With so many great running backs to play the game of football, there’s so many to pick from. There’s also so many factors to determine who is the best running back of all time. Here are five quick reasons why Emmitt Smith is the best running back to ever play in the NFL.
Emmitt Smith is pretty much the Hank Aaron of the NFL, extremely consistent year in and year out. Some running backs lacked consistency but had the big play ability like a Barry Sanders. Other running backs like Franco Harris and Tony Dorsett had huge fumbling issues. Smith was definitely not the most exciting runner, but he was the most consistent. If you want flashy plays, running backwards, and running east and west, then Smith is not your back. If you want a running back that will give you at least four yards on just about every carry with no risks, then go with Emmitt Smith.
Unfortunately, some of the best runners had their careers cut short. Some were due to injuries such as Terrell Davis and Barry Sanders (both age 30). Jim Brown also retired when he was just 30 years old to pursue an acting career. Most great running backs hit the wall hard when they hit that 30 year old milestone. Emmitt on the other hand, rushed for 5,789 yards and 39 touchdowns after he hit 30. Even when Smith was with the Arizona Cardinals, at 35 years old he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. If you’re going to invest in the best running back ever, he should be able to last a long time.
3. No Weakness
Having a running back that can do everything is extremely valuable. Some running backs have little to no receiving skills. Others, like Barry Sanders have little value in the red zone with such little power. Smith is not the biggest, fastest, quickest, or most powerful back ever, but he was very good in every attribute. Again, Smith wasn’t the best in any attribute, but he had no weakness. 16 teams found that out after they passed on him in the 1990 NFL draft.
What more could ask for from Smith? He holds just about every rushing in the book. Most career rushing yards and touchdowns in NFL history being the most notable. It should also be mentioned that Smith broke Walter Payton’s rushing record in fewer games and carries. His 1993 season is probably the greatest season ever for a running back. In ’93 Emmitt sat out the first two games of the season because of a disagreement with team owner Jerry Jones, and the Cowboys lost both games. Smith finally returned and ran for 1,486 yards and won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP. Despite missing two games, Smith still incredibly led the NFL in rushing yards. That year also included the season finale against the Giants when he ran for 229 total yards with a separated shoulder. Despite having an “elite offensive line,” the Cowboys couldn’t win without Smith.
No other running back showed up in the postseason like Smith did. In 17 playoff games Smith ran for a record 19 touchdowns, 1,586 yards, and seven times he hit the 100 yard mark, twice rushing for 99 yards. Walter Payton had multiple playoff disappointments with only two total touchdowns and one 100 yard performance in nine playoff games.
When you combine the most important factors over a long period of time, Emmitt Smith is the best running back to ever play in the NFL.