Is Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates the Greatest QB/TE Combination in NFL History?

Brandon AlisogluCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2012

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 and tight end Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers celebrate a Charger touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium on September 19, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 38-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

We always want to label someone the best of all time at something. However, when it comes to Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates, there are plenty of reasons to include them in the best quarterback-to-tight-end combination conversation.

There's actually 51 of them to be exact.

The San Diego Chargers spent a good part of the 1990s mired in mediocrity with the exception of a surprising Super Bowl run in 1995.

The last decade has been a completely different story, and a large reason for all that success is Rivers to Gates.

As of the fourth quarter of their Monday night matchup against the Denver Broncos, the pair has hooked up for 51 touchdowns. Many of those on big drives in big games to take or extend leads.

So are they the best ever?

Unfortunately for Chargers fans, the answer is no.

There was a rival combination that didn't exceed the San Diego duo in numbers, but they handled their business as well.

It's a close call, but John Elway to Shannon Sharpe ranks as the best quarterback-to-tight-end connection of all time.

Elway-to-Sharpe recorded an impressive 44 touchdowns during their time together, but more importantly, the pair won two Super Bowls together.

They never combined for a score in said Super Bowls, but don't let that little misnomer fool you. Their chemistry was one of the top-three reasons why the Broncos won either championship.

In fact, Shannon Sharpe led the team in receiving in 1997 with 72 receptions for 1,107 yards. It would be easy to point out that Sharpe only had three touchdowns that year. However, that would be naive because Elway found him 10 times for scores in 1998.

Is the Rivers-to-Gates connection one of the best of all time? Without a doubt.

Just not the best. At least not yet.