Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series – Running Backs

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Who Should be in the NFL Hall of Fame Series – Running Backs.

 

Earlier this offseason, CowGirlCas and I posted our opinions and reasoning for who should next be enshrined in the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. This was in our He Said (Darren Woodson); She Said (Harvey Martin) series. Afterwards, we had a lively discussion on which Cowboys players should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. With the 2014 Hall of Fame induction this past weekend, we will finish out the series.

That got me thinking. While that in itself is a dangerous thing, I was interested in looking at which players, by position, were the most deserving of getting a call from the Hall of Fame throughout the league. Over the next few days, we will do this by looking at the players I believe are the top 5 players who are not currently Hall of Famers at each position. This is not a ranking, but rather an alphabetical listing of my top 5 running backs. For reference, the player must be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Here is the order of our journey through some of the NFL’s all-time greats.

Today we will take a look at the players that tote the rock. The running backs that carried the ball and their teams hopes. Some moved the chains with four yards and a cloud of dust, while others turned the corner and took it all the way to the house. They helped their quarterback’s control the clock and kept their defenses off the field. These five running backs distinguished themselves as the best at their position when they played and deserve further consideration for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Ottis Anderson Running Back OJ Anderson

Case for the Hall of Fame:

2-time All-Pro selection; 1979 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year; 1989 NFL Comeback Player of the Year; Super Bowl XXV MVP; Ottis “OJ” Anderson was the definition of an explosive workhorse running back for the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, Anderson surpassed the 1000 yard mark in five of his first six years with the Cardinals. He was also a very reliable ball carrier with only 3 fumbles in his six years with the New York Giants. He was a consistently high performer for over a decade.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Ottis Anderson is one of many great players whose languished for most of their career on bad teams in football purgatory. During his time in St. Louis, Anderson put up great numbers without the recognition. He was only first team all pro for one year and was never on an NFL all-decade team. Many voters consider his accomplishments later in his career with New York to be the product of a dominant system and thus discount his impact as a Giant.

Roger Craig  Running Back Roger Craig

Case for the Hall of Fame:

2-time All-Pro selection; Voted member of NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team; 1988 NFL Offensive Player of the Year; Roger Craig was the perfect example of dominant versatility. He is the only player to make a Pro Bowl as both a fullback and a tailback. He was the first running back to have both 1000 yards rushing and 1000 yards receiving in the same season in 1985. He was only the second running back in history to league in receptions with a record-breaking 92 also in 1985.  While Joe Montana and Jerry Rice had their names on the marquee, Craig was just as valuable to three Super Bowl championship teams and their offensive success. He was at his best in the biggest games, as Craig is also the only running back to gain over 100 yards receiving in a Super Bowl (1988) and the first player at any position to score three touchdowns in a single Super Bowl (1984).

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Roger Craig’s career was built on his versatility. While this versatility helped his teams win three World Championships, it also makes his statistics hard to compare to other running backs. This made more sense in the past but, with the rapid expansion of the passing game, Craig’s ability to dominate by catching out of the backfield should actually be valued more highly. Craig’s candidacy is also hurt because he played in the shadow of more traditional running backs like Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson and John Riggins.

Chuck Foreman Running back Chuck Foreman

Case for the Hall of Fame:

4-time All-Pro selection; 1974 NFC Player of the Year; 1976 NFC Player of the Year; 1973 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year; Chuck Foreman was the engine that drove the Minnesota Vikings to three NFC Championships. His pass catching ability truly set him apart among his running back peers. Foreman was the first running back to lead the league in receptions (1975) and was a constant threat to defenses when he came out of the backfield. The “Spin Doctor”, as Foreman became known, was whirling dervish avoiding tackles in the open field and leading his team to three Super Bowl appearances

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Chuck Foreman only played 8 seasons. While he was punishing runner, he was just as impactful as pass catcher out of the backfield. This versatility works against him as comparing just his rushing totals to his contemporaries does not show the full picture of his contribution to his team. Foreman also wears the stigma of all the 1970’s Vikings. The team lost 4 Super Bowls in an eight year span and Chuck Foreman was the offensive engine on the last three of those teams. Strangely enough, losing multiple championships seems to hurt Hall of Fame candidacy worse than not making the Super Bowl.

Priest Holmes Running Back Priest Holmes

Case for the Hall of Fame:

3-time All-Pro selection; 2002 NFL Offensive Player of the Year; Priest Holmes was picked up in 1997 as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens. He was the epitome of the workhorse back that was also extremely dangerous as a receiver. Holmes was the first undrafted player to lead the NFL in rushing (2001) and he is one of only two running backs (Emmitt Smith) in NFL history to have at least 20 rushing touchdowns in back to back seasons. He was a touchdown scoring machine in the early 2000’s as only he and Ladainian Tomlinson had 10 2-touchdown games in a single season. He is the all-time rushing leader for the Kansas City Chiefs and he also holds the Chiefs’ records for rushing and total touchdowns. This after rushing for 1000 yards for the Ravens in 1998.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Priest Holmes was in the NFL for 11 seasons from 1997 -2007 but he suffered from a number of injuries the most serious of which was a neck/spine injury which ended his 2005 season. He was unable to recover and missed the entire 2006 season. He came back to start only four games in 2007. The beginning of Holmes’ career also saw seasons of little activity due to competition for carries. In the end, many writers don’t judge Priest Holmes on his dominance but rather on the very concentrated nature of his outstanding seasons.

Ricky Watters Running Back Ricky Watters

Case for the Hall of Fame:

Ricky Watters is another in this group of versatile running backs. He rushed for over a 1000 yards in seven seasons and caught at least 50 passes in five seasons. He was an integral part of playoff teams in San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia as he was a perfect fit in the Bill Walsh style offense run by each of those teams. Watters finished his career with over 10,000 yards rushing and over 4000 yards receiving. He tied the record with 3 touchdowns in a Super Bowl (XXIX). He also set the record for most rushing touchdowns in a playoff game that same year with 5 against the New York Giants.

Reasons he isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Ricky Watters numbers are comparable with many backs already in the Hall of Fame. The problem with Watters is that he was always considered surly to the media an had a reputation as a “me-first” player. He is also hurt, in part, because of his versatility. A theme with all these backs is that their value was more than just the traditional running the ball. Because of this, his statistics are hard to compare with the greatest running backs of his era. Watters candidacy also suffers because his era included Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders. He was never able to surpass them for even a season to make an All-Pro team and thus was never voted an All-Decade performer.

These are my five most worthy for induction. I’m interested in your opinion on where I got it right and who I may have missed. You can add your comments or suggestions below.

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