I was reading an article the other day about the greatest power backs of all time and Jerome Bettis was third on the list (right behind Jim Brown and Larry Csonka and right ahead of Earl Campbell). When I was comparing Bettis’ stats to the the 3 RBs I mentioned above, I saw that Bettis was highly overrated. Bettis was nothing more than an average RB for a long period of time (13 years). Let’s take a look at the average Jerome Bettis season:
277 carries, 1051 yards, 3.9 YPC, 7 TDs.
15 receptions, 111 yards, less than a TD per year.
That is not the stat line of an elite RB at all. His career YPC was 3.9. 9 out of the 13 years Bettis played in the NFL he averaged less than 4 yards per carry. Compared to Jim Brown (5.2 YPC), Larry Csonka (4.3 YPC), and Earl Campbell (4.3 YPC). Bettis was also a nonfactor in the passing game. He was a liability during pass plays because of his inability to catch passes. When we go into advanced stats, we can tell even more about Bettis:
* Note: The stats are Bettis’ averages per season, not total career.
His average DYAR of 96 would rank him 24th in the NFL in 2009, right ahead of Laurence Maroney. His average DVOA of 0.085% would rank him 31st in the NFL in 2009, right behind Rashard Mendenhall. Again, these are not the stats of an elite RB. More of the stats of an average RB, which Laurence Maroney and Rashard Mendenhall are.
The final reason why Jerome Bettis is the most overrated RB of all time is because of the offensive line he ran behind. Here are some stats from footballoutsiders.com:
* Note: ADY = adjusted line yards, PSR = power success rank, SR = stuff ranking
Average ADY: 4.29
Average PSR: 11th
Average SR: 9th
* These stats weren’t kept until 1996, so this doesn’t include Bettis’ first 3 years in the NFL.
The 4.29 ADY by the Steelers offensive line would be tied for 8th place in the NFL in 2009. The first thing that pops out at us is that Jerome Bettis’ 3.9 YPC is a good deal lower than the offensive line’s mark of 4.29 (ADY). It’s almost always the other way around for top tier RBs. Some running backs, such as Chris Johnson this year, are a full 2.0 YPC over their offensive line’s ADY. That’s the first thing we notice. So as we can see, Bettis had about the 9th best run blocking offensive line in the NFL during his career. He didn’t have a top 5 offensive line, so that eliminates the argument that he was “made” by the offensive line. But you do have to attribute some of his success to his top 10 run blocking.
In no way am I saying Bettis should not be a hall of famer. I believe he should be elected because he was able to maintain a good level of consistency throughout his 13 years. But I do not believe The Bus should be in the list of the top 40 RBs of all time. I would probably rank him around 43. That is still great, but not quite as good as many people have him ranked. I have seen Bettis crack the top 20 and even top 10 of some lists, and this is inexplicable. I believe it is more accurate to measure a RB by per season averages, because running backs such as Jim Brown did not play long. If you look at Bettis’ total career marks, you will see that he is 5th on the all time rushing yards list and 10th in TDs. But when we look closer, The Bus only averages 1,050 rushing yards per year and 7 touchdowns, far from elite stats. His career marks are high because he played long (13 yrs) and was consistent. But career stats shouldn’t have much emphasis on them for that reason.
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