B/R Picks the 10 Greatest Running Backs of All Time
Welcome friends to the second "Greatest of All Time" list.
A few months ago I began a journey to find the greatest quarterback of all time. For those of you who are not familiar with the process of making the top ten list, I had a points system and simply compiled as many top ten lists as I could.
The higher you placed someone on your list, the more points they received.
I received a whopping 30 lists for the quarterbacks.
Apparently running back's don't mean as much as I only received six lists for them... :(
However, I am not discouraged as the outcome is very satisfying.
So without further delay I give you B/R's Top 10 Running Back's of All Time, by the people, for the people.
P.S.: If you would like the specific point system you can look up the article in my archives; it is titled "B/R's Search for the Greatest Running Back of All Time." It has all the information you'll need.
Close, but no cigar...
Even in the most democratic of all top ten lists, there are names that will be left out.
Of course, to leave out the names that received points BUT did not make the list is completely disrespectful.
So here is the list of backs that received votes but DID NOT make the top ten.
Paul Hornung: 7pts
Marcus Allen: 6pts
Thurman Thomas: 5pts
Marcus Allen: 6pts
Curtis Martin: 5pts
Edgerrin James: 5pts
Lenny Moore: 4pts
Terrell Davis: 3pts
John Riggens: 2pts
Tony Dorsett: 1pt
Franco Harris: 1 pt
10. Eric Dickerson
Career rushing yards: 13,259
Career rushing TD's: 90
Key Stats: Holds NFL record for most rushing yards in a season; 2,105. Fastest player to ever reach 10,000 rushing yards.
Eric Dickerson started big in the NFL. Setting rookie rushing records and putting up fat stat lines.
Dickerson is sixth all-time in rushing yards and 12th in rushing touchdowns.
The second half of Dickerson's career was marred by suspensions, contract disputes, and injuries cut down his playing time.
9. Earl Campbell
Career rushing yards: 9,407
Career rushing TD's: 74
Key Stat: Campbell has been named NFL offensive player of the year three times.
Earl Campbell is most likely the greatest power runner in NFL history. He was big, and he was fast.
He pounded defenses every play and punished anyone who tried to tackle him.
Pittsburgh's Joe Greene said this of Campbell: "he could do more damage to a team than any back I have ever faced."
Campbell could be one of the greatest running backs in college football history, but in the NFL his production was limited because of defenses crashing the box trying to contain him.
8. LaDainian Tomlinson
Career rushing yards: 12,074
Career rushing touchdowns: 126
Key Stat: Holds the NFL record for touchdowns in a single season (31) and points scored in a single season (186).
Tomlinson's career numbers through eight years is mind numbing. There was a time when people thought he would blow away every record there was to break.
Since that talk, Tomlinson's production has steadily decreased but is still at a productive level.
While many agree Tomlinson is past his prime, he is still one of the best backs in the league.
Tomlinson has never rushed for under 1,000 yards in a season.
6. Gale Sayers (Tie)
Career rushing yards: 4,956
Career rushing TD's: 48
Key Stat: Most touchdowns in a rookie season, 22.
Sayers' career numbers are average at best, but his play on the field was nothing of that nature.
Gale Sayers is quite possibly the most explosive running back of all-time. His cutting ability and elusiveness is simply jaw dropping.
I remember ESPN did a piece on comparing Reggie Bush to Gale Sayers. I will never forget saying that piece was a joke because while Reggie Bush was blowing away Pac-10 defenses, Gale Sayers was blowing away NFL defenses.
If it were not for knee injuries Sayers' career would have lasted at least another four maybe five seasons.
6. OJ Simpson (Tie)
Career rushing yards: 11,236
Career rushing TD's: 61
Key Stat: First NFL player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season.
Simpson was nicknamed "The Juice" (not for steroids...) but because he was simply unstoppable.
Drafted to a porous Buffalo Bills team, Simpson turned the team around with his quick running.
OJ Simpson is in the hall of fame and is widely considered the best running back in Buffalo Bills history, even with competition such as Thurman Thomas.
Oh yeah, and OJ did it.
5. Marshall Faulk
Career rushing yards: 12,279
Career rushing TD's: 100
Key Stat: Marshall Faulk accounted for 19,154 total yards and 136 total touchdowns.
Faulk is widely considered the most complete and versatile back in NFL history. He was as great a receiver as he was a running back.
His numbers are amazing and his impact in the St. Louis Rams offense is invaluable.
Like most backs, injuries caught up with Marshall Faulk and his career slowly came to a close.
4. Emmitt Smith
Career rushing yards: 18,355
Career rushing TD's: 164
Key Stat: Holds the record for career rushing yards, TD's and most 100 yard rushing games (78).
Emmitt Smith is the most prolific rusher in NFL history. He holds both the rushing yards and rushing TD's record by a mile.
They are in no real danger of being broken soon.
While Smith holds all of these records he was never seen as a particularly special back. He was not incredibly fast, nor elusive. What made Smith dangerous was his amazing knowledge of his plays and his vision.
He always followed his blocking and found the holes.
Emmitt Smith retired as a Cowboy in 2005 and will be Hall of Fame eligible next year.
3. Barry Sanders
Career rushing yards: 15,269
Career rushing TD's: 109
Key Stat: Third in all-time rushing.
Barry Sanders played for one of the worst teams in NFL history. Despite this, Sanders was able to amass huge numbers. He played only 10 years of NFL football and they were 10 years of excellence.
Sanders retired in his prime saying: "the tradition of losing in the Lions franchise was simply too much for me to take." He continued to say "It made me lose my competitive spirit.
Despite early retirement his rushing average of five yards per carry is one of the highest in NFL history.
Sanders is the most elusive back in NFL history to many as he made a legacy of "breaking ankles."
As a football fan, I would have loved to see Barry Sanders play for a winning team as he surely would hold every rushing record.
2. Walter Payton
Career rushing yards: 16,726
Career rushing TD's: 110
Key Stat: Second all-time in rushing yards.
Walter Payton is probably the most respected running back among NFL players.
The greatest running backs in NFL history have stated their respect and admiration for Walter Payton very often.
His running style is unlike anything in NFL history. It is a combination of stutter stepping, stiff arming, and high stepping.
His running came from his hips rather than his knees.
Payton accounted for over 21,000 total yards from scrimmage, only four players in NFL history have ever done this.
1. Jim Brown, The Greatest Running Back Of All-Time
Career rushing yards: 12,312
Career rushing TD's: 106
Key Stat: Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame despite only playing nine years. He is the only rusher in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game.
Jim Brown is the perfect example of a short but sure as hell sweet career. He played only nine years and did not play in his thirties.
Brown was known as a punishing runner, but also a back that could get outside and hurt you.
At the time of his retirement he was miles ahead of the second leading rusher and still remains eighth all-time.
Sporting News called him the greatest football player of all-time.
If Brown had not retired early to pursue an acting career, it is likely he would hold every NFL rushing record.
I am very pleased with the list.
The list is very accurate in my eyes and I like that the top three were so far apart from the rest. As I believe those are the only three that can lay claim to the title "greatest of all-time."
Six lists was a lot less than I wanted, but the six lists were from all very credible people and I hold their opinions very high. A little shout out to the five people who sent me lists.
And a special shout out to T.W. Krems for sending me his list before temporarily leaving B/R. This list may be his last contribution to B/R and I am very honored to receive it.
As the cliche' goes: Let the debate begin!
P.S. I will be doing another one of these for the greatest wide receivers so if you want to contribute keep a look out for the article calling for lists!