Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson compared himself and DK Metcalf earlier this month to the greatest quarterback-wide receiver tandem in 49ers history.
Wilson told NBC Sports Michele Tafoya after the Seahawks' Week 5 win over the Minnesota Vikings that he and Metcalf aspired to be like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. That's a lofty ambition, but Wilson really should've invoked another duo from his rivals' history, and that's the pair the 49ers should envision in trying to stop them Sunday.
As it stands right now, Wilson and Metcalf are a lot more like the next Steve Young and Terrell Owens.
That's not a knock, and it shouldn't be taken as one. Young and Owens are Pro Football Hall of Famers, and they combined for one of the most iconic moments in 49ers history on a game-winning touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in the 1998 Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.
Young turned 35 in Owens' rookie season in 1996, whereas Wilson turned 30 in Metcalf's last year. But in both cases, a Super Bowl-winning QB teamed up a young receiver who helped take his game to new heights.
Wilson saying he idolized Young growing up would be enough to make the comparison a strong one, but their playing styles make them more like the Spider-Man meme. Few quarterbacks in NFL history boast the combination of accuracy in the pocket and elusiveness outside of it like Wilson and Young. They're the only QBs in the league's history with at least 30,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards in their careers.
Metcalf's only in his second NFL season, but he already looks the part of Wilson's Owens. Owens was listed at 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, while Metcalf is listed as 6-4, 229. Neither player was a first-rounder, despite their clear athletic talent, and neither took long to acclimate to the NFL. Metcalf's rookie year was more impressive, and Owens tied for second in the league in receiving touchdowns during his third season.
Owens also might be one of a handful of players you could see pulling off the incredible chase-down tackle Metcalf did last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
"DK Metcalf kind of reminds me of myself, or vice versa," Owens said of the receiver leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft. "I wish I could've run a 4.3 [40-yard dash] coming out of college. All of those numbers, those measurables are great, but he has to obviously keep himself healthy and learn as much as he can."
Young already had Rice when the 49ers drafted Owens, and the Seahawks already had Tyler Lockett. In both cases, Owens and Metcalf helped Young and Wilson reach another level.
Wilson threw for the second-most passing yards of his career last season (4,112), and the QB is on pace to shatter his career marks in yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. He's an MVP frontrunner, too. Through six games this season, Metcalf already is two TDs and 381 yards shy of matching his rookie-year totals.
In Owens' third NFL season in 1998, Young threw for a career-high 4,170 yards and 36 touchdowns. He led the league in the latter category, finished second in the former and was third in completion percentage (62.3 percent), but missed out on MVP and First Team All-Pro honors thanks to then-Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis and Minnesota Vikings QB Randall Cunningham having historic seasons themselves. That season, Owens set what were career highs in receiving yards (1,097), receptions (67) and receiving TDs (14).
The 49ers don't need to look beyond the Seahawks' tape this season to see why Wilson and Metcalf are so intimidating, but a look into the franchise's history gives them a clear idea of what they're up against Sunday. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman won't play for the 49ers in Week 8, and starting strong safety Jacquiski Tartt is doubtful, leaving a banged-up secondary with their hands full against Wilson and Metcalf.
They'll get healthier moving forward, but the 49ers likely will have to contend with the duo far beyond Sunday. Unlike Young and Owens, who only played together for parts of four seasons because of Young's career-ending concussion in 1999, Wilson and Metcalf seem like a long-term match.
Even though the pair wants to be the next Montana and Rice, Wilson and Metcalf becoming the next Young and Owens will be no less of a problem for the 49ers.