Why Edge Should Have Stayed in Indy

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIIOctober 24, 2008

Why would anybody in their right minds leave what Edgerrin James had?

James was the fourth overall selection in the 1999 NFL Draft, taken by the Indianapolis Colts. Many analysts didn't think James should have been selected ahead of reigning Heisman winner Ricky Williams. But James soon proved them wrong, winning the Rookie of the Year award after leading the NFL in rushing yards with 1,553, while scoring 13 TDs. James led the NFL in rushing yards again in 2000, this time racking up 1,709 and 13 TDs.

A torn ACL sidelined James only six games into the 2001 season, the only season in his 10-year career in which he hasn't ran for at least 900 yards. Many critics didn't think James would be able to bounce back. But in 2003, he ran for 1,259 and re-established himself as one of the elite running backs in the game.

Then the controversy starts.

James's seven-year contract was over after the 2005 season, in which he ran for 1,506 yards and tied his career high with 13 touchdowns, and averaged 100 yards a game. James was an elite running back, and was a third of the offensive juggernaut of himself, Peyton Manning, and Marvin Harrison. He had helped the Colts reach the playoffs seven times in eight years, led the Colts in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and was a four-time Pro Bowler.

But this was not enough. James didn't like playing in Manning's shadow. He signed a four-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals to play in the place every NFL player goes to die. He took over the starting job from a retired Emmitt Smith.

The Arizona Cardinals have had one of the NFL's best offenses on paper over the last three seasons, with All-Pro wideouts Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, two-time MVP and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner, and James. Arizona also drafted former Heisman winner Matt Leinart out of USC to compete with Warner for the starting QB job.

But Leinart hasn't panned out, and was relegated to backup duties. And the Cards' offensive line hasn't helped much.

This season, James is the backup to rookie Tim Hightower (a fifth round selection) and in the six games he's played this season, he only has 363 yards, and is on pace to have his only non-1,000 yard season since his ACL injury in 2001.

But the real kick in the teeth is this: In 2006, the season after Edge left Indy, the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.