Legends of The Fall: Eric Dickerson

If you traveled back to the 1980’s in the NFL, Eric Dickerson was described as a running back from the future. Everything from his upright running style to the way he wore so much in the way of protective equipment. He had the speed of a sprinter yet at 6’3 220 lbs he could run over small defensive backs who came up to support the run. Now that we’re 30 years removed from his rookie year of 1983 there is only one player The Chancellor thinks is the 2nd coming of Dickerson. It’s Adrian Peterson.

Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton in 1984. Payton eclipsed Jim Brown to become the all time leading rusher  that year. Not to be outdone Dickerson broke OJ Simpson's single season record with 2,105 yards.

Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton in 1984. Payton eclipsed Jim Brown to become the all time leading rusher that year. Not to be outdone Dickerson broke OJ Simpson’s single season record with 2,105 yards.

One of the greatest open field sprinters in NFL history, Dickerson was a threat to break it the distance every time he touched the football. What made him great was his sprinter’s speed in the open field with his size. He’d break into the open field and cornerbacks tried to take angles on him and couldn’t run him down. Only Peterson can be compared to him for how far above the rest of the running backs they competed against.

In 1983, you have to remember the Rams wanted to shake up their offense. You had the great quarterback class of 1983 and the bright star from SMU. The Rams had a 1,000 yard rusher in Wendell Tyler but saw a more explosive runner in Dickerson. It was interesting because we hadn’t seen Dickerson carry the total load since he alternated series with Craig James while in college. With the Rams desperate to catch the 49ers, who had risen to power in the NFC West, they took Dickerson.

The clear understanding was he would pay immediate dividends over the quarterbacks who would take 4 to 5 years  to develop. At least that was the NFL’s thinking of QB development at the time. Dickerson took the National Football League by storm rushing for 1,808 yards and 18 TDs as he powered the 9-7 Rams to a wildcard playoff entry. The Rams had missed the playoffs the previous two years and were energized by their rookie rushing champion. He was the first to do so since Earl Campbell and second to do so since Jim Brown in 1957. They were a run oriented team with spartan quarterbacking and Dickerson still got his yards. Going into 1984 most pundits weren’t predicting a sophomore slump but a possible run to the record books. Dickerson delivered in grand style.

Although the 2,000 yard season has been achieved several times in the 29 years since Dickerson’s magical 1984, his was the most appreciated because teams saw it coming but couldn’t stop it from happening. Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson were both coming off knee reconstructions when they accomplished theirs. He was a sight to behold and led the league in rushing in 3 of his first 4 seasons. Each of which with over 1,800 yards which is amazing. No runner in league history can touch that. The only reason he didn’t do it four straight times was his holdout in a contract dispute before the 1985 season.

Without training camp that year he had a slow start and finished with only 1,234 yards. Marcus Allen led the league in rushing that year with 1,759 yards. Yet he hit his stride as the playoffs loomed. In the divisional round he torched the Dallas Cowboys with a National Football League playoff record 248 yard performance. That 20-0 win sent the Rams to Soldier Field where they lost to the Bears 24-0 in the NFC Championship Game.

However if you’re keeping score, after three years he held league records for most yards rushing as a rookie, most yards in a season, and most ever in a playoff game. Aside from a Super Bowl, the biggest fight he had was with the front office. Yet nothing prepared us for his being traded to the Indianapolis Colts at the beginning of the 1987 season.

For all he had accomplished in Los Angeles it was his 1987 and 1988 seasons that cemented Dickerson as a greatest ever runner. The argument when a player is accomplishing these feats is what fuels it?? Is it the offensive line or the running back?? You just heard that Charles White, in Dickerson’s absence, won the 1987 rushing title with 1,347 yards rushing. Dickerson was second with 1,288. The ’88 year saw him reclaim the rushing title with 1,659 yards and 14 TDs where back in LA, White only gained 328. More importantly he had legitimized the Colts as a franchise in Indianapolis.

Before his arrival in ’86, the Colts were 12-36 in their previous three years in Indianapolis. In fact HBO’s Inside The NFL was there to chronicle if they were going to join the ’76 Bucs as the second winless team after an 0-13 start. They acquire Dickerson and he powers them to the 1987 playoffs with a 9-6 record.  His ability to control the ball allowed what was a laughingstock of a defense in ’86 to be the league’s 2nd toughest to score upon at only 15.9 points per game. Ladies and gentlemen that is tilting the field.

The only record he didn’t have at this point of his NFL career was the late Walter Payton’s 275 yards in an individual game. You can blame the Denver Broncos for that. During what was probably the most electrifying game of his career, the Broncos couldn’t keep pace on the scoreboard and eventually he was pulled in a 55-23 blowout. Thanks John Elway. Personally I pulled for Denver to keep scoring so he’d stay on the field for a chance at the record. No such luck….take a look

One of the unique aspects of that game against Denver:  Had the Colts beat the Cleveland Browns in the ’87 AFC Divisional Playoff, this would have been the AFC Championship Game the year before. Dickerson would go on to rush for 13,289 yards 90 touchdowns while catching 281 passes for 2,137 yards and another 6 scores. As the game seems to be phasing out the dominant rusher, he starred as the league took to the air.

He was the equivalent of the great quarterback class of 1983 and captured the imagination of NFL fans everywhere. Although I compare him to Adrian Peterson, no other runner ever truly looked like him. If I could splice some film side by side, the person that looked most like him when they ran was Deion Sanders. He ran with an effortless gazelle like stride and when he broke into the open field it was curtains. You weren’t catching him. Well unless you’re Darrell Green.

Dickerson and his former Ram teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Jackie Slater.

Dickerson and his former Ram teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Jackie Slater.

What would he have accomplished had he completed his career in Los Angeles?? Would he have gone past Walter Payton for the all time NFL rushing champion had he stayed?? Would the Colts franchise have moved again without his arrival?? What would he have rushed for had he not spent time off the field fighting for a higher salary?? He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Ironically when the Colts and Rams were involved in another trade of a Hall of Fame running back in Marshall Faulk.

Eric Dickerson was a one of a kind talent. At his best he was an unstoppable force. Sure his career left us with many questions but at his best none put fear in modern defenses like he did.

A last look back at his 1986 season:

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The Deal of 2013: Trent Richardson Traded To the Colts

Richardson has been dealt to Indianapolis.

Richardson has been dealt to Indianapolis.

The NFL is still buzzing over the Cleveland Browns trading away Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. When this came across the wire yesterday our CEO recounted how heavy Brown’s brass attended the Texas A&M v. Alabama game last weekend. So naturally it brought about the question: What did Cleveland gain by making this trade??

For starters they get a #1 pick going into next April’s draft. Yet what does that say about this year??

The optimism of the Browns offense in the preseason disappeared as soon as the regular season dawned. They could only muster 10 points at home in a loss to the Dolphins.  In that game Richardson had 13 carries for 47 yards. However it was Brandon Weeden’s 3 interceptions that were the focal point of the loss.

The offensive woes continued in Baltimore where the team looked to bounce back against the Ravens. Now you have to remember this was a defense that was humiliated on national television as they gave up an NFL record tying 7 touchdown passes to Peyton Manning the week before. It was also on a Monday night, so the Ravens would appear to be vulnerable. Both in psyche and fatigue. Their performance in week 1 was so bad, that after holding Weeden to 227 passing yards in week 2, they’re still 25th in the league against the pass. Yet Richardson in another tightly contested contest, a 14-6 loss, was held to 58 yards on 18 carries. Something happened between these two games that convinced Cleveland brass they had seen enough.

Sure Richardson has been nicked and had injuries here and there but what running back doesn’t? We watched Ray Rice go down with a hip flexor in the same game and the Ravens have Bernard Pierce taking most of the carries there anyway. We don’t see the Ravens making moves regarding Rice do we?? So what gives??

Jim Irsay was quoted as saying they have to protect Luck better.

Jim Irsay was quoted as saying they have to protect Luck better.

Neither Brandon Weeden or Trent Richardson are players selected by the current coach /gm combo. New Coach Chudzinski wants to put his stamp on the team and two weeks into his new regime, he fields the league’s 28th best offense with a runner that has 105 yards rushing. That isn’t going to get it done anymore than Weeden’s 1TD vs. 3 interceptions. They had to make a move right now with the most trade-able commodity they had to draft the quarterback of the future. Weeden has 14 weeks 7 hours and 32 minutes to show he is the future of the Cleveland Browns. If not, watch for the Browns to draft a Johnny Manziel and bring in a #1 receiver to go with him.

The reality is the NFL and all teams function as a corporation. You acquire assets so that when it’s time for any liquidation, those assets still have worth. Ask yourself who would trade for a quarterback who is damaged goods psychologically like Weeden?? The Browns did what they had to do and with the performances of running backs drafted in the middle rounds lately (see Alfred Morris) and you realize they can duplicate Richardson’s performance for far cheaper. Sure this throws away the entire season for the Cleveland Browns but the question is: They are 0-2 now and lost to a Baltimore Raven team that was still staggering from a week one beatdown. How many wins were the Browns going to get with Richardson had he stayed??

When you have draft a quarterback number one you’re putting the franchise in his hands. Where Weeden is coming up short in Cleveland, in Indianapolis Andrew Luck seems like a decade long fit as the signal caller. Yet over the first two weeks of the season, the Colts are 27th in sacks allowed with 7 and 28th in quarterback hits allowed with 14.  Or they were on pace to allow 56 sacks and 112 hits on the quarterback. This would probably get Andrew Luck knocked out due to injury at that rate. In comes a runner that should provide more physicality than Ahmad Bradshaw, who only has 97 yards on the season. Luck is just behind him with  76 yards running for his life.

Trent Richardson reporting for duty with the Colts.

Trent Richardson reporting for duty with the Colts.

Now they get a power runner free from teams stacking 8 man fronts on him with a quarterback that can complete passes downfield.  Luck in return has a running threat that can keep defenses honest. This should workout well for the both of them. As for the fans of Cleveland?? Sigh!! Say goodbye to the competitiveness of the 2013 season. The Browns will likely use the draft picks on Johnny Manziel and a stud receiver. Why overpay for a running  back when so many are on the open market you can get in the 3rd or 4th rounds?? Only time will tell if they made the right move or not in the eyes of Browns fans. However in The Chancellor of Football’s eyes….brilliant move. Kill two birds with one stone.

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2013 Indianapolis Colts – Skill or Luck In First Season Under Andrew??

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Not a bad first season in Indianapolis without Peyton Manning playing the lead at Lucas Oil Stadium. The light and sound stage that Andrew Luck commanded saw the most unlikely of scenarios that played out in the 2012 season. The Indianapolis Colts charged to an 11-5 record despite a Hall of Fame quarterback exiting stage left, first year Head Coach Chuck Pagano having to leave the team to battle Leukemia, which left interim coach Bruce Arians and top draft choice Andrew Luck to fend for themselves. Now a full year later we have to ask if the Colts will build on that success or take a step back.

Normally we shouldn’t have to until you realize former Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. His development of Luck along with astute play calling, was part of the reason they had 7 game winning drives. There was no head coach to interject or suggest a few things that could have disrupted the flow Arians and Luck developed. Although they brought in Pep Hamilton, his former offensive coordinator from Stanford, will it be as successful a relationship on the professional ranks?? We have to get through his growing pains as a first time NFL offensive coordinator.

Andrew Luck avoids Mario Williams and gets off a past vs. Buffalo.

Andrew Luck avoids the rush to get off a pass against Buffalo.

Quarterback: Has there ever been a quarterback who answered so many questions about being the number one selection?? Only a few The Chancellor can think of and many shared the spotlight during their 2012 rookie campaigns. For the season Luck connected on 339 of 627 passes for 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Yet there is a growing feeling that a sophomore slump is imminent.

The pendulum started to swing as the 2012 season was concluding. Over the second half of the season, defensive co-ordinators were drawing a bead on his tendencies and forcing him to pull the ball down more. He was sacked 41 times in 2012. Far too many…however they did sign Matt Hasselbeck if Luck was lost to injury.Without Arians, how will the in game adjustments be affected?? Especially those in the fourth quarter??

One theme that shows up is how he fared when he faced teams twice. When the Titans and Texans went against him a second time, his completion percentages were 47% and 50%. His maturation has to stay ahead of what he will see of opponents adjustments upcoming.  Don’t forget this is a quarterback who is mobile. People overlook that. He did escape the pocket 62 times for 255 yards and 5 touchdowns. With the pressure the Colts took last year, roll-outs could be utilized to great effect although it shuts off half the field for a young signal caller. Luck will have a setback year that will leave him relegated to a rank of average as a quarterback. Year 3 or 4 will see him regain some of his top shelf play from a good rookie season.

Offensive Backfield: Last year the Colts running by committee was to keep opposing defenses honest. Yet the inability to run the football may have been filled with the signing of former Giant Ahmad Bradshaw, just one week ago. Although in his sixth year, he has run for 1,000 yards in 2010 and 2012 while rushing for 4,232 yards during his career. More important is his 4.6 yards per carry where no Colt back had an average better than 3.9 yards. Bradshaw was a cap casualty in New York and should be the starter and upgrade this position to average.

TY Hilton along with Ahmad Bradshaw will be Luck's receivers to move the chains along with Wayne.

TY Hilton along with Ahmad Bradshaw will be Luck’s receivers to move the chains along with Wayne.

Receivers: Last year’s biggest coup was to talk Reggie Wayne (The [[_]]) in returning to Indianapolis instead of venturing out as a free agent. He was the go to guy, gathering in 106 receptions for 1,355 yards and 5 touchdowns. A spectacular season, yet at 35 (in midyear) can we expect another season at such a torrid pace?? He keeps himself in good shape and now has 968 receptions for 13,063 yards, 78 TDs for his career. Questions arise on his Hall of Fame candidacy yet there should be a slight drop off in production for 2013. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-2012-elite-performers/0ap2000000122013/2012-Best-of-Reggie-Wayne

Last year the Colts had success developing TY Hilton in the slot (50 rec./861 yds /7 TDs) alongside a veteran Donald Avery (60 rec / 781 yds /3TDs). Luck may have to lean on Hilton and his underneath receivers more this season. Hilton will see his reception total go up to 80-85 receptions this year. We don’t know if  Hamilton will utilize the spread as Arians once did. Receivers will be average in 2013 based upon use and ability to score.

An All Pac 12 performer that lasted until the 4th round. Khaled Thornton from USC.

An All Pac 12 performer that lasted until the 4th round. Khaled Holmes from USC.

Offensive Line: This is the group Colts brass worried the most about. This line will have a new look now they drafted G Hugh Thornton of Illinois in the 3rd round and G Kahled Holmes from USC in the 4th. Holmes did play center for the Trojans for two of those years and offers some flexibility. He was an All Pac 12 performer and started 37 games for the Trojans. Both these guys will stick.

Why?? They made some changes in the off-season but will it be enough to keep Andrew Luck upright. We already mentioned they were 23rd in sacks allowed with 41, but they were second to last in hits allowed on the quarterback with 116. If they do that again, Luck will miss some time in 2013. Thank goodness for Luck’s scrambling ability or he could have missed time last year.

However this team needs a bit of a push in the running game as they were below league average with only 3.8 yards per carry. Toward the strong side the Colts were an anemic 38% in converting from the goal line or 3rd /4th and 2 or less. They had to revert to several quarterback draws to outfox defenses and they ran into a buzzsaw when they faced Baltimore in the playoffs. They couldn’t play heads up with such a physical defense and couldn’t score a touchdown. This will be a year of growth for this group and we have to wait into the summer to give them a grade as high as average up from bad.

Defensive Line: When making a transition to the 3-4 from the 4-3 as this team did in 2012, you are going to experience some growing pains. One new assignment that will transition is the right defensive end. Where Dwight Freeney was the speed rusher from the blind-side, to a space eating combination DT/DE that holds ground and power rushes. Freeney, with 5 sacks last season, didn’t fit this new model and along with cap considerations has been released.

Notice  Fili Moala, Ricky Jean Francois, Aubrayo Franklin, and 5th round draft selection Montori Hughes are all defensive tackles acquired this off-season to fit this new team need. They need to be more stout up front as this team was 26th in yardage allowed and 31st in average yards per play given up at 6 yards per pop. This defense couldn’t get itself off the field in the playoff loss to Baltimore. They allowed a whopping 7.8 yards per play, 439 yards of offense, and 6 of 10 times the Ravens were able to convert 3rd downs. This was against a Raven offense that had yet to hit it’s stride. This group has to make more plays and rates as bad and we need to see more before we improve this ranking.

Werner has to prove he wasn't a reach in the 1st round after a disappointing combine.

Werner has to prove he wasn’t a reach in the 1st round after a disappointing combine.

Linebackers: This is another group looking to make the leap from utilizing left over players to bonafide 3-4 linebackers. Former Packer OLB Eric Walden and Lawrence Sidbury were signed early on in free agency. The long armed Walden is versatile enough to rush the passer or clog intermediate lanes against the pass. Then the Colts landed Bjoern Werner of Florida St in the 1st round of the draft. When you draft an All American who finished with 23.5 sacks for his career and voted ACC Player of the Year, you expect him to be on the field. He’ll probably rush from a down lineman position in this first year. There are some questions about him coming out of the combine but we’ll see.

Incumbent OLB Jerrell Freeman (145 tackles / 2 sacks) may have to take an ILB position with all this competition and Robert Mathis (8 sacks) still in the fold. If the newcomers can provide the desired pass rush, Mathis can return to the strong side DE position as well. To improve on competition inside, the Colts traded for former Buffalo Bill Kelvin Sheppard. The Colts should see drastic improvements with all this reinforcement at linebacker. Taylor Blitz Times believes Werner will compete for AFC Rookie of the Year honors. The Colts have upgraded to playoff caliber with the assortment of talent brought in.

Vontae Davis is a member of a secondary in transition.

Vontae Davis is a member of a secondary in transition.

Secondary: One area the Colts wanted to improve was in the secondary. They signed free agent LaRon Landry to come in at safety and released Tom Zbikowski. Landry is a better pass defender and the Colts should move the sure tackling Antoine Bethea (100 tackles /0 ints/ 7passes defensed) to strong safety. However the Colts also selected S John Moyett in the 6th round.

At corner they re-signed Darius Butler and Vontae Davis to return as an up and coming set of cornerbacks.  In 2012, Butler returned 2 of his 4 interceptions for touchdowns and defensed nearly the same amount of passes (8) as Cassius Vaughn (9). Even though Vaughn started 10 games last year.

Davis, the younger brother of 49er TE Vernon Davis, is a superior athlete with the tools to become a legitimate NFL star. A little focus and a pass rush can help get him there. Last year he had 51 total tackles, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed and one sack.  He should be better with an improved pass rush and the secondary has a better center fielder in Landry. This group right now is average with a chance to upgrade this position this summer.

 

Overall: One saving grace for the Colts is they play in a relatively weak AFC South. The Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to find themselves and have no identity. They are in a two team race between themselves and the Houston Texans. However they got by on spirit and having teams off kilter facing a team that was unknown from a personnel perspective. Arians could just let loose with his play calling since he wasn’t the head coach. The fact they were playing for a higher cause (coach Pagano battling Leukemia) allowed the 2012 Colts to soar to that 11-5 record. Now it’s about their X’s and O’s and ability to professionally be better than their opponent.

Now with Pagano at the helm, expect a few more possessions to be called conservatively especially at the end of halves. Seven times they scored at the end of halves last year, where with a Head Coach thinking for the team overall won’t always be so aggressive with play calling.

Last year they went 3-1 against the NFC North, where now they face the NFC West with defensive powers in Seattle, San Francisco, and Arizona. Now if you throw in the Rams, they are facing last year’s 4th, 3rd, 12th and 14th best defenses. All of those figure to be prominent with the Seahawks and 49ers having Super Bowl aspirations. There is a four game stretch where we’ll learn where they’re going in weeks 11-14. They travel to the Titans, then go to the Cardinals, host the Titans, then travel to Cincinnati. Last year they swept the Titans but they were blood baths with one of them an overtime win.

Before they take on Houston who is the bully on the block. This team is going to be 8-8 this year if Luck is healthy the whole season. Things are worse if he goes down. When you have 9 games decided by 7 or less, a fickle bounce of the ball is the difference between being 8-8 or 12-4. Last year with Luck, pun intended, they were 11-5. With a first time NFL offensive coordinator, a second year quarterback who develped his play with a departed coach, and a look at this overall roster, this is a 6-10 team. However Andrew Luck is worth at least two more wins. Expect growing pains in Indianapolis for the 2013 season.

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Free Agency Day 2 – Late Signings

A move to bolster the Seahawks pass rush weakens conference rival Detroit.

A move to bolster the Seahawks pass rush weakens conference rival Detroit.

The Seattle Seahawks are really after a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII and continued to strengthen themselves with the signing of DE Cliff Avril formerly of Detroit. In 5 seasons with the Lions he amassed 168 tackles and 39 1/2 sacks. They almost lost  him last year when they gave him the franchise tag after an 11 1/2 sack season. They had made a 10-6 season and looked to be headed to sunny days when the roof fell in during 2012. Now the front running Seahawks have added a pass rusher in his prime to join Bruce Irvin (8 sacks) and a recovering DE Chris Clemons from injury.

At 27 years of age Avril signs a 2 year contract worth $15 million, to help this team get to the Super Bowl. He has another chance at a free agent contract if he performs during these next two seasons. Even then he’d be 29 years of age and should be able to get after the passer with a three man rush in passing situations. The Seahawks have insulated themselves that two of the three best pass rushers should be healthy by the time we get to the 2013 playoffs.

The Indianapolis Colts come to terms with former New York Jet S LaRon Landry to bolster the NFL’s 21st against the pass defense. Not bad for a team that finished 11-5 in 2012, although they gave up 387 points. Head Coach Chuck Pagano knows his team can’t depend on Andrew Luck bringing the team from behind multiple times again. Now they sign a Pro Bowl S to a 4 year $24 million deal.

Amendola will have to fill some big shoes in New England.

Amendola will have to fill some big shoes in New England.

After losing Wes Welker to conference rival Denver, the Patriots signed former St Louis Ram slot receiver Danny Amendola a 5 year deal worth $31 million. Really?? Over a receiver that set a league record having 5, 100 catch seasons?? Sure Amendola is only turning 28 years old, he’s caught just 196 career passes in 4 years. Compare that to the last two years where Welker caught 240 combined. Go figure. The callousness that Chad Ochocinco was shown to a fan favorite coming off 5 straight Pro Bowl seasons. Amendola will have some pressure on him this year as fans and pundits compare the two all next year.

The Denver Broncos signed former Eagle CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a one year deal after struggling in the City of Brotherly Love. His story is intriguing since he was almost an after-thought thrown into the trade between the Arizona Cardinals and Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb. If he can give a better performance than Tracy Porter, he can possibly turn it into a serious payday next year. He’s also going to a contender and can resurrect his career as a definitive starting corner, or be relegated to that of a nickel back and special teams player only from here on out. He better bring his “A” game since he’ll be playing across Champ Bailey.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Edgerrin James Belongs In The Hall of Fame – From The [[_]]

The 49-45 upset of UCLA put [[_]] and Edgerrin James on the map. Miami return to prominence happend that day.

The 49-45 upset of UCLA put [[_]] and Edgerrin James on the map. Miami return to prominence happend that day.

When you stop and think of professional athletes, so few live up to their potential. In the case of Edgerrin James, no other NFL player had to live up to more coming out of college and he had a hurricane to thank. Although he played for the Miami Hurricanes (The [[_]]), it was Hurricane George that postponed a Miami v UCLA game that was supposed to be played in September of 1998 to December 5th. For many, the college football season was over and the nation watched Heisman hopeful Cade McNown and the 10-0 Bruins who were 1 win away from playing for the national championship. In a wild 49-45 upset, James burst onto the national scene with a 39 carry 299 yard 3 touchdown performance that returned the [[_]] to national prominence and made himself a top NFL prospect.

Since Miami had been down for years following NCAA sanctions, this was the first national glimpse of this immense talent. What followed in the April draft 4 months later added more pressure. Everyone forgets the Indianapolis Colts had drafted Marshall Faulk to resurrect the franchise in 1994 and had just drafted Peyton Manning in the previous year. Having traded Faulk away, it was a forgone conclusion they needed a running back in the #4 spot and Heisman winner Ricky Williams from Texas was there for the taking. General Manager Bill Polian opted to take Edgerrin James instead and it was this move that solidified the franchise. Some experts doubted James calling him a one game wonder.

Going into the 1999 NFL season Edgerrin had a lot to live up to. Could he consistently show the power and speed he displayed to a nation when he dismantled UCLA in that landmark game?? How in the world did he get selected ahead of a Heisman winner who just rushed for 2,124 yards and 28 TDs and was considered a can’t miss NFL superstar by pundits and coaches?? If that weren’t enough, Faulk had been a 1,000 yard rusher 4 times in 5 years including 1,319 yards rushing and 908 yards receiving in 1998. Marshall caught 86 passes and had scored 10 touchdowns in a Pro Bowl season and a rookie that wasn’t Ricky Williams was supposed to top that?? The Colts had been 3-13 in 1998 and now Edgerrin is going to be paired with a second year QB that threw 28 interceptions as a rookie?? No way….

In leading the NFL in rushing with 1,553 yards and scoring 17 TDs he laid to rest the competition with Ricky Williams who gained 884 and only 2 touchdowns in an injury plagued year. In the video you just heard that he had a rookie year better than 5 of the 6 who had been rookie rushing champions. First include Hall of Fame member Earl Campbell who gained 1,450 yards in his initial campaign. He also outrushed Hall of Fame member Jim Brown in his. Now someone will scoff Brown played in a shorter season and he did, but his 942 yards in 12 games comes out to 78.5 per game. Far fewer than the 97 yards per game James accumulated while helping the Colts go 13-3 and win their first AFC East division championship since 1987.

James in contemplation before the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh.

James in contemplation before the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh.

For an encore he became the first back since Eric Dickerson to start his career with back to back rushing titles in 2000. In his greatest season he ran for 1,709 yards with 13 TDs while catching 63 passes for 594 yards and another 5 scores. If you’re keeping score at home that is 4,444 yards from scrimmage and 35 touchdowns in just 2 years. The only back that could compete with that was Marshall Faulk who had gone on to power The Greatest Show on Turf Rams.

In 2001 James suffered a devastating knee injury and missed 10 games which sank the Super Bowl aspirations of the Colts. In the following season he only rushed for 989 yards and 2 touchdowns. His average had dropped from 4.4 in the previous 3 years to 3.6 and the whispers around the league were he’d never be the same. Not only did he bounce back, over the next 5 seasons he topped 1,000 yards rushing including 2 with over 1,500 yards in 2004 & 2005. Five seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing after reconstructive knee surgery…what was there left to accomplish??

Unfortunately the Colts regular season successes didn’t equal playoff success. The ’99 season ended when Indianapolis was upset 19-13  by the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans. Post season losses to the Jets, Patriots, and finally the Steelers in 2005 kept James from winning it all with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. The three had been the face of the team for 7 years together and his contract was up. The salary they would have to bring him back as a free agent would have crippled the franchise. Yet Colts owner Jim Irsay thought so much of James and his contribution to the organization that when the Colts did win it all in 2006, he presented him with a Colts Super Bowl ring even though he now played for the Arizona Cardinals. A classy move.

A triumphant James walks off the field after winning the NFC Championship.

A triumphant James walks off the field after winning the NFC Championship.

What looked like the swan song for James turned out to be false, he had one more surprise for critics that claimed he had lost a step. In 2007 he teamed with Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald on an improbable run to Super Bowl XLIII the very next year. Most of the publicity went to Warner since he was a reclamation project that arose like Lazarus, yet they don’t make it without James’ 1,222 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns.The combination of James on the ground, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald downfield proved too much as the 9-7 Cardinals soared through the playoffs. They beat Atlanta, Carolina, and finally the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship. Only to lose the Super Bowl on a last second touchdown to the Steelers 27-23 in one of the best games ever.

However every good thing must come to an end and James had led an incredible football life. Think about his accomplishments and what can be attributed to him. How many recruits chose to go to Miami after watching his exploits against UCLA that day when all other teams were not playing?? Miami had received the Death Penalty and had been down for four years after dominating college football for a decade. His performance announced the return of Hurricane football. In the next three years after his 1999 graduation, Miami won the Sugar Bowl and played in two straight national championships winning one in 2001. How many running backs went to The [[_]] because of his influence?? Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore came right after him. It was alleged he even donated $250,000 to the school at one time.

How about his low-key personality and league wide respect he garnered while he played with the Colts?? He was one of the first superstars that wore dreadlocks and coming from Miami he broke many stigmas that are unfairly attached to Hurricanes from a nation wide perspective. He was never in trouble away from the field and was thought of so highly he was given a Super Bowl ring by the team he no longer played for. Think about that for a second. All of this in the era of the “ME” athlete. When was the last time you heard of such things in the era of free agency?? Did the San Francisco 49ers give Joe Montana a Super Bowl ring when they won in 1994 after Joe left in 1993?? Give that some thought…

James and Colts Owner Jim Irsay at the Ring of Honor Ceremony.

James and Colts Owner Jim Irsay at the Ring of Honor Ceremony.

He completed his career with seven 1,000 yard seasons.  Finishing with 12,246 yards 80TDs, to go along with 443 receptions 3,364 yards and another 11 TDs. Up until his arrival in 1999 the Indianapolis Colts hadn’t won their division in 12 years. Afterward they won it 5 times during his tenure. In Arizona, the Cardinals had not played for the NFL championship since 1947 until James arrived. 1947??? That is 60 years!! He was voted All Pro four times and led the league in rushing twice. In a Hoosier Dome that once had Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk as tenants, it’s James who is the franchise’s all time leading rusher with 9,226 yards and 64 touchdowns. He’s also been inducted into the ring of honor for both the Miami Hurricanes and the Indianapolis Colts.

Did you know James, Barry Sanders, and Eric Dickerson are the only backs since 1980 to have 4 different 1,500 yard seasons?? Do you realize dating back to 1957, only James, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, and Eric Dickerson are the only runners who began their careers as back to back rushing champions in their first two years?? Did you recognize every back mentioned with him in this paragraph are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame??

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you, from The [[_]], Edgerrin James!!

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NFL Wild Card Week: Indianapolis Colts @ Balitmore Ravens

ImageWith Ray Lewis announcing his retirement. We have to go on record and say we pick the Ravens over the Colts. Andrew Luck has been able to play well but this will be a bit much in the NFL playoffs.