Who is the greatest running back of all-time?
Hopefully, with the help of the BTSC readers, the answer to this question can finally be put to bed.
The debate of who is the greatest running back has spanned over a decade amongst my friends. Whether it was debating this while passing the hours at our summer college job, during Fantasy Football draft parties or at any other time we've all gotten together over the years,this topic of conversation always came up.
Through years of debating, one thing that's been agreed upon is that each of the following four backs could make their case for being the best of all-time: Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, and Emmitt Smith.
Brown was the all-time rushing leader for nearly two decades and helped carry the Browns to their last world championship. Sanders gained over 1,000 yards in each of his 10 NFL seasons, earning league MVP in 1997 after rushing for 2,053 yards while averaging 6.0 yards a carry. Payton held the single game rushing record for over two decades, broke Brown's career record in 1984 and was the heartbeat of the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl championship team. Smith, who is the current all-time leading rusher, was the featured piece of the Cowboys' dominant offense that helped win three Super Bowls in four seasons in the 1990s.
Then, there's the discussion of the top-10 greatest running backs of all-time, which always includes a bevy of names to debate over. Like Gale Sayers, who still holds the record for most touchdowns in a game but whose career was cut short due to injuries. Earl Campbell and Terrell Davis also fall under the category of great backs who suffered injuries that prevented them from joining that top tier group. You could argue that Lenny Moore deserves mention in this list, but in most of his prime seasons, Moore had more receiving yards than rushing yards. There's also backs like LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Dorsett, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, John Riggins and Curtis Martin, great backs that always come up when we expand our debate to include the top-10 running backs of all-time.
Pittsburgh boasts two Hall of Fame running backs that spent most of their careers with the Steelers in Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis, who are routinely in the mix of the top-10 all-time running backs conversation. Franco's "immaculate" play and Bettis' longevity despite the physical way he played the game are among their glittering credentials for their inclusion into the top-10 list.
Now that you've read over some of the choices, who is your choice as the greatest running back of all-time? And in regards to where Harris and Bettis belong on a top-10 all-time list, feel free to offer your two cents in the comments section. If you're compelled to include your entire top-10 list, that's also more than encouraged.
Once the numbers have been tallied, we'll break down the results Wednesday night in our Steelers podcast "What's Hot", while also offering our opinions on who the top-10 greatest NFL running backs of all-time.
Let the debating begin.