such a pairing might rank in history. The NFL Network did a Top Ten show on this category a couple of years ago, but I don’t mind going over it again, because my list will differ greatly. As you will see, the #2 pairing on my list didn’t even make the NFL Network list. I’m trying to take in both overall career reputation as well as performance together. I’m also looking at both cornerbacks, and it seems like the NFL Net list gave a pass to the second member of the pair sometimes, with guys like J.T. Thomas and Skip Thomas appearing on the list (plus “anyone” with Deion Sanders–I actually pick a someone). I would love to put Willie Brown and Mel Blount, or for that matter Rod Woodson, on any list, and they played with some great defenses, including some very good safeties behind them. The other corner just wasn’t on par with the second pairings below.

10. Lemar Parrish and Ken Riley, Cincinnati, 1970-1977. This pair gets on the list for ranking highly in having consistently good, long careers, though they lack the peak value to be higher. Parrish was the better of the two, and Riley got a lot of interceptions (65 career, 5th most all time) as a result. They helped a young Bengals franchise become a perennial playoff contender in the mid-70′s.

9. Mike Haynes and Raymond Clayborn, New England, 1978-1982. This grouping would be higher, but Clayborn hadn’t peaked yet when Haynes left town. Mike Haynes made four pro bowls over this span, while Clayborn would be selected 3 times after Haynes left.

8. Jimmy Johnson and Bruce Taylor, San Francisco, 1970-1972. Bruce Taylor had a shorter peak but was a pro bowler in 1971, while Jimmy Johnson was an all-pro each season. Together, the pair helped take the 49ers to the NFC Championship game three straight years.

7. Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, Cleveland, 1986-1988. These two had a shorter peak than many other cornerbacks on the list, but for a three year stretch were the best in the game. Dixon was an all-pro in 1986-87, and Minnifield in 1988, as the Browns reached consecutive AFC Championship games.

6. Lem Barney and Dick LeBeau, Detroit, 1967-1970. LeBeau also played with Night Train Lane at the end of his career, when LeBeau was early in his, but I’m putting this group on because they were both more in their primes when Barney hit the league by storm in 1967 with 10 interceptions and three returns for score.

5. Herb Adderley and Bob Jeter, Green Bay Packers, 1965-1967. This group gets on because of Adderley, as the Packers strength during this time was Adderley plus safety Willie Wood. Jeter was a solid player opposite Adderley. During this three year stretch, the Packers won three championships and the first two Super Bowls.

4. Deion Sanders and Eric Davis, San Francisco, 1994. Of the “anyones” that Deion Sanders played with, the best was in 1994 with Davis, when the 49ers won the Super Bowl.

3. Ronnie Lott and Eric Wright, San Francisco, 1984-1985. Missouri grad Eric Wright was an excellent cornerback for a short period of time. Lott would move to full-time safety in 1986 and Wright would decline, but for this two year stretch, they were dominant.

2. Mel Renfro and Herb Adderley, Dallas Cowboys, 1970-1971. This group did not even make the NFL Network list. Sure, Adderley was at his peak with the Packers, but Renfro, also in the Hall of Fame, was no slouch, selected to a pro bowl in 10 straight seasons. When your second corner is a 31-year old Hall of Famer who threatens retirement and demands a trade (and your third option at corner is a young Charlie Waters) that’s a pretty good group. Dallas lost the Super Bowl in the first season, then won the first title for Landry in the 1971 season.

1. Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes, Los Angeles Raiders, 1983-1984. In what now seems like it came from a bizarro world, Mike Haynes was tired of the ineptness in New England, and demanded a trade out of town to Oakland in the middle of the 1983 season. All he and Lester Hayes did was shut down teams on the way to a Super Bowl drubbing of Washington.

So where would a potential Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis pairing rank? Considering how well both have played up until now, and their ages, I think no lower than the top 5, with a chance to be #1 if they come in and play well together and put the Jets in position for a title.

[photo via Getty]

 

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