Why Emmitt Smith is NOT the greatest running back of all time

In order to preview the upcoming NFL season, I will be debunking a few common myths over the next few days.

Among the myths I will be analyzing: is the NFL really a passing game today? Is going for it on 4th down really such a big risk?

But first things first…the myth I feel the strongest about:

Why Emmitt Smith is NOT the greatest running back of all time.

emmitt-smith-best-running-back-of-all-timeThere has been a lot of talk over the past week concerning Emmitt Smith. In case you live under a rock, or for some unknown reason don’t follow football, Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend.

His claim to fame is that he owns the NFL’s All-Time Rushing Record. Unfortunately, the occasion has been met by the obligatory need of many analysts to pronounce that Emmitt Smith is “The Greatest RB of All Time.”

Look, I get it. Emmitt Smith was a great running back. He also seems like he’s a good guy. He has a lot of records and he played for the Team of the 90’s. He was also inducted into the Hall during the same year as Jerry Rice – someone who was legitimately the best to ever play his position (I will fight you to the death on this).

But Emmitt Smith – the greatest running back of all time? He wasn’t even the greatest running back of his generation. Actually, he wasn’t even the greatest running back in his own conference. That distinction goes to Barry Sanders.

#22 deserves a lot of credit. He was remarkably durable. During his 13 years in Dallas, he only missed seven games. That is very commendable. He was also amazingly consistent as he had over 1,000 yards in nine consecutive seasons.

But if you take a deep look into the stats, you will discover one thing: although he was very good for a long time, he was rarely, if ever, great.

In fact, let’s do that right now. Look at his stats. Pro Football Reference concludes that his career was most similar to two other players: Thurman Thomas and Edgerrin James. (At this point, the defense could rest, but we will keep going just to drive the point home.)

So why was Barry Sanders a better running back than Emmitt Smith? Three Reasons:

1. Emmitt Smith’s team was unbelievably stacked.

We all know about the triplets. Aikman, Irvin, and Emmitt. They were great. They were fun to watch. I remember playing with the Cowboys on “NFL QB Club ‘96” and running the “Aikman Arsenal” play time and time again. It was unstoppable.

They also had Jay Novacek, a Pro-Bowl Tight End who may have been one of the best ever had he not gotten hurt. Daryl Johnston was one of the better FBs of the 90s as well, and definitely one of the best lead blockers I have ever seen.

And just take a look at that offensive line.

In 1995, (one of the few years that Smith led the league in rushing, with over 1,700 yards) the Cowboys started FOUR Pro-Bowlers up front. Let me say that again: four of the five players on the offensive line were among the best in the league. I am tempted to say that someone like me could have at least fallen down behind Larry Allen and Daryl Johnston for 3 yards a carry.

Barry Sanders, on the other hand, played for the Detroit Lions. He had guys like Scott Mitchell handing him the ball. Herman Moore was good for a few seasons, but I really don’t think I need to keep telling you how bad the Lions were. I will just leave it at this: During the 1997 season in which Barry Sanders rushed for 2,053 yards, he led the league in Negative Rushing Attempts.

barry-sanders-best-running-back-of-all-timeThat’s right, his offensive line was so poor, he routinely had to make moves in his own backfield just to get back to the line of scrimmage.

Over the course of his career, he had over 1100 negative yards. If you discounted them, he would have averaged a staggering 6.3 yards per carry instead of a still unbelievable 5.0.

2. Barry was just, flat out, a better runner.

If Emmitt Smith retired after year ten like Barry did, he would have finished over 1,300 yards short of Barry – and that’s still accounting for the fact that Emmitt’s team was so much better. I can’t imagine how many games the Cowboys played where they were just trying to eat clock during the second half because they were so far ahead. They would turn to Emmitt Smith behind their massive offensive line and just grind out the game.

Barry, meanwhile, played on teams that were “airing it out” as they tried to catch up. Looking back though, the Lions best bet was probably to still hand the ball off. #20 had 15 TD runs of over 50 yards in his career. Emmitt Smith, on the other hand, only had six.

But then there’s this: when was the last time you remember seeing Emmitt Smith make someone “miss.” Not just breaking a tackle (which he was great at), but actually making a guy tackle air. I don’t recall any memories like that, but I wanted to make sure. Type in “Emmitt Smith sick move” into YouTube. Nothing. However, replace “Emmitt Smith” with “Barry Sanders”…over 20 videos instantly.

Sure, there are several “Emmitt Smith Tribute” videos on the web, but most of them showcase him running through massive holes for 10 or 15 yards before being touched for the first time in the secondary. Barry on the other hand? There’s this. And this. And then there’s this:

3. The stats and Emmitt Smith himself don’t lie.

Barry was the first running back to ever have over 1,000 yards in ten straight seasons. He made the Pro Bowl ten times in ten seasons (Emmitt made eight out of fifteen). Barry was a First-Team All-Pro six times (Emmitt made four). He was also the Offensive Player of the Year twice (an award Smith never won). He was even named the League MVP on a team that finished 9-7 (Smith only won it in 1993 on a Super Bowl winner).

Barry Sanders retired in his absolute prime. Emmitt Smith was remarkably durable, and played an additional five years for some pretty lousy teams (the late ‘90s Cowboys and even the Arizona Cardinals).

But besides all that, one thing stands out to me:  in an interview where both players were asked who was the better runner, both Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders came to the same conclusion. Emmitt Smith was #2. (Believe me, I tried for hours to find the clip but I can’t. You just have to take my word for it. Maybe one of you can find it…).

So there you have it. Barry Sanders was a better running back than Emmitt Smith. But the story is not quite finished. We are leaving someone out. Someone that changed the way the position was played. Someone that battled through more adversity than anyone could ever imagine. Jim Brown.

Now I won’t sit here and tell you that I remember Jim Brown (other than The Dirty Dozen, one of the greatest movies of all time). We could watch some grainy footage and watch Jim Brown overpower people. We could admire the fact that he never ran out of bounds. But I believe that we can also, both statistically and aesthetically, prove why Jim Brown was the all-time best.

jim-brown-best-running-back-of-all-timeHe changed everyone’s perception of a running back.

Jim Brown was not just an amazing football player, he was an amazing athlete.

He averaged 38 ppg as a high school basketball player and went on to play the sport at Syracuse. While at Syracuse, he was an All-American Lacrosse player, and finished 5th in the nation at the Decathlon. The Yankees drafted him to play baseball, and Professional Boxing always coveted him.

To sum it up, he could play any sport he wanted, and he chose to dominate football – a sport where he wasn’t welcome.

He entered the league in 1957, a time when race was still a big deal. It wasn’t just that opposing players wanted to stop him, they wanted to hurt him. He famously would lie on the ground until everyone else had gotten up so he could hide whether or not he was hurt. He wasn’t just tackled, he was kicked, bitten, spit upon, and worse while on the bottom of the pile. Opposing players would try to twist his ankle or break his fingers while he was on the ground.

And what did he do in the midst of all this? Dominate like no one else before or since.

The stats, when used properly, once again don’t lie.

Don’t get me wrong, the numbers in and of themselves are great: 12,312 yards; 5.2 yards/carry; 12 TDs of over 50 yards; 21 yds. a game receiving (Emmitt Smith only had 15 ypg in an era with more passing); Nine Pro Bowls; Nine First Teams All-Pro; Never missed one game; etc. In case you just zoned out, let me re-emphasize those last few stats: Jim Brown only played for nine seasons, and was voted the absolute best player at his position in every single one of them.

But when you really dig deeper, the numbers jump out even more. Emmitt Smith rushed for over 1,250 yards seven different seasons. Jim Brown did it three times – in 12 GAME SEASONS! Overall, he accomplished the feat seven seasons out of nine, in seasons that never had more than 14 games.

Think about that, he ran for over 12,000 yards and missed out on 26 games because of the era he played in. If you were to simply multiply this by his YPG average, he gains another 2,700 yards. Now we are looking at numbers that are just insane. He would have at least two different seasons where he rushes for over 2,000 yards and he would have over 15,000 yards on the ground, and he still retired at the age of 29!

His most impressive year was actually his least impressive, statistically. He ran for 996 yards in 1962 and didn’t miss a single game while running on a broken toe. The next year, just to prove that ’62 was a fluke, he ran for 1,863 yards (in 14 games remember) and had the longest rushing and receiving TDs of the year. In one game, Hall of Famer Sam Huff famously stopped him on 2 consecutive plays and decided to rub it in by telling Brown that “he stunk.” On the next play, Brown sprinted off for a 65 yd. TD and called out from the end zone, “Hey Sam, how do I smell from here?”

I could go on and on with stories about Brown. I could talk about his toughness. I could talk about how he changed the game. We could get lost in his incredible stats. Words just can’t do him justice. No one could ever know how much adversity he really went through. It would be a disservice to him to really attempt to describe it.

I can only think of one thing that could possibly hint at his greatness. When the legendary Barry Sanders retired, and entered into the Hall of Fame, he asked one person to speak for him, someone that had watched him every day from his beginning. This was a man that had seen him rush for over 2,600 yards at Oklahoma State. This man had cheered for him and admired him every step along the way. This man was none other than his father. And what did Mr. Sanders say? As good as Barry was, it would be foolish for anyone to say that he ever approached Jim Brown.

That is good enough for me.


About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


  1. First!

    Sanders and Smith just played during an era of poor tackling.

  2. nice article Twitch… I once ran for 1,200 yards in a SINGLE GAME with Barry Sanders on Techmo Bowl…full 12 minute quarter lengths…

    it was incredible

  3. Tony the Stat Master says:

    Im a huge Cowboys fan, but I completely agree that Barry Sanders was better than Emmitt. Emmitt is the Kareem of running backs with all the stats while Sanders is the Jordan with less years and points. Im not real big on Jim Brown though. He is definitely in the top 4…just not sure where. I have no doubt he would be great today, but there are way more athletes today than in his time. I would have put Walter Peyton in the discussion. Those 4 are always the ones in the discussion…not really anyone else.

  4. James Reynolds says:

    No mention of Walter Payton? All time: 1.Barry Sanders 2. Walter 3. Jim Brown 4. ……who cares? No one else belongs in the discussion. How can you say Jordan loses credit as a great player because of weaker competition but yet Jim Brown is the greatest of all time with Jimmy Stewart from "Its a Wonderful Life" playing linebacker against him! Ha! Emmit Smith doesn't even belong in this conversation. If I am starting a team tomorrow, need a guy to last 10 years and can't have any of these top 3, I take Curtis Martin HANDS DOWN over Emmit Smith, he is the leauge's 4th leading rusher all-time in only 10.5 seasons!

  5. Quick question, If having a stacked team that included many of the greats at their position disqualifies Emmit (your first point), then why does Jordan having some of the weakest individually skilled players during his championships not help his cause? Yes, I know he had great team players, but lets face it…Stacey King, Will Perdue, Scott Williams, Randy Brown, Jud Buechler, Jason Caffey, Ron Harper, Toni Kukoc (overrated), Luc Longley, Dickey Simpkins, Bill Wennington, Craig Hodges, Dennis Hopson, Cliff Levingston, Bobby Hansen, Chuck Nevitt, Mark Randall…AND PROMISE ME, THE LIST OF UNKNOWN NAMES OF TEAMATES GOES ON AND ON!!
    Sincerely, Someone who wants to be like mike.

  6. That's right. Its been three minutes and no response. That's just what I thought would happen. Silence is golden.

  7. 1) Walter Payton: Because Payton would knock anyone in his way over and had Barry Sanders style was running away from defender
    2) Barry Sanders: He's great but not a Walter Payton EVER!!!
    3) Jim Brown

  8. I grew up watching Emmitt Smith and I agree that Barry Sanders was a better runner. However, you're and idiot if you think Emmitt Smith didn't make people miss. If you want to find a highlight film. Don't look up something stupid like Emmitt Smith sick move…Look up perhaps Emmitt Smith Highlight reel. I've posted a link just to save you time. Count them up buddy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvEXqWcouBg&NR

  9. Smith was a great running back, for sure, but Barry Sanders was incredible and definitely the better running back.

  10. 1. Jim Brown( best ever hands down)
    2. Walter Payton( Jim Brown lite)
    3.Barry Sanders( most explosive player in nfl history regardless of position)
    Everyone else

  11. Walter and Sanders were the best. They had no offensive line. Emmitt did. Don't get me wrong, he's was great. Walter had the best stiff arm! Eric Dickerson was great too and had a great stiff arm. Love that move.

  12. I think their is a distinctive difference… Jim Brown was the most dominant player to ever hit the field but not necessarily the best to ever play the position. During Jim Brown's era the style of play, competitive edge, equipment, desirability to be in the NFL and not to mention the pay scale were all leagues different!! Now Barry Sanders played on a very poor team, with with a mediocre at best offensive line with no surrounding talent at ALL… He retired in his prime at his TENTH season and still managed to be second all time… The difference is Jim Brown dominated more, but against a lower, less talented group of football players. The people Barry Sanders played against had much more athletic ability, MUCH MORE, made much more money and had way better equipment. Barry Sanders hands down was the BEST to ever play his position, because of the separation/ range of talent he played against..

  13. Smith unlike every other player mentioned did like mentioned previously had a stacked team. Never throw to Irving or Johnston maybe on the quick slant? Like really not let Aikman throw? He jokes around with Terry Bradshaw about who is better, only handful of guys can do that. so of course his stats are not as god as RB's like Sanders who had no Aikman or an Irving streaking down the line.. Yes Sanders did have the explosive speed bursts, Emmit is more of a tank runner. That is the style though, you have to at least look at the fact that Emmit would punch through a hole that would gobble on Barry and `spit him back a few yards. Look at now the Giants and their running back situation you have a tank and you have a speed runner who can break people. they have a lesser smith (jacobs) and a far lesser Sanders.(Bradshaw). Now that is in now way anything but a comparison in styles. Watch a Giants game and you will see the difference in run styles, that is pretty much the difference between Smith and Sanders. I grew up watching these two. Walter and Jim are simply legends to me and people to look up to for the adversity they faced. In closing I didnt see Simpson play, but I know hes the only man that can hurdle parked cars. Anyway its sunday, enjoy the games guys.

  14. I don't know that you can necessarily say that Sanders played against more talented players. Its not like Jim brown was running against high school kids. You'd also have to explain to me exactly why the pay scale and equipment would make any difference at all. I'm not sure I understand how the money effects the talent of a runner or the guys trying to bring him down. Worse equipment makes it sound like it would be harder to run in and more painful to take hits with. Are you saying sanders had equipment which allowed him to move more freely and absorb blows better than Jim Brown did?

  15. Well, Emmit smith has more skill & power then Berry sanders. This is coming from a guy that dreads the cowboys!!!!

  16. b-rad "the one" says:

    Well you do have good points in everything you said besides that they are different style runners. You did not talk about how Emmitt has more power then Barry or Barry is more of a speed/moves guy. Everything you said even plays roles right now in the NFL with the current RB's. Everyone was saying Adrian Peterson is the best in the game, until Chris Johnson hit 2000+ yards now people are like omg Chris Johnson is the best. Well really when it comes down to it, titles, stats and career will who says he is the best. Emmit has the rings and rushing title which Barr does no. Yes we all know Barry played for the crappy Lions and he was the only thing the Lions had going for them. Also yes Emmitt had a better team, but that does make Emmitt any worse, look Dallas has Herschel Walker before they picked up Emmitt, and Walker did nothing in the NFL but was the one of the best College RB's every so really that doesn't matter that much.

  17. b-rad "the one" says:

    Yes having a good o-line helps but you can still be great without a o-line. Oh yeah that also plays back to today's top rushers. We already talked about Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson has today best, but no one every brings up Frank Gore (crappy o-line) or even better Steven Jackson (worst o-line in the NFL today). All in all, Barry falls as the number 2-3 RB in history because lack of stats (retired to soon) and rings. Emmitt is the best because of his rings, titles, awareds, honors, records (including most rushing yards in history) etc. Yes I know some people are haters, but the ones that hate and can also respect are the ok ones, but the ones that hate and still say Emmitt sucks you are just dumb and don't know anything about football. Believe me I hate John Elway, but I am not going to say he is the worst QB in history because I know that is just false and dumb. Think about that type of stuff people before you start hating.

  18. b-rad "the one" says:

    Also you left out that Barry Sanders has the record for the most negative yards in history, that that is a little more detail for you. Dont just come out staying Emmitt sucks and Barry is better. Also you didnt include that Emmitt and Barry are tied for "Most Season Leading League" with a total of 4. Or that Barry is placed 3rd all time most yards gained, or even that Emmitt has more seasons of 1,000+ yards rushing or even the most consecutive season rushing for 1,000+ yards. Yeah we know Barry was the first running back to ever have over 1,000 yards in ten straight seasons, but he was also drafted a year before Emmitt.

    • You want to talk about leaving things out, yes Emmitt ran for 1000 yds 11 straight times, but not his rookie season. Also Barry was only in the NFL for 10 years. Barry would have had yet another rushing title but he refused to go back into a game for statistical reasons and let Christion Okoya (or something like that) take the title. Also I believe that the 1100 negative yard was mentioned, but i imagine that you dallas butt bumpers have a hard time reading with your faces buried in the pillow!

  19. b-rad "the one" says:

    Barry was drafted 89 Emmitt 90, so Emmitt would already be 1 year behind. Barry has 10 consecuritve season 1000+ yards rushing from 89-98 and Emmitt 91-2001 which is 11 1 more then Barry. Also why aren't you talking about anyone else like Earl Campbell, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, Terrell Davis, O.J. Smipson, Jamal Lewis or even Marcus Allen. All of those guys I just named never played for the best team. Terrell did play pretty good team that also included a great QB "Elway". Oh yeah one more for Emmitt, "Most Season Leading League in TD's" Emmitt has more then Barry. Also Emmitt has more career TD's then Barry, and Emmitt leads the NFL with most games 100+ yards rushing with 78 in his career.

  20. it has to be barry sanders cuz if u average his career rushing yards he would avrage over 1,500 yards per season

  21. keith may says:

    Dorsett#1,#2Hayes,and#3 Smith , these are the best Dallas running backs in thiOs order to. Here is the real list of the top 10 NFL running backs of alltime.JIM BROWN,WALTER PAYTON,BARRY SANDERS,ERIC DICKERSON,GAYLE SAYERS,O J SIMPSON,EARL CAMPBELL,MARCUS ALLEN,TONY DORSETT,AND BO JACKSON. With 3 Honorable mentions,JIM TAYLOR,EMMITT SMITH,AND THURMAN THOMAS.If Barry or Walter had that line we ALL know they wouldve had 20,000 yards.

  22. smith is bestever he has more championships give the cowboys credit for a change

  23. voice of reason says:

    First of all I’d like to point out I have never heard an analyst proclaim enmity was the best.if they did, I wasn’t watching. In fact, in mos of the best ever debates I have seen have him 3rd or lower.the notion that there is a “myth” that elevated his image is not only incorrect,but also in-informed.Since high-school everyone said emmitt was too small,too short and too slow. Despite his well documented athletic shortcomings he dominated at every level. Barry sanders was a gifted athlete who achieved great individual numbers, but never team success. In 6 playoff games sanders scored one touchdown. How many of cowboys o_line are in the hall of fame? None. Sanders? One. Jim brown 3. When brown arrived in Cleveland they had already won 3 super bowls. the linemen tackling brown were often the same size as he was, while enmity and Barry were taking on the likes of reggie white,Lawrence Taylor and so on. If you have argue that most stats don’t matter and neither do championships then you r just trying to re-write history because you cannot re-wright the record books. Oh, and as to the stacked team thing, enmity produced 1300 yard seasons with the likes of quick carter at qb, Chan gailey as coach. He only played 4 seasons under jimmy Johnson…

  24. Kerrick Stephens says:

    You said that you could have followed Moose and that O-line and averaged 3 yards. Well they tried that when Emmitt held out for the first 2 games of the 1993 season and they lost both games. One of their defeats came against Buffalo which Dallas beat later that year in the Super Bowl with Emmitt. Also, remember when Emmitt played against the Giants with a seperated shoulder and carried Dallas to victory and he was also 3rd on the rushing list at the start of the game. I believe Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders was 1 and 2. They were also playing against each other and their game went into overtime. Well guess who won the rushing title that year? The guy with the seperated shoulder and was 3rd on the list at the beginning of the game. Emmitt has more heart and desire for the game than any other player that ever geared up to play the game. Sorry buddy but Emmitt is #1 and it will stay that way for a long time.

  25. Brownsdawg64 says:

    Great article. We thought and written. Enjoyed reading and you are right.

  26. Great article. Well written. I was enlightened and educated. Thank you for your words and message.

  27. According to Pro Football Reference Emmitt Smith’s career is most similar to 6 hall of famers and one (LT) definite future one

    “In 1995, one of the few years that Smith led the league in rushing”

    Really? He led the league in rushing 4 times. How many RB’s led the league more times? Not Barry. Not Dickerson. Not Payton. Not LT. Not OJ. Who are all these RB’s that led the league more then Emmit?

    “He (Emmitt) was also amazingly consistent as he had over 1,000 yards in nine consecutive seasons.”

    Make that 11 seasons

    “Barry was the first running back to ever have over 1,000 yards in ten straight seasons”

    And Emmitt was the first RB to ever have 1000 yards in eleven straight seasons

  28. To the fans who, like me, are just fans. You people always evaluate Emmitt Smith and never consider the most important aspect of why Emmitt is the greatest. Yes, I said greatest rb of all-time. It’s called winning. If Emmitt isn’t, then Marcus Allen is. Football is a game based on a numbers system. The same way numbers themselves operate so does football. Here’s how: Numbers go 1-9 then add a digit: 10-19 then the next digit in the tens 20. Football operates the same way. 1-4 down, if you get 10 yards or more another 1-4 downs all the way until you either score a touchdown or get close enough to try to get 3 points instead. And that is where Emmitt and Marcus Allen seem to be the best, especially Emmitt. He understood to keep the chains moving. Your article states that any back could get 3 yards behind Larry Allen & Moose, but the question is, would they choose to get the yards? Lord knows, Barry wouldn’t. Barry would ignore 5 yards if he saw a lb denying him a chance to take it all the way. Next thing you know, the lions are 2nd & 13. Now it’s a passing down. Incompletion or sack, now it’s 3& long. If you don’t get at least 3 first downs in an NFL drive you are punting on most occasions. Most people don’t know that Jim Brown ran with TD’s in mind too. Emmitt ran to gain positive yards move the chains. You say you don’t remember Emmitt faking anyone out. Then you didn’t watch Emmitt. But Emmitt’s moves were always after those first 3 yards. Also, Dallas’s line was as much about what Emmitt forced to happen, as it was about them being good. Whenever Emmitt didn’t play, the back ups never picked up those yards. Why? Because they ran behind the line the same way Barry would have, looking for the hr. Emmitt made those holes look big, by doing what coaches call, pressing the hole. Barry didn’t that. Jim Brown even didn’t it as much as you’d think. Why is Jim Brown’s average 5? because he hit the hr against weak opposition in the 60’s. He had many lost yards too like Sanders. Of course, NFL films don’t show that. They show the legendary stuff. You’d think he averaged 20 yr/carry. But Emmitt ran for his average almost every carry by his rushing style. Dallas was consistently in situations where they could run or pass “if” they even reached 3rd down. And on the occasions when it was 3rd and long (for them that was 3rd and 7). They could slant it to Irvin or screen or swing pass it to Emmitt (think: NY Giants game that Emmitt killed them). You did have one thing right, Emmitt is Kareem. The skyhook was always coming but you knew you couldn’t stop it. The problem is Barry wasn’t the winning Jordan. BTW, Jordan didn’t become Jordan the champion until he developed 2 things: making his teammates better (the way Emmitt did with the o-line) and a consistent fall away jumper( Dallas iso-delay run between the tackles). With Barry it was a young Jordan, a spectacular dunk or a turnover for the other team to fast break.

  29. jason mascillio says:

    if your going to base your opinion on stats then use the correct stats and don’t skew them to sway other peoples opinions. u say he only rushed for 1000 yards 9 straight seasons and barry ten, truth is he rushed for 1000 yard 11 straight seasons which is another nfl record he holds. as well as carrer touchdowns and 100 yard games. u say his stats are closer compared to edgerin james and Thurman Thomas but fail to say which stats, certainly not any important like over the 18,000 yards he rushed for in his career? did edge or Thurman get that combigned? I could recite stats for days as well as records like rushing touchdowns or total touchdowns second only to the man you called the greatest yourself jerry rice. emit has more touchdowns rushing then the next 2 combigned. playoffs emit vs barry, not even close, and im talking individual efforts not team efforts, watch the 2nd superbowl vs buffalo, no emit no win, simple. same said vs Pittsburgh, if neil odonell doestn throw more passes to larry brown than his own team, emmitt wins his second superbowl mvp. look at that entire season, they went 12-0 with him and 0-2 when he sat out. the two games they didn’t need, he played limited roles and they lost. emmitt carried this team contrary to the talk of aikman or Irvin carrying them. now lets talk he was on the greatest team of all time, u know what, yes he was, but not for 13 consecutive years. what about the 7-9 team the 3 straight 5 win years, the 8-8 season, the next 7-9 season, all in which he still topped 1000yards. he played on a great team for 5 years, they won 3 superbowls in that period, besides that he was a star on a mediocre team. everyone talks about aikman, what about the years with Bernie kosar at 44 years old, or quincy carter for 3 years, or vinny testaverde at 50, or the other bums you cant remember, who rushed for 1000+ yards with those bums? oh yeah Emmitt. u say few years he led the league in rushing, I guess leading the league in rushing 4 years is a few in your book? that’s an accomplishment in mine. now lets look at the term running back, barry a better runner? yes without a doubt best runner of all time, better back, not close, were talking complete back and one of the best ever blocking, receiving, running, leading a team, and winning big games just ask a Giants fan about Emmitt smith and big games. barry played against better talent, how do u figure that when they played the same conference and the NFC was better including a guy by the name of Lawrence taylor twice a year. some more for your face, league mvp on a 9-7 team, 97 is a far cry from dominant. he had a great career and if ur building a team with winning in mind im taking emmitt over any of the other backs u mentioned including Brown and Sanders, they can go quit anytime they wanted, ill take the guy with the heart of a champion. emit smith never lost yards, barry sanders put his team at 3 and 13 his whole career, was a playoff joke and never never never had the heart emmitt had. barry = most electrifying player I ever seen, nowhere near beast running back. ur article is full of opinion and fake facts. I actually watched football, I didn’t just youtube a couple barry clips and decide he was the best ever.

  30. Your a bit bias. When used properly? What to bend the trough to make berry look better? If berry played as long as emmitt he woulda have crushed his stats is so untrue.. I c an say he could’ve got hurt his next play an a career ender. He quit on a city that loved him an a team that made the playoffs without him the next year. This article is worthless cuz your just a local homer

  31. What about Walter Payton though!

  32. I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!!

    I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I have got you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…

  33. Without question, Emmitt Smith was the greatest athlete to ever play the position of RB. You say he played on a stacked team, true. But that same “stacked” team that, only 6 months ago, crushed Buffalo in SB XXVII, was 0-2 without Emmitt in the following season. Once he rejoined the team, they rattled off 8 straight and became the ONLY team at that time to go 0-2 and win the SB in the same year.

    Sanders was all flash and speed. Enjoyable to watch, highlight reel material and YES he did a lot of it on his own. BUT, he also led the league in most yards lost behind the line of scrimmage.

    Emmitt did everything that the position of RB demanded. He blocked well and picked up countless blitzes to give Aikman the extra second to get the ball off, he was a terrific receiver out of the backfield, he was sooooo good, that even when he was hurt with pulled hamstrings, they put him in the line up and the defense had to cheat up to keep them honest.

    I have a theory about the term “Great” and how it applies to players. Too many times people are charmed by stats and numbers and flash and etc. This, in my opinion, does not a great player make.

    The theory or saying goes like this:

    “Great stats equals talent, what you do with that talent in a critical situation is what makes you great.”

    Meaning, if you are born with a tremendous arm ie: P. Manning. You know this guy is going to put up big time stats. He has all the tools, God given, born and bred into him.

    HOWEVER, 1 SB title in how many trips to the playoffs and SB? At least a dozen? Sorry, this does not equal great to my definition.

    Now you take E. Smith. This is the same guy, with the same team that faced a “ahhh-hummmm” BAD Detroit Lions team??? Pardon me for saying so but didn’t this Det Lions team smoke Dallas in the Divisional game in 1991??? Sorry, they couldn’t have been THAT bad.

    Point being B. Sanders had ample opportunity to strap this team on his back and deliver. He didn’t

    E. Smith, as I pointed out earlier, was the spark plug that ran the Cowboys “stacked” team.

    Need more proof? Just look at the NYG week 16 game in the Meadowlands in 1993. With all of their “stacked” players, Dal had to go to a 1 armed E. Smith like 75 percent of the game winning drive in OT. Same thing in SB XXVIII. When they were losing to Buffalo at the half, they fed E. Smith the ball the entire second half and he delivered. Again, Using his God given talents to overcome adversity, strap the team to his back and win a title.

    Sorry folks, but E. Smith has been and always will be the best athlete to ever play the position of RB in the NFL, until someone else comes along and does what he did.

    Flashy moves and big stats are nice, but its being able to use your talent when your team needs it the most to overcome adversity and pull out a win that defines greatness in my mind.

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  1. […] wrong, however, as Smith isn't even one of the two best RBs of all-time, let alone the best.Source:http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2010/08/greatest-running-back-of-all-time-emmitt-barry-brown/ Posted by Mr Gift at 06:46 Labels: ball carrier, emmitt smith, hall of […]

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