LaDainian Tomlinson Shy Again: Top 10 Running Backs Never to Win a Super Bowl
Not too many folks gave the New York Jets a chance at winning the Super Bowl this year, but it would have been nice to see one of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL finally put on one of those big, expensive rings. Maybe next year.
In considering the many players who have never won a Super Bowl, let's take a look at the rushers who fall into the same, unfortunate category as L.T.
The main career statistics utilized for this list are total yards (must have 8,000 career yards to qualify), yards per carry, yards per game, total rushing and receiving touchdowns and yards from scrimmage.
Unlike great quarterbacks who have never won a Super Bowl, no credit is given to the following running backs who made it to the big game. It appears that the correlation just isn't the same, as not too many on this list have won conference championships.
A few guys who didn't make honorable mention but were considered for the list:
Three-time Pro-Bowler who rushed for over 1,400 yards during three different seasons, leading the NFC in 1999.
Oh that pesky USFL and what it has done with statistics for some guys. Walker hurts himself by being dead last on this list in the category of average rushing yards per game (44.0), which has nothing to do with his time spent in the USFL. He did make it to two Pro Bowls and did lead the entire league in all-purpose yards in 1987 and 1990.
Funny how Stephen Davis was first a backup to Terry Allen, and Terry Allen was first a backup to Herschel Walker. If we remove the 1993 season due to Allen's injury, which forced him to miss that year, from 1992-1996 there were fewer running backs better. He amassed nearly 5,000 yards covering that time period and led the league in rushing touchdowns in 1996.
Playing with the Jets his entire career, McNeil made three Pro Bowls and led the league in total rushing yards and yards per carry during the strike-shortened 1982 season. He had over 11,000 yards from scrimmage during his career.
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This three-time Pro Bowler amassed over 10,000 yards rushing and had five seasons of at least 1,000 yards. He was second in the league in 2003 in yards per carry (5.4) and is seventh all-time in yards from scrimmage among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
This Hall of Famer and five-time Pro Bowler would most likely be in the top five on this list had it not been for his short career. He led the league in rushing during his first three seasons in the league, and his 1980 rushing performance with over 1,900 yards is the seventh best in NFL history.
Amassing over 10,000 yards rushing over his career and scoring 68 touchdowns, George is ranked 10th all-time among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl. His low yards per carry average (3.6) keeps him out of the top 10.
10. Shaun Alexander
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This three-time Pro Bowler rushed for over 1,100 yards for five straight seasons, culminating in his record-setting and NFL MVP 2005 performance with over 1,800 yards rushing and 27 rushing touchdowns.
From 2001 to 2005, Alexander ranked in the top three in each season for rushing touchdowns scored, and he ranks second all-time in overall touchdowns scored among running backs who have never won the Super Bowl.
Alexander's 168 points scored in 2005 is the third best performance in the history of the NFL. He also holds two of the top 20 spots in terms of overall touchdowns scored in a season by a non-quarterback, with 20 in 2004 (19th best of all time) and 28 in 2005 (second best of all time).
9. Clinton Portis
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This two-time Pro Bowler is less than 80 yards shy of reaching the 10,000 yards rushing mark for his career and has had six seasons in which he has rushed for over 1,250 yards in a season.
Portis has ranked in the top 10 for rushing touchdowns in a season four different times, and his 5.5 rushing yards per carry were tops for the entire league in 2003.
Also in 2003, Portis had the 12th best season of all time in terms of average rushing yards per game with just over 122 yards. He ranks third all-time in rushing yards per game and fifth all-time in yards per carry among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
8. Fred Taylor
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With just over 11,500 yards rushing, this Pro Bowler ranks 15th all-time in career rushing yards and 25th all-time in yards from scrimmage. Taylor has ranked in the top 10 in the league for rushing yards in a season six times and seven times ranked in the top 10 for yards per carry in a season.
In 2000, he led the entire NFL in yards per game average with 107. He currently ranks third all-time in yards per carry and seventh all-time in total career yards among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
7. Thurman Thomas
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This five-time Pro Bowler, Hall of Famer and NFL MVP award-winner had the Super Bowl ring elude him by one win on four separate occasions. He is 14th all-time in career rushing yards and 15th all-time in all-purpose yards.
Thomas had five straight seasons with over 1,200 yards rushing from 1989 to 1993 and led the NFL in yards per carry in 1991 with 4.9. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage for four consecutive years, and his 2,113-yard performance in 1993 is the 36th greatest yards from scrimmage performance in the history of the NFL.
Thomas is fourth all-time in career yards from scrimmage and sixth all-time in career rushing yards among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
6. O.J. Simpson
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This six-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer was the first back to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, and he did it in only a 14-game schedule.
His yards per game average that season (1973) of 143.1 is the greatest in the history of the NFL. If two games were added to his total for that season, it would have amounted to 2,289 yards, a number no player has come within 200 yards of since Eric Dickerson broke the record in 1984 during a 16-game schedule.
The 1973 NFL MVP led the league in rushing yards during four different seasons and has two of the top 17 all-time rushing seasons in the history of the NFL. He is 18th all-time in career rushing yards and joins Jim Brown as the only two players in the history of the NFL to average over 120 yards per game in a season twice.
Simpson is second all-time in yards per carry and sixth all-time in average rushing yards per game among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
5. Edgerrin James
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This four-time Pro Bowler ranks 11th all-time in career rushing yards with just over 12,000 and is 18th all-time in career rushing touchdowns. Missing the Super Bowl win by departing the Colts one year too early, James led the entire NFL in rushing yards his first two seasons in the NFL.
He ranked in the top eight in the NFL for average yards per game during five different seasons and is 13th all-time in yards from scrimmage with just over 15,000 yards. His 2,303 yards from scrimmage in 2000 led the entire NFL and is the ninth best season in that category in the entire history of the NFL.
James is fifth all-time in career rushing yards, fifth all-time in career yards from scrimmage and sixth all-time in overall (receiving/rushing) career touchdowns among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
4. Curtis Martin
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This five-time Pro Bowler and lock for the Hall of Fame rushed for over 1,000 yards in 10 straight seasons, with the 10th season being his best with nearly 1,700 yards. With just over 14,000 yards, Martin ranks fourth all-time in career rushing yards and 12th in career rushing touchdowns with 90.
Martin ranked in the top three in the NFL during four different seasons for total rushing yards, leading the league in 2004. He is 11th all-time in career rushing yards per game and is one of only 19 players to score 100 touchdowns in a career.
He is second all-time in career rushing yards, third all-time in yards from scrimmage and fourth all-time in overall touchdowns scored among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
3. Eric Dickerson
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This six-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer holds the record for most rushing yards in a season, accomplished in 1984 with 2,105 yards. Dickerson is the only player in NFL history to rush for over 1,800 yards in a season three different times ('83, '84, '86) and led the NFL in rushing yards in four seasons.
Dickerson is seventh all-time in career rushing yards with just over 13,000 yards and is 12th all-time in rushing touchdowns with 90.
In 1984 he was second in the league in yards per carry with 5.6, trailing Hokie Gajan that year, of all people. He led the entire NFL in rushing yards per game average in five different seasons, each time rushing for well over 100 yards per game.
His 15,396 yards from scrimmage is 14th all-time, and he led the league in that category during four different seasons, each time amassing over 2,000 yards.
While most of his stats were compiled while with the Rams, it was one of his performances with the Colts that may be most memorable. It could be argued that the greatest half of a game ran by a running back was by Dickerson in his Halloween night performance against Denver during Monday Night Football in 1988. Considering the game was out of reach by halftime with Indianapolis up 45-10, there was no need for Dickerson to play in the second half. His first half line: 21 carries, 159 yards, four touchdowns.
Dickerson is second all-time in yards per game, fourth all-time in career rushing yards, fifth all-time in yards per carry and fifth all-time in overall touchdowns among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
2. LaDainian Tomlinson
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This five-time Pro Bowler rushed for over 1,000 yards during his first eight seasons in the league, leading the league twice during that time frame in 2006 and 2007.
The 2006 NFL MVP ranks sixth all-time in career rushing yards and has led the entire NFL in rushing yards for a season on two occasions, in 2006 and 2007.
Tomlinson's record-setting season, 2006, saw him score more touchdowns than any other man in the history of the NFL. He has led the league during three different seasons in rushing touchdowns and ranks second in that category on the all-time list with 144 career rushing touchdowns.
He holds three spots in the top 23 greatest seasons in terms of rushing touchdowns scored in history. His 113.4 yards per game average of 2006 led the league that season and was the 22nd best performance in that category of all time.
Tomlinson is third all-time in overall touchdowns, only behind Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, and is sixth all-time in yards from scrimmage. His 2,370 yards in 2003 was the fourth best yards from scrimmage performance of all time; his 2,323 in 2006 was seventh best.
He ranks first all-time in overall touchdowns, second in yards from scrimmage, third in career rushing yards and fourth in yards per game among running backs who have never won a Super Bowl.
1. Barry Sanders
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Barry Sanders is the Dan Marino of all running backs. No other back comes near him in terms of overall dominance of the statistical categories.
He is a Hall of Famer, a 10-time Pro Bowler and a two-time NFL MVP. He ranks first in all categories used to compile this list except for overall touchdowns, in which case he ranks third behind Tomlinson and Alexander.
Sanders had five seasons in which he rushed for 1,500 yards or more and is one of only six players to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season—2,053 in 1997, which is the third best season in the history of the NFL. In Sanders' worst season, in which he played only 11 games, he still managed to rush for over 1,100 yards.
He is ninth all-time in rushing touchdowns with 99 and is second all-time in rushing yards per game with just over 99. He is fifth all-time in yards from scrimmage with just over 18,000 yards. In all 10 of his seasons—even the 11-game 1993 season—he never ranked lower than fifth in rushing yards for the season.
It took Emmitt Smith 15 years to get to 18,000 yards and Walter Payton 13 years to get to 16,000. It only took Barry Sanders 10 years to get to 15,000.
He rushed for over 1,400 yards in his final season in 1998, and some say that he retired too soon. Playing for the Lions for so long may have that kind of influence. But if Sanders had played just another three or four years and maintained his average yards per season or at least come close to it, it is not inconceivable that he would have hit the 20,000 rushing yard mark for his career.