Kansas City Chiefs: Ranking Their 5 Best Running Backs of All Time
Over the years, the Kansas City Chiefs have had many running backs come and go.
The running back position is one where the Chiefs have had a lot of success, but their players have not had the long careers that many initially thought or hoped they might after making a good first impression.
Chiefs fans had their eyes on the game every Sunday, just to see their team showcase their tailbacks.
In this slideshow we will go over the top five running backs in franchise history, and touch on a couple of other noteworthy Chiefs running backs.
Honorable Mention: Joe Delaney
It is not possible to have this list without mentioning Joe Delaney, regardless of whether or not you want to rank him in the top five.
Delaney was brought to Kansas City in 1981 to help the Chiefs move forward after a grueling decade. But Delaney only played in 23 games.
His rookie season was one that past Chiefs fans will remember forever. Delaney rushed for 1,121 yards and three touchdowns during his rookie season. Chiefs fans were pleased with his performance, and they had no doubt better years were ahead.
Delaney’s career ended when he attempted to save multiple drowning children who did not know how to swim. Despite his swimming inexperience, he managed to save one child before he himself drowned trying to save another.
Even though the Chiefs never officially retired his jersey number (37), it has not been worn by another player since his untimely and tragic death.
5. Ed Podolak
Ed Podolak became part of the Chiefs during their Super Bowl run, but he played no role with the team that year. It was not until after that season that everyone knew who he was.
Podolak saw limited time as a running back since he played on a special team. He still managed to make the most of his playing time on offense, however.
Podolak finished fourth all time in rushing yards with 4,451 in his eight years playing for the Chiefs. He had over 300 receiving yards in six seasons, and he was one of the more elusive and versatile running backs of the 1970s.
4. Christian Okoye
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Christian Okoye was nicknamed “The Nigerian Nightmare,” and he lived up to that name with opposing defenses.
Before retiring as the all-time rushing leader for the Chiefs in 1992, Okoye amassed 4,897 yards. His best season came in 1989, when he led the league in rushing yards with 1,480, giving the Chiefs their fifth best rushing season in franchise history.
Okoye became a fan favorite after showing his ability to stay on his feet and not let defenders drag him to the ground easily.
Okoye ended his career earlier than many others would have. But Okoye decided to retire because his body was unable to keep up with the game after six seasons.
3. Larry Johnson
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Larry Johnson probably would not win a popularity contest.
When he (rightfully) receives his Chiefs Hall of Fame induction someday, it will be interesting to see how Chiefs fans react.
Johnson was popular at one point in his career. His number was called in 2004, and fans were nervous about whether or not he could fill in for Priest Holmes. He stepped up when the Chiefs needed him in the final six games of the season, rushing for 541 yards and earning a start in the final three games of the season.
After Holmes was limited due to more injuries, Johnson really shined, running for over 1,700 in back-to-back seasons. Johnson scored a total of 40 touchdowns in 2005 and 2006, and he played a big role in helping the Chiefs stay alive and reach the 2006 postseason.
But then, his heroic game-changing ability disappeared. Struggling immensely, Johnson missed 13 games in 2007 and 2008 due to injuries and suspensions.
Had Johnson managed to remain on the field, he could be Kansas City’s all-time rushing leader, as he finished second in franchise history, falling 55 yards shy of Holmes.
Despite his struggles, Johnson still brought a lot to Kansas City, and he is the only Chiefs player to ever rush for over 1,700 yards and do so in back-to-back seasons.
2. Marcus Allen
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Marcus Allen joining the Chiefs is considered one of the best division snatches in franchise history. It was also a chance for Allen to resurrect his career when everyone thought he was done.
Like Joe Montana before him, Allen made the most of the second chance in the NFL that Kansas City gave him.
Allen earned the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1993, rushing for over 700 yards for the first time since 1988. He also reached the end zone 15 times that season, making it the second most touchdowns he scored in a single season.
Despite the fact that he was continuing to age, Allen improved along the way, collecting over 4,800 yards of offense in five seasons.
Even as a retired player, Allen managed to surprise football fans again in 2003, when he decided to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Chiefs instead of the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders.
1. Priest Holmes
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No Chiefs player was more electrifying at the goal line than Holmes.
It was obvious. Defensive coordinators knew the Chiefs would run the ball when it was first-and-goal at the one-yard line.
But the Chiefs ran the ball with Holmes anyway. Why?
Holmes’ ability to jump over his elite offensive line would take him to the end zone for six just about every time. Dick Vermeil never had a doubt in his mind, and he always wanted offensive coordinator Al Saunders to call it.
Even playing with injuries at times, Holmes owns the record for yards and touchdowns among all rushers in Chiefs history. Holmes is considered the complete package when it comes to running backs. He is valued for his abilities to catch, block and keep the ball secure.
Holmes is the only Chiefs player in franchise history to ever win the AP Offensive Player of the Year award.
Can Jamaal Charles Be No. 1 on This List?
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If Jamaal Charles retired from football today, many would make the case that he belongs on this list.
He had one of the best rushing games in NFL history in the 2009 regular season finale against the Denver Broncos, running non-stop for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The former Texas Longhorn track star became the only player in NFL history to run for over 1,100 yards in 200 or fewer carries in 2009. He shattered his own record the following season, rushing for more yards under 200 carries.
He sprinted his way to his first Pro Bowl after 1,467 rushing yards and five touchdowns off 230 carries.
After missing a majority of the 2011 season, Charles is ready to climb his way back and prove his injury will not be enough to set him back.
Even in an era where running backs split carries, Charles still manages to gain a lot of yards, as he almost shattered Jim Brown’s record for highest yard per carry average in a single season. This should give Chiefs fans a big reason to be confident that Charles might surpass Johnson and Holmes for most yards run.
By the time he retires from football, it is likely that this list can be revised so that Charles places first.