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American Football: Best runner ever

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posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 07:50 PM
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I am new to this forum, so I ended up posting this on the wrong board. So sorry about that.

One of my favorite debates is: who is the greatest runner of all time? Now not running back. I am not talking about who the best all-around running back of all time is (although that is also a lively discussion). What I am referring to is the player with the best pure running ability. If you consider only a player's rushing ability, who is the best ever? Jim Brown? Barry Sanders? Eric Dickerson? Walter Payton?




posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 08:13 PM
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Are we talking about for a career, or just for a year or two? For a year or two, the best pure runner I ever saw, with no doubt at all, was Earl Campbell. He would run through the DL's, flatten the LB's, then run away from the DB's. You had to see him to believe it.

Now, of course this didn't last for long. He was precipitously in decline after 2 or 3 years, and retired after 6 or 7. Today, he can barely walk according to what I've heard and read, which is the understandable consequence of having flattened linebackers hundreds of times. (It probably didn't help them a lot, either.) Those who saw his collision with Jack Tatum in 1979 will never forget it.

So, though he paid a terrible price for it, Earl Campbell is my answer on a "peak value" basis.

On a career value basis, I never saw Jim Brown, but I've heard so much about him and his stats back up what I've heard. I take him.

BHN



posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 08:47 PM
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You have a good point about Campbell. His career was basically six seasons, with the first four being the most impressive (altogether he played eight). He is the only player in NFL history to have four 200-yard games in the same season (1980). He is my pick as the greatest power back of all time. He was pretty fast too, especially for his size.

Although Jim Brown's greatness is indisputable, I do feel his achievements are much like Chamberlain's in basketball. Brown was 225 lb in an era when most offensive linemen were under 260 and almost all defensive linemen were under 250. He outweighed every defensive back (in today's game many safeties are bigger than Brown was), almost every linebacker, and even some of the linemen. I feel he was incredible (I've seen a lot of his runs on NFL Films), but I don't see him as number one.

The name a lot of people say is Barry Sanders. One thing is certain about Sanders: he was totally unique. No one had ever seen moves like his and no one ever will. Sanders had deceptive power and speed, and he was probably the toughest back ever to tackle. However, he was not a reliable short distance runner. No one got tackled for a loss more that Sanders. That was part of his style: he would cut back or circle around looking for an opening. Sometimes he broke it for a big gain, other times he was caught for a loss. He was not reliable to get the first down on 4th and 1. Campbell and Brown certainly were.

My pick as the best pure runner ever may surprise many: Eric Dickerson. Dickerson's stats are quite impressive. He had 1800 or more yards in three different seasons, something no other back has done. Amazingly, those were three of his first four seasons. In 1985, he held out and missed the first two games, finishing with 1234. In the playoffs, though, he put up an NFL playoff record of 248 yards agains the Cowboys. When he was with the Rams, he was a strong runner with great speed who could either break or outrun a tackle. Many of his touchdowns looked easy as he trotted into the end zone. In 1987 he was traded to Indianapolis, where he continued to produce. The switch to Indy required him to change his style, though. He became much more of a power back, choosing to run over defenses instead of around them. He led the NFL in rushing in 1988 with 1659 yards.

Dickerson totalled 11,226 yards and 82 rushing TD in the 105 games of his first seven seasons in the NFL. By comparison, Brown had 12,312 and 106 TD in 118 games (nine seasons, four 12-game seasons and five 14-game seasons). Brown did have a significant size advantage; how big of an advantage is for us to decide.



posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 09:41 PM
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Dickerson is someone who, when it comes to rankings, suffers from the fact he is almost unanimously perceived as having been an @sshole. Some people have even excluded Ty Cobb from their top 10 baseball players list for the same reason.

That, of course, is nonsense. If a guy is a cancerous presence in the locker room--see Rogers Hornsby--then FINE, knock him right on down. But Ty Cobb played with the same team for his first 22 years, and even then was waived only after a scandal. And Dickerson, as I recall, played with the Rams and Colts for the overwhelming majority of his career. Am I wrong?

So even if he was a jerk--probably, for the most part, to the media--so what? I've never heard that he was a cancerous presence in the locker room, like a certain WR is. When it comes time to rate all-time WR's, SURE, knock Owens right on down. But I've never heard anything about Dickerson remotely like what we all know to be true of Owens after his denouements in S.F. and Philly.

However, I guarantee you that that's why so few people nationwide would agree with you about Dickerson. The media really teed off on him.

BHN



posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 10:08 PM
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Yeah, I had forgotten about that. Dickerson was a jackass when it came to public image. He did not want to cooperate with the Rams' front office, forcing them to trade him in 1987, and then there was the 1985 holdout. He certainly was not the lovable character Walter Payton was or even the silent yet nice person Barry Sanders was.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 12:56 PM
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The problem with Dickerson was that he didn't care about the game, to him it was an income, that's all.

OK, Brown, I never saw him play but his numbers speak volumes, same could be said for Sayers. When looking at the great backs what comes to mind is, were they the only weapon on offence? For many years this was true of Sanders and Sweetness. Sorry, can't pick between the two.

And a shout out for Rocky Blier, I couldn't find a decent link to his bio but this movie revue spells it out succinctly:

movies2.nytimes.com...

Blier was a halfback so he didn't get the carries the Franco got, but he made better yardage per carry:

www.pro-football-reference.com...

Not bad for a guy that wasn't supposed to walk easily again.

I noticed Matt Bahr was kicking for them that year, he must have been ancient when he retired.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 01:03 PM
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Okay, best runner ever. Not "best running back" but "best runner". I'm going to say Barry Sanders. If you're looking at pure running ability over a career, I'll take Barry.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 02:50 PM
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Originally posted by yeahright
Okay, best runner ever. Not "best running back" but "best runner". I'm going to say Barry Sanders. If you're looking at pure running ability over a career, I'll take Barry.


Just on running ability? Not blocking and catching passes? Yup, Sanders. he had ankles of silly putty. Damn near impossible to take down. If you add in the other factors that make a back, what about Emmit? What about Marcus? They deserve mention as well imo.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:00 PM
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I gotta agree with BTB on Sanders. I think that by definition, the greatest pure rusher of all time CANNOT be someone you don't want to give the ball to on goal-to-go situations at the 1- or 2-yard line.

BHN



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:09 PM
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Originally posted by BaseballHistoryNut
I gotta agree with BTB on Sanders. I think that by definition, the greatest pure rusher of all time CANNOT be someone you don't want to give the ball to on goal-to-go situations at the 1- or 2-yard line.

BHN


By that definition you could add Mike Alstott into the mix.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:18 PM
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Ah, good discussion here, gents! One name not mentioned yet, but who definatley should be, is Gale Sayers. Another very short career, I dont' recall the reason for his career being cut short, but he only got 7 years in.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:22 PM
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Originally posted by truenorth

Originally posted by BaseballHistoryNut
I gotta agree with BTB on Sanders. I think that by definition, the greatest pure rusher of all time CANNOT be someone you don't want to give the ball to on goal-to-go situations at the 1- or 2-yard line.

BHN



We all saw him come OFF the field in many such situations.
By that definition you could add Mike Alstott into the mix.



Now, don't be deliberately twisting my words. :angry-smiley-034: I didn't say ALL short yardage backs are eligible for the distinction of greatest runner ever. But how can a guy who was FREQUENTLY brought off the field when it was second and goal at the one, or first and goal at the one, for that matter, be the greatest runner of all time?

I saw most of Sanders' great runs. He was like no other running back I ever saw, and if I had money on a team -4, and the game went into OT, I wanted it to be Detroit or Atlanta, because Sanders and Vick were the ones most likely to break an enormous run for a TD and win the game by 6 (which Vick once did, in OT).

But by my definition, the greatest RB of all time cannot come OUT of the game in those situations at the 1, 2 or 3 yard line. And no, that definition is imperscriptible; I don't see it anywhere on line or in my dictionaries.

BHN



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:33 PM
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I agree with BHN. Versatility has to be part of the mix. When one considers who is the best running back of all time, he looks at running, pass receiving, and blocking--not just running. Here we are looking at running ability. Shouldn't we be looking at those who had power, speed, and moves? All-around running ability?



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:42 PM
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Originally posted by Gibbs Baby!!!
Ah, good discussion here, gents! One name not mentioned yet, but who definatley should be, is Gale Sayers. Another very short career, I dont' recall the reason for his career being cut short, but he only got 7 years in.


Look up 5 posts.


It was not my intention to twist your words BHN, it just seemed that the definition you stated filled that catagory. May I add something to that. A great back is one you know is probably going to get the ball on 3rd and 20, be it a run, screen, pass, etc and he STILL makes the first down. Sanders and Payton still come to mind.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:50 PM
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3rd and 20. Well, as I understood the original question, we were just talking about running, not all aspects of the position. I certainly would not want Earl Campbell on the field for 3rd and 20, and I didn't see Jim Brown, so I have no opinion on him.

And yeah, Sanders and Payton are two of the three guys--the other being Marcus Allen--who come to mind as people I'd want on the field for 3rd and 20. Sanders is probably the one I'd want the least of those three, because the other two were also good PASSERS.

But as a breakaway runner, Sanders is for sure the best I ever saw. I don't know this for a fact, but I'd guess he HAS to have the most runs of 50+ yards in NFL history. Or 40+. Or 60+.

BHN

[Edited on 4/13/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 03:56 PM
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Gale Sayers did have some unbelievable moves--he was ahead of his time. But he was no power runner by any stretch of imagination. In a way he was like Eric Metcalf (remember him?), but with more durability. Injuries cut his career short, however, and that docks him some points in my book. To me (and most experts agree), longevity is a part of greatness. Grant Hill and Anfernee Hardaway had some fabulous seasons in the NBA, but they would never be considered for an all-time all-NBA team because their greatness was not sustained. I feel Sayers falls into the same category.



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 04:19 PM
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Originally posted by BirdstheBest
In a way he was like Eric Metcalf (remember him?), but with more durability.


Metcalf had a monster in front of him at halfback. I'm going to have to Google. Damn, Alzhiemers sets in in your 40's? I'm thinking Mack.

It was Kevin Mack, big boy. Helped Metcalf be what he was. In the NFL 4 years before Metcalf:

www.pro-football-reference.com...

[Edited on 4/13/06 by truenorth]



posted on Apr, 13 2006 @ 08:27 PM
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As I remember, though, Mack was more of a runner. I know he had over 1000 yards in 1985.

OK, I just checked his stats. 1985 was his only 1000 yard season. In 1990 and 1991 he had over 700 yards rushing, while Metcalf had only 355 total. The Browns used Metcalf more as a third down back or a wideout because his open field running was so dangerous.

I still remember a play Metcalf had once (I wish I could remember who it was against. He juked this one guy a la Barry Sanders, planting his right foot and moving to the left; the guy grabbed air. Then, as he completed that move, he planted his left foot and moved right, causing another man to miss completely. Absolutely incredible.



posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 07:33 PM
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Originally posted by truenorth

Originally posted by Gibbs Baby!!!
Ah, good discussion here, gents! One name not mentioned yet, but who definatley should be, is Gale Sayers. Another very short career, I dont' recall the reason for his career being cut short, but he only got 7 years in.


Look up 5 posts.




? No one mentioned Sayers



posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 07:38 PM
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If only I payed more attention outside of the Packers and had the knowledge of Football that I do of Baseball, I'd be able to answer this... Of course people like Walter Peyton and Barry Sanders come to mind, but I think I'll name the best runner based off of personal knowlede. Ahman Green. :party-smiley-018:



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