Did you know that only once in NFL history has the single season rushing leader wore silver and black?? It was Marcus Allen in 1985 when he played for the Los Angeles Raiders. Yet when you think of Allen, you think of receiving out of the backfield more than you think of him as a pure runner.
However in 1985, Jim Plunkett was lost for the season and Marc Wilson just wasn’t a top flight quarterback. Super Bowl XVIII was a distant memory as the team hadn’t improved from a personnel standpoint. They started to age. Recent drafts didn’t help when the team brought in receivers Jesse Hester and Dokie Williams, who weren’t quite the caliber of past Raiders and Allen was the only offensive weapon that was in his prime.
Where the team followed up their Super Bowl championship with a wild card loss to Seattle, team brass decided to lean on Marcus and ball control to stay competitive in 1985. Why not?? Marc Wilson only completed 49.7% of his passes that year in 12 games…
For the year Lionel James led the NFL with a record setting 2,536 all purpose yards but it was Marcus that set the yardage from scrimmage record with 2,314. He led the NFL with 1,759 yards rushing as the Raiders only real offensive weapon. Don’t forget Eric Dickerson held out and missed the first four games of the season and finished with 1,234 yards for 1985. Dickerson’s 1,808 in ’83 and 1,821 in 1986 were on a par with Allen’s ’85 total.
Everyone forgets Marcus was the first running back in college football history to rush for 2,000 yards when he went for 2.342 in 1981. He had gone to USC where he was converted from defensive back and had been a blocking back for previous Heisman winner Charles White. Once White graduated, it was Allen’s show. It should have happened that way in the NFL as well.
Yet starting with a fumble forced by Seth Joyner in an overtime 33-27 loss to the Eagles, the rift between Al Davis and Marcus started to widen. The Raiders subsequently finished 1986 with 4 straight losses to miss the playoffs for only the 5th time since 1967. This ended a 20 year era in which the Raiders were among the league’s elite. This is where the feud affected Allen’s play on the field and had Davis draft Bo Jackson in the 1987. They started phasing Allen out as he only carried 9, 13, and 10 times in the final three games of 1986.
He became a prisoner of Davis who wouldn’t showcase him and mandated he not be given the ball. So the only running back in history with a Heisman, Super Bowl MVP, and NFL MVP, and first to rush for 2,000 yards in college had to become a blocking back for Bo Jackson. He endured that for six years until the advent of free agency freed him in 1993.
In his first year in Kansas City, it was he not Joe Montana, who was voted the most valuable player. Allen was also the NFL’s comeback player of the year as he led the league with 13 TDs in his first season with the Chiefs.
Yet we’re left with what if again.
After that great 1985 season, Allen wouldn’t rush for 1,000 yards again. He finished with 12,243 yards rushing and 123 touchdowns. From the backfield he caught 587 balls for another 5,411 yards and 21 scores. What would those numbers balloon to if he wasn’t exiled in Los Angeles?? Would he have played 15 years had he stayed the feature back?? Ultimately, what were we football fans cheated out of thanks to the Davis / Allen feud??
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