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Remembering the duo: Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman

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The 49ers were spoiled to have those two for three years.

When NaVorro Bowman announced his retirement on Tuesday, it made sense. He was out of football for over a year already. I recently was asked on a radio appearance this morning if Bowman had the stats and pedigree to go into the hall of fame. Sorry, but no.

It got me thinking though, if the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted units or stables, one of the few I’d induct is the duo of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Both have a body of work we are all familiar with. On his own, Willis was a game changer on the field. When he was paired with Takeo Spikes, it made a solid duo. In his rookie season, Bowman was a mere substitute for the most part while Spikes was the man with Willis.

Then, in 2011, they made Bowman the starter. And the pain began. Oftentimes, you’d see the coaching staff pulling Willis in favor of Bowman for some formations, like in the 2012 season opener against the Green Bay Packers, a game where Bowman plucked an Aaron Rodgers pass out of the sky for an interception.

If you intercept Aaron Rodgers it’s either because of a bobbled pass or a severe misfire. He doesn’t just make dumb throws that you can get in front of. Bowman just jumped in the air and pulled it out the sky.

Their Pro Football Focus numbers were off the charts also. Only one linebacker had a higher PFF grade (91.8) than Bowman between 2011 and 2013: his partner in crime Patrick Willis.

Everyone remembers the Pick at the ‘Stick, but something more memorable, consistent, and not written on stats is how punishing they were. If you were an opposing wide receiver catching the ball in their zip code, you would pay dearly for it.

For a third-round pick like Bowman able to hang with someone like Willis says something. Let me break down the numbers between 2011 and 2013 for you. Combined we have six interceptions (three apiece), 45 passes defended, 15 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, 14.5 sacks and a grand total of 571 tackles.

Good God.

Like I said. The WWE has the Hall of Fame for pro wrestling, and they’ll induct groups just as individuals. Ric Flair got inducted for his amazing career and then once again as a member of the Four Horseman stable.

If they went that route, a lot of units would be in line. The Purple People Eaters with the Minnesota Vikings, The Monsters of the Midway, and definitely the duo of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.