Friday, September 05, 2008

Run, Forrest! Run!

It's officially NFL football season and I thought I'd entertain the oft-debated question of the greatest NFL running backs of all time.

Not just yardage or yards per attempt, though the hard stats are helpful, but who were the greatest all around running backs, as far as durability, value to their teams, running, receiving, blocking, etc.?

ESPN's experts have compiled their top 10 and it's pretty good, except where it deviates from mine, of course. I welcome your thoughts, but trust me, my list is correct.
  1. Jim Brown - Admittedly, I go on reputation and stats alone, but he seems to be the Babe Ruth of running backs and in a league of his own. Remember, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which means handing him the ball would probably get you half a first down every time.
  2. Barry Sanders - I hate putting him above my Cowboys, but he was phenomenal with a spare team and he could have easily done much more had he not retired early.
  3. Tony Dorsett - It may be heresy to rate him above Emmitt, but Dorsett was so explosive and a great threat catching passes out of the backfield. He was also a central piece of a very successful Cowboys team.
  4. Emmitt Smith - Not only was he great on the field, he was an inspiration and the gauge of his team. As went Emmitt, so went the Cowboys. Of course, being the All-Time Rushing Leader doesn't hurt any. Perhaps unfairly, Emmitt's accomplishments can get downplayed because he played on such a great time with such a great offensive line, even though he also contributed and made that line look good.
  5. Earl Campbell - He was a man among boys it seems and arguably the least fun to try to tackle. Had he not been a hated Longhorn, he might have ranked higher.
  6. Walter Payton - He was another punished by being on a subpar team, but he still managed to break Jim Brown's rushing record.
  7. Eric Dickerson - Many times I was juked out of my socks just watching him on the couch. He just seemed to have another gear on the field. I think his reputation would be greater had he been privileged to play for one franchise instead of 4.
  8. Marshall Faulk - Mister Everything it seemed there for a while with the Rams, in his prime who wouldn't have prioritized him over just about anyone else playing?
  9. O.J. Simpson - I know he may be a murderer, but prior to all that or his Naked Gun movies, the Juice was loose all over the NFL. He was another who wasn't fortunate to play on a perennial top team, but still put up absurd numbers.
  10. Marcus Allen - Though never a Raider fan, it was hard not to respect his abilities on the field.
Honorable Mention, guys whose careers could have been in their league, but circumstances derailed them: Bo Jackson, Gale Sayers, and Hershael Walker.

Guys to Watch: Adrian Peterson and Ladainian Tomlinson.

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At 05 September, 2008 03:02, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

Yeah, good bull, that's right. I pick Emmitt.

At 05 September, 2008 07:23, Blogger Gordan Runyan said...

Giant-hating Cowboy fan here, just wanted to add that the enormous kid in NY looks like another one to watch, after stocking his personal highlight reel last night with several humiliated and demolished Redskin DB's. Maybe someday I'll remember his name, even.

At 05 September, 2008 08:48, Blogger Lance said...

I hope Peterson can stay healthy, and if so, he'll be something else!

He almost broke the career rushing record at OU, even though he missed a good number of games with injuries (and skipped his senior season).

I wonder if his style of power-running (and colliding) will force an early retirement, unfortunately.

At 05 September, 2008 09:07, Blogger Reepicheep said...

Emmett doesn't crack the top 10 if not for the line he played behind and the offense he played with. Straight up.

No Ickey Woods? No Ickey shuffle? Come on!

At 05 September, 2008 09:09, Blogger Reepicheep said...

Oh my...I just looked again- Tony Dorsett? That's hilarious.

At 05 September, 2008 09:48, Blogger Cody said...

As Tecmo Bowl as my witness, Bo Jackson is the greatest running back of all time.

At 05 September, 2008 15:49, Blogger GUNNY said...

Reepicheep, you don't quite sound objective. Your anti-Cowboys bias/envy is showing through, in spite of how you've tried to veil it.


However, I'm inclined to come up with a top ten NFL player celebrations.

The Icky Shuffle. Neal Smith's baseball swing. Butch Johnson's California Quake. Deion's hopping around thing. Joe Horn's cell phone bit. T.O.'s Sharpie. Sterling Sharpe's salute. Dunking the football through the uprights. The Lambeau leap.

Cody, it's just hard to put Bo in the top 10 having played so little. There's no doubt in my mind, however, that given enough years he would have been in there. He was an athlete extraordinaire.

Gordan, I'll keep an eye out for your Giant kid. That's all the Cowboys need to worry about. *sigh*

Jay, if I often ask myself, would I draft differently regarding these guys if I was thinking about a game, a season, or a career. If you're wanting to draft a guy and not worry about the running back position again for at least a decade, how could you not draft Emmitt first?

Lance, I was really hoping the Cowboys would have grabbed Peterson after watching the Big XII et al getting only air when they tried to grab him. He has real potential, but the shelf life for a running back is not that great. It's Gehenna on the knees and body in general.

At 05 September, 2008 21:25, Blogger Sean Crowe said... Sorry, not interested. I got more important things to worry the start of the NHL season eh.

At 05 September, 2008 21:33, Blogger Jade said...

The NY Giants are looking good . Looking forward to a repeat of last year's SuperBowl! :o)

At 07 September, 2008 22:53, Blogger Jade said...

Jets are also looking good! :o) Anyone watch the game??? Heard Brady got hurt. :o) It'll be interesting to see how the Jets play NE and San Diego in the following weeks.

At 08 September, 2008 10:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gunny, you guys can have the NFL . . . I'll take NCAA any day. But that's not my point here. Interesting that you used the photo of "Forest Gump" in the Alabama uniform. Did you know that the Sports Publicity department at the UofA still gets calls wanting to know what years he played there. ROLL TIDE.

Bill Haynes


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