The start of the NFL
season is a couple weeks away (Sept. 6th to be exact) and I have
watched some of the preseason football games. Sadly, they are
only interesting for about 15 minutes, but I am in full NFL withdrawal,
I endure it for a bit longer.
I came to a stark realization while watching the Monday Football Game
between the Bears and Colts. First of all, sorry Bears fan (aka
Troy D.) Rex Grossman still looks the same this year as he did last
year. And secondly, what happened to all the good running backs?
Backing up a night to the Sunday Night game between KC and Miami, the
only running back making headlines was Chiefs RB Larry Johnson and that
was because he is still holding out for more money.
But seriously, there are about four or five great running backs, even
less if you discount Johnson who may or may not make it for week one of
the season. LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Shaun
Alexander, Johnson and Frank Gore and that is about it.
Relax crazed Steeler fan or rambunctious Redskin fan. Willie
Parker is still emerging and Clinton Portis has been
injury-plagued. They are just outside the top tier of backs along
with Willis McGahee, Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook. These guys
are either with new, unproven teams (McGahee) or split time with other
backs (Portis and Bush) or just aren't the focus of the offense as a
The days of big boss backs are gone. Welcome are the days of
splitting time, having a capable backup and finding a change of
pace. In 2006, I counted 19 teams in the league with a running
game that featured no dominant single player. For
example, Dallas has both Julius Jones and Marion Barber. Carolina
used Deshaun Foster and Deangelo Williams. Even the Super Bowl
champion Colts worked with Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes.
So what happened to all the running backs? Nothing. The
offensive styles have changed, not the running backs . Here is
the worst kept secret in pro sports, money rules. NFL teams
couldn't afford to back the Brinks truck up to a running back's door
for fear of injury. Blown ACL. Broken foot. Turf
toe. Coaches had to have two backs ready to play at any
moment. And in the meantime, they'll play both of them.
It happened too many times with quarterbacks and now teams are fighting
to keep good backups ready when their star goes down (i.e. Donovan
McNabb, Carson Palmer, Daunte Culpepper). Each of those teams
dropped off the radar that season.
NFL players and fantasy footballers hate it because the stats
sink. But the coaches, GM's and owners love it, because of
insurance and job stability.
So, the running backs are still there, you just have to keep a roster
handy to figure out who they are.