Elliot Harrison again joins the boys to break down the NFC side of the best tailback franchise in NFL history and then, once and for all, just who is the Running Back U of the NFL. The answer just might surprise you. Also on the show, Dave and Rank talk some college football and start the preliminary discussion of the greatest smells in the world.
x – COWBOYS – Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith, Calvin Hill, Don Perkins, (Herschel Walker).
y – GIANTS – Tiki Barber, Joe Morris, Frank Gifford, Rodney Hampton, (Ottis Anderson).
REDSKINS – John Riggins, Clinton Portis, Larry Brown, Stephen Davis.
EAGLES – Brian Westbrook, Wilbert Montgomery, Ricky Watters, LeSean McCoy.
Synopsis: Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, is no better than the second-best running back in Dallas’ franchise history. Forget about where Eli Manning ranks among today’s quarterbacks, it’s odd that a franchise with as much history as the New York Giants doesn’t have more top-tier talent at running back — their depth, however, earns them a wild card. Washington is an even bigger surprise, which, after Riggins, has had above-average but not dominant ball carriers running behind the Hogs; Philadelphia’s best runner is the often under-appreciated, over-concussed Westbrook, but the Eagles can’t pull themselves out of the division basement with the alligator-armed Watters and the callow McCoy.
x – BEARS – Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Neal Anderson, Rick Casares, (Bronko Nagurski).
y – LIONS – Barry Sanders, Billy Sims, Dexter Bussey, Mel Farr, (Nick Pietrosante).
VIKINGS – Adrian Peterson, Chuck Foreman, Robert Smith, Bill Brown, (Darrin Nelson).
PACKERS – Jim Taylor, Ahman Green, Paul Hornung, Dorsey Levens.
Synopsis: In the NFL’s deepest division for all-time running backs, Chicago takes the top spot with Payton and Sayers. The Lions drop off after their top two, but what a top two it is with Sanders, who could have been the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and Sims, who is Detroit’s version of Sayers because of the devastating knee injury that ruined his career. Peterson hasn’t been in the league long, but it’d be disingenuous to put any of the other (talented in their own right) Minnesota rushers ahead of him. Taylor and Hornung would have power swept the Packers to the title in lesser divisions, but in the NFC North, Green Bay finishes last.
x – FALCONS – Gerald Riggs, William Andrews, Jamal Anderson, Michael Turner (Warrick Dunn).
SAINTS – Deuce McAllister, Dalton Hilliard, George Rogers, Chuck Muncie.
BUCCANEERS – Warrick Dunn, James Wilder, Ricky Bell, Mike Alstott.
PANTHERS – DeAngelo Williams, DeShaun Foster, Jonathan Stewart, Tim Biakabutuka.
Synopsis: And then there’s the worst division for running backs, which Atlanta wins, thanks to its four powerful (but not Hall-of-Fame quality) backs. It seems likely that Mark Ingram will one day replace Muncie, considering New Orleans’ affinity for SEC backs — Deuce (Ole Miss), Hilliard (LSU) and Rogers (South Carolina). Tampa Bay’s defining legacy at running back is taking Ricky Bell instead of Dorsett. Carolina has run the ball effectively since coming into the league, but none of their running backs are likely to get a call from Canton.
x – RAMS — Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Steven Jackson, Lawrence McCutcheon (Dick Bass).
49ERS – Joe Perry, Roger Craig, Frank Gore, Garrison Hearst.
SEAHAWKS – Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Chris Warren, John L Williams.
CARDINALS – Ottis Anderson, Stump Mitchell, Johnny Roland, Larry Centers.
Synopsis: Hall of Famers Dickerson and Faulk form a mighty combo, but don’t sleep on McCutcheon, who played in five straight mid-1970s Pro Bowls, or Jackson, who’s toiled without much acknowledgment for a perennially lousy St. Louis team. Joe Perry (and his “Million Dollar Backfield” mates) notwithstanding, it’s no surprise the 49ers’ runners aren’t particularly impressive due to San Francisco’s two-decade-long reliance on Bill Walsh’s pass-first West Coast offense, but let the record show: Roger Craig belongs in the Hall of Fame. Curt Warner’s torn ACL probably kept him out of the Hall of Fame, but he, along with record-setting touchdown-maker Shaun Alexander and three-time Pro Bowler Chris Warren, gives Seattle a nifty top three. Arizona’s legacy at running back mirrors the franchise’s overall reputation: not very good.
So there you have it: the final regular-season standings. Just like in real football, though, nothing is settled until the completion of the postseason. For that, I’ll need your help. Please weigh in on which team(s) you feel is/are the strongest. In other words, speak now or forever hold your peace.
Next up, the playoffs — where we’ll find out once and for all which team is… Running Back Franchise!
AFC WILD-CARD ROUND
Titans over Steelers
Colts over Chiefs
AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
Bills over Titans
Browns over Colts
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Browns over Bills
NFC WILD-CARD ROUND
Lions over Falcons
Cowboys over Giants
NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
Bears over Cowboys
Rams over Lions
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Rams over Bears
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